One of the cardinal promises of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua after being sworn in on May 29 this year was to undertake a major reformation of the electoral process in Nigeria.
Recognising that conducting credible elections that are deemed free and fair by local and international observers is critical to political legitimacy and democratic stability in our country, President Yar’Adua has been consulting informally with all relevant stakeholders on electoral reforms.
I wish to report that the President has now compiled a list of the men and women of integrity who can rise above partisan politics and serve creditably on a national committee to lead Nigeria out of perennial electoral difficulties.
The President will inaugurate this committee this month at a date to be announced next week, according to a statement issued on Friday August 3 by his Special Adviser on Communications, Mr Olusegun Adeniyi.
Using a multi-stakeholder approach that will involve all the existing political parties and civil society groups, this committee will critically examine and address all issues militating against the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country.
While the real work of the committee will begin after the conclusion of cases currently before election tribunals, the committee will, after its inauguration, begin the groundwork and put structures in place for the commencement of its historic effort to reform Nigeria’s electoral processes.
President Yar’Adua has also sought and received pledges of support for the electoral reforms from the United Nations, the Commonwealth and Nigeria’s other developmental partners.
President Yar’adua sets up Electoral Reform Panel
Aug 23, 2007, 10:48
President Umaru Musa Yar’adua has announced the constitution of the Electoral Reform Panel.
This was contained in an August 22 press release signed by the Special Assistant to the President on Communications, Olusegun Adeniyi.
Members of the committee include:
• Mr. Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais – Chairman
• Rtd. Justice Godwin U. Ononiba – Member
• Alhaji Ahmadu Kurfi – Member
• Alhaji Musiliu Smith – Member
• Mr. Olisa Agbakoba – Member
• Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi – Member
• Sheikh Ahmed Lemu – Member
• Prof. Attahiru Jega – Member
• Prof. Grace Alele Williams – Member
• Chief (Mrs.) Toyin Olakunri – Member
• Mr. Jibril Ibrahim – Member
• Prof. Okon Uya – Member
• Prof. Gambo Balaraba Abdullahi – Member
• Mr. Ndanusa Alao – Member
• Comrade John E. Odah – Member
• Hajiya Dije Bala – Member
• General Oladapo Popoola – Member
• Barrister Festus Okoye – Member
• Alhaji Aliyu Umar – Member
• Mr. Abdurahim Ujo – Member
• Barrister Stephen Dike – Member
The committee will be inaugurated on August 28.
President Yar’adua inaugurates Electoral Reform Panel
Aug 28, 2007, 18:00
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has inaugurated the Electoral Reform Panel that was earlier constituted in keeping faith with his avowed commitment to reform the nation’s electoral process.
The President inaugurated the panel in company of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan on August 28 at the State House Abuja.
In attendance were; Chairman, Electoral Reform Panel, Justice Mohammed Uwaise (RTD) Former Chief Justice of the Nigeria and other members of the panel.
April polls massively rigged – Yar’Adua admits
Lanre Adewole, Abuja – 29.08.2007
PRESIDENT Umaru Yar’Adua on Tuesday in Abuja admitted that the nation’s electoral process was lacking in credibility and that elections fell short of international standards, stating that the April elections were massively rigged.
“The April elections were so heavily marred by vote-rigging that European Union observers said they fell far below basic international standards and were not credible,” he said.
The president, speaking at the inauguration of a 22-man electoral reform committee at the State House, asked the body to get the cloak of incredibility off governments emerging from the electoral process by fashioning a method for the emergence of a truly independent electoral commission, with administrative and financial autonomy.
The president noted that, “despite the consensus by Nigerians that democracy is the best form of government, our inability to have elections that are internationally accepted and credible has left a credibility problem for our electoral process.
“I would advise that you focus for now on aspects of your assignment that would not be construed as being prejudicial to any ongoing election petition matters,” the president said.
He added that the shortcomings in the electoral process “have put a heavy burden upon us to evolve a means of endowing the electoral process with the highest internationally acceptable quality and standard.”
