Uwais C'ttee Report: 10-yr ban for electoral offenders

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Uwais C’ttee Report: 10-yr ban for electoral offenders

 

Written by Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor   

 

Sunday, 04 January 2009

 

*INEC to defend elections

A 10-year ban awaits election riggers, including candidates seeking elective office  whose elections are nullified by the tribunal, should the Presidency, the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly accept a  proposal by the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee, ERC, Sunday Vanguard can now  reveal.

It was  also learnt that the burden of proof of election malpractices may  no longer rest with the petitioner, but  the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which the committee recommended to defend its elections at the tribunal as meeting the standard tests of democratic ethos.

“The law should shift the burden of proof from the petitioners to INEC to show that disputed elections were indeed free and fair and complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006″, the committee said.

Corroborating this, former foreign affairs minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, and a member of the committee, told  Sunday Vanguard  that “some of the recommendations of the ERC are very revolutionary in nature”.

The ERC, he said,  recommended “a 10-year ban for any candidate whose election is nullified based on electoral malpractices.  This is the first time such would be happening and it sends a powerful signal that things can and must change.

“One of our recommendations also relates to the issue of electoral offences.  We  recommended, for the first time, that there should be the creation of an Electoral Offences Commission, something like the EFCC for electoral offenders.“For the first time  in the history of Nigeria, the committee has also recommended that a constitutional amendment should be carried out, wherein the “attorney general of the fédération would enter a nolle prosequi plea in electoral offences, which means that all electoral offenders should be prosecuted.”

Akinyemi, who turns 67 today, said the work of the Committee was very extensive. The Committee Chairman, Justice Lawal Mohammed Uwais (rtd), according to Akinyemi, was very painstaking in his approach to the committee activities just as the other 21 members were also very committed.

According to the Executive Summary of the ERC report, part of which had been published by Vanguard, there shall be no more foreign funds in Nigeria’s electoral process.

Highlights of the recommendations which are contained in six volumes include, but are not limited to the following:

*Independent candidacy recommended
*No cross-carpeting under any circumstances
*Biased media reporting attracts N1,000,000 fine
*Additional 108 seats for House of Representatives
*Open Secret Ballot retained
*Number of parties to be drastically reduced
*SIECs to go
*INEC to be unbundled
*Electronic voting recommended
*INEC chairman, deputy to be of different gender
*INEC positions to be advertised
*Electoral Offences Commission, Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission coming
*No office-holder in the party should hold any position in government.

The Executive Summary reads in part:

 “Ensuring the conclusion of election disputes before swearing in of newly elected officials.

a) There is need to produce rules and procedures that enhance speedy disposal of election petitions.
b)    The law should shift the burden of proof from the petitioners to INEC to show that disputed elections were indeed free and fair and complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006.
c)    Rules of evidence should be formulated to achieve substantive justice rather than mere observance of technicalities.
d)    Elections to the office of President and Governors should be held at least six months before the expiration of their terms. A maximum of four months should be devoted to hearing petitions by the tribunals and another two months for hearing appeals by the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. No executive should be sworn in before the conclusion of the cases against him/her. In the case of legislators, no one should be sworn in before the determination of the case against him/her.
e)    INEC should have no right of appeal.

2.7    DEALING WITH POST-ELECTION TENSION.

2.7.1 Adjudication of Election Disputes and Reduction of Post-Election Conflict.

(a) The adjudication of presidential and gubernatorial election disputes should be concluded expeditiously, before swearing-in of winners of the elections. This will require the amendment of Section 132(2) and Section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution and section 149 of the Electoral Act 2006.

(b) All offences committed within the electoral context should be prosecuted expeditiously. The prevailing atmosphere of impunity with regard to election offences should be ended by prosecuting and holding accountable those responsible for electoral offences, including those of a criminal nature. This would reduce the impunity which has marred Nigeria’s electoral process to date, and which threatens to undermine citizens’ confidence in the country’s political institutions.

