The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) has called for the digitalisation of an inclusive electoral system in Nigeria.
CDD, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES Thursday and signed by its Director, Idayat Hassan, said a country’s election is the most important event, particularly as it “justifies” a nation’s democracy.
The centre, therefore, said the processes and procedures of an election should be inclusive and take cognizance of the expectations and concerns of Nigerians and ensure people-centred legislation.
“Considering Nigeria yearns for an electoral system that is transparent, credible, free and fair and above all, meet the expectation of citizens, the law governing the electoral architecture must be spotless from electoral malfeasants, which currently characterize the system.”
On Wednesday, the National Assembly joint committees on INEC and Electoral Matters held a public hearing on the Bill to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 5, 2010 (As Amended).
The bill, among other things, seeks to resolve issues concerning INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.
Efforts to get it signed into law by the 8th National Assembly were futile with President Muhammadu Buhari rejecting it three times.
Meanwhile, in its statement, CDD firmly held that it is time to digitalise Nigeria’s electoral system and make the country’s laws inclusive.
On election procedure, the centre said the benefits were enormous, including reducing the cost of running the country’s election, which is not going to be sustainable, especially with the dwindling resources,
“Today’s recession is hitting hard on all sectors of the economy yet INEC continues to spend the country’s fortune on the conduct of elections,” it said.
CDD also called for support for INEC to cut costs by creating legislation that fits the current glocalisation – thinking global, acting local.
“If our electoral system is truly digitalized, it will cut down remarkably, the votes that go to INEC, thereby increasing resources that can be channelled to Education and Healthcare development, which are on the near verge of collapse.”
The centre recommended a gender-neutral and sensitive language in present-day legislation.
“Masculine languages used in our laws are gender-biased and undermines women and girls’ political participation, which further hinders inclusive governance in Nigeria.
“A person who, being a member of a political party should not be appointed by the Commission at any level.”
It added that a single term of five years provision for the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) is not in good conviction. “We urged that Section 6 (2); which states that: A person appointed to the office of a Resident Electoral Commissioner shall; (a) be answerable to the Commission; and (b) hold office for a period of five years.
“The (b) clause needs a renewable term of five years as provided for in Section 8. (1) on the Secretary to the Commission who shall hold office for a period of 4 years from the date of appointment which may be renewable for another period of 4 years only.”
“We believe the Electoral Act should correct these male-dominant narratives in legal drafting. A good example of a gender-neutral language is found in Section 14 of the Bill: In the performance of his or her duties under this Act, a registration officer, and an updated officer shall…” the organisation said.
CDD is also of the opinion that there should be serious efforts to address issues around false claims in the affidavit by candidates, as stated in Section 31 (6), which states: where the court determines that a person has submitted false information and disqualified.
“Aside from the person’s illegibility to contest in the same election, there should be further sanctions. It is a grievous offense to submit false information; we propose a 10-year jail term or option of a fine of N50 million, which shall be paid to the Commission’s account within 72 hours of the judgment.
“For any party that fields a candidate with false information in Section 31 (8), we propose an increase from N1 million in the proposed Bill to N100 million, this should put the political party’s internal democracy in check.”
The centre added that, “while we applaud Section 63 (6) which intend to criminalize Presiding Officer that willfully contravenes certain provisions for the transparent poll, we need to also protect these Presiding Officer from win-by-all-mean politicians.
“We propose that: where the Presiding Officer contravenes those provisions under duress, the Commission shall suspend and/or cancel the result. This proviso affects other Sections, including 76 (3).”