The president also agreed with major stakeholders’ call for the resolution of disputes arising from elections before winners take the oath of office, while urging the committee to evolve a “practical roadmap to laying a solid foundation for the growth and consolidation of democracy” in the country.
Yar’Adua rejected the opposition calls to cancel the result and hold them again, saying he believed he had the mandate of the Nigerian people. He promised to let tribunals probe abuses without interference.
The committee, which is chaired by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais, has 12 months within which to submit its report to the Federal Government.
In a six-point terms of reference for the committee, Yar’Adua urged them to look at all the issues and laws that have bearing on the country’s electoral process and make recommendations to government.
He specifically asked the committee to “make general and specific recommendations (including but not limited to constitutional and legislative provisions and/or amendments) to ensure a “truly Independent Electoral Commission imbued with administrative and financial autonomy.”
Yar’Adua charged the members to be dispassionate in their assignment, enjoining them “to look dispassionately at our peculiarities, specificities, historical experience, and those enduring dynamics which define us as a nation in arriving at decisions.”
He noted that if the nation was able to achieve this feat, “we would then have anchored our democratic culture firmly with everlasting peace, security and political stability. This would enable us to turn our collective energy and effort to developing our nation from its current state of under-development to join the league of developed nations.”
Responding, chairman of the committee, Justice Uwais, thanked the president for giving members the opportunity to serve the nation and promised not to disappoint the president and the nation.
He noted that the country could only forge a genuine democracy if it was able to “foster a democratic culture and the rule of law in holding democratic elections. Elections provide a peaceful democratic means for societies to channel competition for political powers and make collective decisions. There cannot be any doubt whatsoever that those elections are essential to democracy and to legitimate government.
“There must be the right and opportunity for citizens to choose a candidate. There must be the freedom of assembly, the freedom of association and movement and freedom of speech for candidates, parties, voters, media, observers and others. The political environment should also be free of intimidation. Such freedoms are together an essential precondition to meaningful election.”
Yar’Adua proposes new electoral system
By Joseph Adeyeye, Semiu Okanlawon and Ihuoma Chiedozie
Wednesday, 29 Aug 2007
President Umaru Yar’Adua on Tuesday proposed a new electoral system for the nation. He suggested a concept of proportional representation.
Yar’Adua recommended the new electoral system in Abuja while inaugurating a 22-man electoral Reform Panel, headed by Justice Muhammadu Uwais.
He lamented that past elections in Nigeria had been trailed by controversies and advised the committee to consider his proposal.
Yar’Adua, however, did not elaborate on the concept of proportional representation.
World Policy.Org defines Proportional Representation as a common concept in most democracies in which a winner (party) does not take all the positions in government.
PR assures that political parties or candidates have the percentage of legislative seats that reflects their public support.
There are three main types of PR – the List System, Mixed Member System and Preference Voting System.
The LS is the most, widely used.
Under the LS, if a party receives 30 per cent of the votes cast, it will get 30 per cent of the seats in the legislature. If it receives 10 per cent of the votes, it will get 10 per cent of the seats in the legislature.
Some of the countries that practice PR are Germany, Sweden, Holland, Italy and Australia.
A political scientist, Prof. Femi Otubanjo of the University of Ibadan, also explained that the concept was one in which political parties are represented in the government on the basis of their performance at the elections.
He said, “The idea means that if a party has 60 per cent at the election, it gets 60 per cent in government. If it scores two per cent, it gets two per cent in government.
“The advantage here is that nobody is excluded.”
Otubanjo said that the proposal had no place in countries with unreliable electoral process.
”The problem is that elections do not always reflect the true strength of parties especially in Africa where there are manipulations. For the concept to take place, a very upright electoral process is required,” he said.
At the inauguration, the President, who also named a Catholic cleric, Rev. Mathew Kukah, as the 22nd member of the committee, noted that post-election crises posed a serious threat to the country.
He set a six-point terms of reference for the panel members and charged them to also evolve other measures for the sustenance of the nation’s democracy.