(c)  The Rules of Procedure in the First Schedule to the 1999 Constitutions and the Practice Directions 2007 are inadequate for quick and effective disposal of election petitions. A new exhaustive body of Rules is required to address shortcomings.
(d) The legal burden of proof to show that election was not mismanaged should always be on INEC. The petitioner only needs to introduce evidence of mismanagement to shift the burden.
(e) Corrupt practices should invalidate election per se once shown to be widespread.
(f) Aggrieved parties in electoral matters should be encouraged to continue to respect the rule of law and exercise their constitutional rights peacefully and where necessary, seek redress through constitutional means.

(g) Infringement of laws and regulations concerning the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns should be subject to effective sanctions. Greater efforts should be made by INEC and the relevant prosecuting authorities to initiate criminal proceedings for serious violations.
(h) I NEC should cooperate closely with security agencies to prosecute persons accused of committing such offences.
(i) A candidate shall be deemed to have committed a corrupt practice if it was committed with his knowledge and consent.
(j) A special prosecutorial body to be known as Electoral Offences Commission should be established to work independently in the arraignment and prosecution of electoral offenders. This will include offences arising from failings of INEC before, during and after voting day.
(k) When the Court of Appeal sits to hear appeals on election petitions, at least five judges should sit.

2.2.5.7  Enhancing Internal  Democracy in the Political  Parties.
(a) There should be reform of political parties with more insistence on intra-party democracy.
(b) Party conventions, congresses and meetings should be held regularly at all levels and should be free from undue interference. Such party conventions, congresses and meetings should adhere to the scope of their power and authority as entrenched in the party constitution.
(c) Party organs should play active roles in determining who is nominated to contest for positions in the party, appropriate to their levels.
(d)  There should be no cross-carpeting under any circumstances.

(e)Given past internal problems concerning nomination of candidates, political parties should develop internal procedures for candidate nomination that are open, transparent, inclusive and democratic and require that those seeking nominations do not use intimidation, violence, bribery or similar unacceptable methods to gain nomination or office.

(f) Reports of Administrative Panels should not be used to disqualify candidates, Section 182(1)(i) of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to allow only Judicial Reports and Tribunals to be so used.

(g)A legal framework should be provided to support justiceability of party nomination. There is no need to expend time and resources on a primary election that will be discarded while courts stand helpless. Section 86 of the 1999 Constitution should be amended to allow a candidate who feels aggrieved in a primary election to go to court.

(h) The nomination process needs to be clarified and rationalised, ensuring  that  the   procedures for  nomination; appeals can be properly dealt with according the election, ensuring the timely identification printing of ballots. The law should be clarified to properly, fairly  and definitively identify the qualifications for c respective responsibilities with regard to verify eligibility.  

  In   this   regard,   INEC   should   not adjudicator in such cases, but rather as the decisions by a qualified court.

(i) Political parties should give more attention to the nomination of women and youths as candidates.
(j) Political parties should ensure that women have leadership opportunities within party organizations. To this end,  political parties are encouraged to examine party structures and procedures  to remove barriers that directly or indirectly discriminate against the participation of women in politics.

2.2.5.9   Guaranteeing the Survival of Multi-Party Democracy.

(a)  There should be a forum of all political parties to assess and evaluate on a regular basis the political situation in the country including the prospect of the survival of the multi-party democracy.
(b) All political parties should respect the right of other parties to exist without being subverted or intimidated in any form.
(c)  Political parties should accept the outcomes of free and fair elections.
(d)  The Code of Conduct for political parties should not be limited to the party leadership but should be used as a civic education tool to help reduce tensions and prevent or mitigate violence throughout the country.

Concerted efforts should be made within each electoral constituency to bring together electoral authorities, political parties, security forces, civil society, religious leaders and traditional leaders to implement the letter and spirit of the code. Women and youth should be actively involved in this effort.
(e)  In order to enhance commitments that political parties have made in the Code of Conduct against violence and intimidation and to promote the active participation of women in the electoral processes, the Code of Conduct should include meaningful sanctions in cases of non compliance.

(f) Parties should refrain from all acts of violence and inflammatory rhetoric and should discipline those candidates, representatives or members who encourage or participate in such activities.
(g)  All participants in the electoral process (Political Parties, Candidates, and Security Agencies) should obey all the laws governing elections.

