The Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee (CERC) has proposed a massive restructuring of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Ken Nnamani-led committee, set up by the Federal Government , in its report obtained by The Nation, proposed far-reaching reforms of the electoral agency to make it truly independent.
Part of its proposal is on the process of appointment of chairman and commissioners of the agency.
The committee also made recommendations on defection from political parties, how to approach the death of a candidate after winning an election when the result has not been announced and onus of proof before the tribunals.
It recommended a rigorous screening for the INEC chairman and commissioners.
It suggested a nine-man screening committee comprising representative of the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), the National Human Rights Commission, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and five others.
Besides, advised the committee, the 1999 constitution should be amended to enable defecting lawmakers in the National Assembly or state House of Assembly to vacate their seats.
To avoid a repeat of what happened in Kogi State, the committee said a fresh poll should be conducted if a governorship candidate dies before announcement of results. Abubakar Audu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate died before the result of the election was announced. He was leading on the ballot.
The report said: “Nigeria operates the independent non-partisan model of constituting the leadership of Election Management Board (EMB).
“However, the Committee believes that the current method of appointing the leadership of INEC is not sufficiently embedded with the ideals and values identified above.
“The appointment of INEC leadership is not sufficiently removed from the hands of those who can influence the decisions of the agency.
“In addition, the process of appointing INEC leadership has not been adequately framed and institutionalised in such a way that those appointed do not feel a sense of gratitude to the appointing authority.
“While the Committee recommends that the President retains the power to appoint INEC Chairman and Commissioners because of the need to maintain a sense of coherence in the appointment process, it proposes a more inclusive Commission.”
The committee said: “A major step towards making INEC leadership more responsive and independent is to subject the mode of appointment of the Chairman and Commissioners to a more rigorous screening.
“The Committee therefore recommends that the position of INEC Chairman, National Commissioners, and the Resident Electoral Commissioners should be advertised and applications be evaluated by a Screening Committee appointed by the President to serve on an ad-hoc basis.
“The Screening Committee shall recommend three nominees for each position to the National Council of State.
“The National Council of State shall then recommend to the President two nominees for each office and the President shall forward one name for each position to the Senate for confirmation.”
To strengthen INEC, the committee recommended the setting up of a nine-man team comprising the representative of NJC, the DG of DSS, the NBA and six others.
It said: “The Screening Committee shall comprise: a retired Supreme Court Justice as Chairman who shall be nominated by the National Judicial Council; the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission; the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA); the Director General, Department of State Services (DSS); the two nominees of Civil Society Organisations; two women representatives; a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission; one representative of the Nigerian Youth Council; and the Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission to serve as Secretary to the Committee.
“The Screening Committee shall: advertise the vacant position of the Chairman, National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners; receive applications and screen the applicants; and in making nominations reflect Federal Character and the National Gender Policy.”
On defection by lawmakers to other parties, the committee called for amendment to the 1999 constitution to enable members of the National Assembly or state Houses of Assembly to automatically vacate their seats.
It said: “No elected person shall become a member of a party other than the one on whose platform he was elected, except on the grounds of de-registration or merger of the party. Where an elected official resigns the membership of the party on whose platform he was elected his seat shall become vacant, and INEC shall conduct a fresh election to complete the tenure in the case of legislative seats and for a fresh tenure in the case of executive position won by a new candidate”
Source: The Nation