The panel, which has 12 months to conclude its assignment, is to:
– review general elections in Nigeria and identify factors that affect the quality and credibility of the polls and their impact on the democratic process;
-examine relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, the Electoral Act, and other legislations that have a bearing on the electoral process and assess their impact on the quality and credibility of general elections;
– examine the roles of institutions, agencies and stakeholders in shaping and impacting on the quality and credibility of the electoral process.
Such institutions include governments, electoral commissions, security agencies, political parties, non-governmental organisations, the media, the public and the international community;
-examine electoral systems relevant to Nigeria’s experiences and identify best practices that would impact positively on the quality and credibility of the nation’s electoral process;
-make general and specific recommendations, including but not limited to constitutional and legislative provisions to ensure:
(a) a truly independent electoral commission imbued with administrative and financial autonomy;
(b) an electoral process that would enable the conduct of elections to meet acceptable international standards;
(c) legal processes that would ensure that election disputes are concluded before inauguration of newly-elected officials;
(d) mechanism to reduce post-election tensions, including the possibility of introducing the concept of proportional representation in the constitution of governments; and
-make any other recommendations.
The President, however, advised the panel to be conscious of court cases relating to the April poll.
He warned that actions and recommendations that could prejudice the cases must be avoided.
Yar’Adua said, “In prosecuting this onerous task, panel members must be conscious of ongoing court processes that pertain to the last elections.
“I would advise that you focus for now on aspects of your assignment that would not be construed as being prejudicial to any ongoing election petition matters.”
Restating the need for electoral reforms in the country, the President expressed regrets that all the previous elections in the country were mired in crisis.
He said, “We cannot pretend that the post-election dislocations that this trend engenders are not a threat to the peace, stability, growth and development of our nation.
“One sad recurrent feature of our political developmental history has been the consistency with which every general election result has been disputed and contested.
“Beginning with the 1959 general election, almost every poll has suffered controversy resulting from real and perceived flaws, structural and institutional inadequacies, and sometimes, deficiencies in the electoral laws and even the constitution”
Yar’Adua noted that democracy was the only form of government that could guarantee the peace and prosperity of the nation.
He said, “One incontestable fact is that Nigerians have arrived at a consensus that democratic governance is the most acceptable form of government for our nation.
“This puts a heavy burden upon us to evolve a means of ensuring the electoral process with the highest internationally acceptable quality and standard.
“This, we can do by looking dispassionately at our peculiarities, specificities, historical experience, and those enduring dynamics which define us as a nation.
“If we achieve this feat, we would then have anchored our democratic culture firmly with everlasting peace, security and political stability.
“This would enable us to turn our collective energy and effort to developing our nation from its current state of under-development to join the league of developed nations.
“Our major, and even critical challenge is to evolve an electoral process that will enable us anchor democracy as the framework for national integration, sustained growth and national development.
“Furthermore, effective democratic consolidation in Nigeria has positive implications for the countries in our sub-region and the African continent as a whole.
“This perhaps informs the international community’s seemingly disproportionate interest in the evolution of our democratic process”
The President expressed confidence in the ability of members of the panel to effectively address the country’s electoral problems.
“It clearly is a profound task that we are calling on these distinguished Nigerians to take up this morning.
“We are charging them with the responsibility of evolving a practical roadmap to laying a solid foundation for the growth and consolidation of democracy in our country.
“They are men and women of impeccable character – accomplished Nigerians whose honour and integrity are unassailable.
“I am confident that they will make a success of this important national assignment.”
He promised that the government would provide the panel with everything it needed to carry out its assignment.
Responding, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Moahammed Uwais (rtd), said that Nigeria must not continue with contentious and unfair elections.
Uwais said, “Experience in this country shows that elections are not free and fair. We must not continue that way.
“It is our ardent desire, by following the terms of reference, to fashion out a free and fair electoral system.”
He explained that some fundamental indices of free and fair elections were currently absent from the country’s electoral system.
These, according to him, include “honest balloting and counting by impartial electoral authorities; prompt and just resolution of electoral petitions.”
Most of the members of the panel were present at the inauguration.
Kukah and the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), who are also members of the panel, were absent from the inauguration at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
FG to announce Electoral Reform C’ttee
Aug 6, 2007, 15:57