2.2.6 THE ROLE OF SECURITY AGENCIES

2.2.6.1    Nigeria Police Force.
a) The roles of each of the various security agencies during elections should be clearly defined.
b)  There should also be an effective coordination of the work of the various security agencies during elections.
c)The curricula for the training of the police at all levels (basic/entry, intermediate and command courses) should include modules on democracy, elections, political parties and constitutional/statutory provisions on elections.
d) The independence of the Police Force should be guaranteed by strengthening its autonomy from the control of the government of the day. The security of tenure of top police officers and the prevention of harassment of Police officers on account of professional discharge of their duties should also be guaranteed.
e) The Police Force should be strengthened in the areas of communication, weaponry and transportation for effective mobilization, deployment and enhanced performance.
f) Adequate provisions should be made for the safety, transportation and feeding of all security and law enforcement officials on electoral duties. This will reduce the likelihood of the officials succumbing to temptations from the politicians.
g) The police force should organize training, lectures and workshops for its personnel prior to major elections.

h) Provisions of the Police Act which vest operational control of the Police in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria are in contravention of the 1999 Constitution. The former should therefore be amended.
i)  A Code of Conduct should be issued to police officers involved in election duties. Compliance should be monitored by a team set up by the Police Service Commission consisting of police officers, members of civil society organizations (NBA, human rights NGOs,  observers, etc.). Violation of the code should be sanctioned.
j) Considering that there are no less than 120,000 polling stations throughout the country, the size of the Nigeria Police Force should i be significantly increased from the presence total strength of 371,000 to enable the Police maintain presents at each polling station during elections,
k) The law enforcement agencies should be properly oriented to appreciate the need for neutrality during elections. The Police in particular should be adequately funded and equipped to maintain law and order during elections.
I) The Inspector-General of Police, the Chairman of INEC and other appropriate officials should establish comprehensive and effective measures for providing public security during each stage of the electoral process, from candidate selection, to voter registration, election campaigning, election day and the immediate post election day periods. The public should be informed of the existence of adequate security arrangements.

m) The Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies should give adequate protection to electoral officials and materials as well as voters during elections to prevent criminal gangs from hijacking or tampering with the process.
n) Contact telephone numbers of all supervising police officers in each division should be made public by INEC to enable observers and citizens place calls for assistance and/or re-enforcement as the need arises.

o) The police should not carry weapons when they are on duty at polling stations.
p) The role of security agencies especially the Police who must be posted to the Polling Units and Collation Centres should be limited to keeping law and order. Within the Polling Units and Collation Centres, the Police and personal security of politicians or any person, should not be allowed within the radius of 20 metres of Polling Units and Collation Centres. Security agencies must not be seen to tamper with or have anything to do with election results i or materials.

2.2.6.2         Armed Forces.
a)The armed forces should provide assistance to the electoral body in conveying electoral officials, registration and voting materials, when necessary.
b)The leadership of the armed forces should not make statements that may be seen as intimidation of opposition political parties and the electorate.
c)   The armed forces personnel should not be deployed to polling , centres or stations.
d) The armed forces should discontinue acts of psychological 1 warfare, including show of force through patrols in convoys of 1 armoured personnel carriers and lorries, days prior to or on the eve or day of election, which may be construed as intimidation of opposition parties.
e) The air force may provide assistance in the form of aerial surveillance to assist the police to detect sites of disorder during elections.
f)  The Navy may assist in conveying electoral and voter registration materials and officials in difficult or dangerous areas.
g) The Armed Forces may offer assistance to the electoral body and the police force. However, they should be professional and impartial in doing so.
h) Other than exercising their individual rights to vote, members of the Armed Forces should not be involved in the conduct of elections.
i)  As Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria’s Armed Forces, the President should take concrete steps to ensure the neutrality of security forces during the election period.

