• As APC Scribe, Academics, INEC RECs, CSOs, others rue electoral violence
‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja
DAILY COURIER – Stakeholders drawn from political parties, academics, election management body, civil society and the media have rue the high spate of violences that characterize elections in Nigeria.
This unanimous position was the highlight of speakers, panelists, contributors and participants at the High Level Symposium on Electoral Security organized today in Abuja by Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI) supported by United States Agency through the Palladium group.
Setting the tone for the insightful event, the Team Lead at KDI, Bukola Idowu stressed the urgent need to guarantee the integrity, transparency and accountability of Nigeria’s electoral processes in the face of a litany of litigations ongoing in the various courts challenging the outcomes of the last elections at various levels.
Bukola said: “One of the key components of the electoral process that can affect the integrity of any election is the election security. We at KDI believe that election security is the foundation for citizens’ participation, and participation shows citizens’ confidence in the electoral process. With this background in mind, today’s symposium has brought together experts and practitioners from various fields and backgrounds to share their insights and experiences on enhancing the security of our elections, preventing and deterring electoral offences and promoting public trust and confidence in our democracy.”
He added: “We hope this symposium will stimulate fruitful discussions and generate constructive recommendations for reintroducing an independent and effective Electoral Offences Commission, which will serve as the watchdog and a deterrent against any attempts to undermine our electoral system.”
APC National Secretary, Senator Ajibola Bashiru blamed Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence for the perceived inability to halt electoral violence and prove brazen electoral frauds. He stated unequivocally, “to tame the monster of electoral violence, we must improve our electoral jurisprudence instead of casting aspersions on electoral officers and judicial officers.”
Giving his goodwill message at the symposium, the Chair of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Hon. Bayo Balogun registered the National Assembly’s readiness to do everything possible to improve the laws that will make elections more credible and violence free working with other stakeholders in the electoral processes.
“This symposium is a testament that we all believe in the electoral system and are ready to forge a common front to improve it even though we are aware that their is no perfect electoral system anywhere in the world. The fact that elections are not perfect is why we all gather here today to fashion out way forward to improve on electoral institutions such as Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
“The clamour for a commission to address the issue of electoral offences is a right step in the right direction”, the lawmaker added.
The Attorney General and minister of justice represented by Mr Bola Johnson promised the Minister’s and by extension the ministry’s total support as the legal adviser to the president on any legislation as soon as the bill is reintroduced.
In a no holds barred address, the keynote speaker, Dr Adetunji Ogunyemi who is a policy expert and associate professor of political history at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife summarized the causes of whole-scale violence across the country into three:
First, he called the refusal to apprehend and prosecute known violence perpetrators across the length and breath of the country ranging from NURTW in the South West; separatist agitators in the South East; Irredentist Religious Scholars in the North West; ISWAP terrorists in the North East and Cultist in the South South.
Secondly is because the Nigeria’s state is fast losing the grip to enforce its own laws which is an invitation to anarchy.
Thirdly, the political structure of the country which was designed to fail due to seeming paradox in its laws and interplays.
To tame the cycle of violence during elections in Nigeria, he suggested among others: building strong legal framework devoid of contradictions, a responsible policing system that works for all citizens and an impartial judicial system.
The first panel session moderated by the International Republican Institute, IRI, resident program director for Nigeria, Santiago Stocker who deliberated on – Election Violence: Accountability or Education? had the Country Director, International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES), Seray Jah; and Osun state, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Mutiu Agboke as panelists.
Responding to why voter education failed to curb violence in Nigeria from available data, Seray Jah submitted that: “Education is long term while information is specific and short term. The later failed because civil society organizations, the media and other groups seems not to succeed because it is done very close to election and limited to the wrong target audience” He reiterates the need to change the approach to education possibly starting early at the kindergarten in form of civil education for all Nigerians to ingrain the act of patriotism and civil obedience from early age.
Dr Agboke on his part placed the cause of electoral violence squarely on the laps of politicians. He grouped insecurity instigators on election day into three, namely: political parties, mischievous security agencies and mischievous electoral managers but added that all other actors work at the instance of politicians. Hence, curbing it must involve a robust conversation with politicians primarily, followed by deterrents by institutions of government. He concluded that elections don’t have to be do or die affairs.
A major highlight of the high level symposium was the incisive presentation by a former INEC National Commissioner, Prof Okechukwu Obinna Ibeanu titled: Assessing the Electoral Offences Commission Bill in line with lessons from the 2023 Elections. Prof Ibeanu observed that the guiding framework for the conceptualization of the proposed Electoral Offences Commission Bill was faulty because it was built on the assumption that INEC is overburdened and requires unbundling.
Citing historical context from the much talked about Justice Uwais Report, he said: “election is a trust game, when those who cast the vote loses confidence in the agency saddled with the responsibility to conduct election, they will loss confidence in the electoral process.”
The professor of political science concluded with far reaching solutions which he comically termed impractical in Nigeria to include: strong incorruptible law enforcement; improved renumeration of election managers; strict application of electoral codes; more focus on the generals causing violence instead of the foot soldiers; focus more on prevention of electoral offences which include improving the lives of the citizens among others.
The climax of the symposium was the second panel session moderated by an ex-presidential candidate of KOWA Party, Prof Oluremi Comfort Sonaiya with the National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Sen. Ajibola Bashiru; the Chair of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Hon. Bayo Balogun and Bayelsa State, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Obo Effanga as panelists to x-ray the Challenges and Solutions to the Electoral Offences Commission Bill.
Senator Ajibola in a critical appraisal of the National Electoral Offences Commission Bill faulted Sections (2) which deals with the composition of the Commission for being over bloated and tilting control to the federal government. Also pointed the contradiction in Section (6) bordering on the Nolle prosequi powers of the Attorneys General before prosecuting offenders said will defeat the whole intention of the bill.
Other sections which got the legal fireworks of Senator Ajibola are: 12(1); 20(1); 22(1a); 23(1); 24(1); 29(1).
Some of the dignitaries present on the first day of the event include: Former Osun State, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof Raji Abudulganiy; Benue State, Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof Sam Egwu; Hon Tunde Olatunji, representative of the chairman Police Service Commission, representatives from the Secretariat Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, representatives of political parties, civil society stakeholders, members of the academia and members of the press.
The high level symposium will end tomorrow with a communique expected on the National Electoral Offences Commission Bill with a view to assessing Nigeria’s electoral security management towards legal reforms for future elections.