2.2.6.3  The Role of Other Security Agencies.
c) Enact law strengthening proper oversight of security agencies by the National Assembly.
d) Armed orderlies should not go to polling areas in uniform on election days.
e) Civic education should be intensified so that the personnel of security agencies can also imbibe democratic culture.
f)   The security personnel to be mobilised for elections  must be selected or screened through a rigorous process to determine their suitability in   terms of value, knowledge, orientation, discipline, competence and integrity. Selected officers should be adequately trained well in advance.
g)  An effective coordination of personnel from the different agencies must be ensured in order to enhance efficiency, accountability and discourage impunity.

f) During elections, dignitaries should be restrained from moving about with armed security details, g)       In the discharge of their duties, security services should:
(i)  Not interfere in the balloting procedures on election day, but should ensure that voters feel safe and are unhindered to exercise their rights and civic responsibility through the ballot box.
(ii) Take al! appropriate measures to curb electoral violence, including ensuring timely deployment of adequately equipped and briefed personnel, and cooperate with other security agencies including the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
i)  Work cooperatively with other stakeholders to provide proactive, and impartial policing and to ensure that existing laws are enforced without fear or favour.
j) During elections, security agencies should not be placed under the direction of INEC.

2.2.5.5 Public Funding of Political Parties,
(a) Political parties for purposes of transparency and accountability -shall publicly disclose to INEC all sources of funding including donations.

(b) Government should continue to fund political parties either directly or through the Electoral Bodies. The political parties should be encouraged to raise funds of their own through sale of forms to candidates, fund-raising exercises, individual or corporate donations as well as undertaking commercial activities. On donation by individuals for purposes of supporting elections the following ceilings should apply:
(i)President    =    N20 million
(ii)Governor    =    N15 million
(iii)Senate        =    N10 million
(iv)House of Reps    =    N5 million
(v)State Houses    =    N2.5
(vi)Chairmanship of local government =    N3 million
(vii) Councillorship    =    N500,000.00
(c) The funding of political parties should t performance in general elections. After the parties that score a minimum of 2.5 per cent be eligible to receive grants from public funds.
(d) The Political Parties Etc Registration and Reg (PPRRC) should ensure that legal provision party financing and expenditure are fully enl findings published in an open and transparent manner to ensure accountability.

(e) Financing regulations established by the Electoral Act 2006 should be fully enforced by PPRRC. After the submission of annual financial returns by political parties, PPRRC should produce an audit report on the returns which should be made public. The requirement to submit a financial report on campaign expenditures should be enforced.

2.3.3 System of Voting.
There are practices associated with the current voting system that are worthy of retention. These are accordingly recommended as follows:
(a) Open Secret Ballot System: This allows a voter to go into a polling booth to mark his ballot in secrecy and drop it in the ballot box in the open.
(b) Provision of fixed polling booths: The use of institutional buildings such as schools, community centres etc which are centrally located, where available, or permanent polling locations should be encouraged.

(c) Accreditation of registered voters prior to the commencement of voting for the purpose of tracking how many people cast their ballot in a polling station.
(d) Display of voter’s register prior to the elections to enable registered voters, political parties, and the electorate generally make claims and objection.

The electoral system
Applying a combination of First-Past-The-Post and  Modified Proportional Representation for   Legislative Elections at the Federal, State and Local Government Levels.
(a)  Nigeria should retain the First-Past-The-Post electoral system but should also inject a dose of Proportional Representation based on closed party lists, thus evolving a mixed system.
(b) The First-Past-The-Post system shall continue to be used for all elections in the country, but for elections to the House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Councils, the mixed system shall be used.

(c) For elections to the House of Representatives, the existing 360 seats would be retained and filled by the First-Past-The-Post system. In addition, 108 additional seats (i.e. 30% of the existing 360 seats in the House of Representatives) will be created and filled through the Proportional Representation system.

(d) The arrangement in (c) above will be replicated in State Assemblies and Local Government Councils throughout the Federation. This implies that in each of these legislatures, additional seats representing 30% of existing ones shall be created and filled through the Proportional Representation system.

(e)   Performance of political parties in an election conducted under the mixed system shall be the basis for allocating the Proportional Representation seats. The threshold to be met by parties for sharing the Proportional Representation seats shall be the total number of valid votes cast in the entire First-Past-The-Post election divided by the number of available Proportional Representation seats for that election. This threshold will represent the minimum number of votes a party must win to be  allocated a Proportional Representation seat.

(f) Political parties shall nominate for the Proportional Representation election  at  least  30%  female candidates and  2%  physically challenged candidates for legislative elections.

(g) If a political party wins up to 70% of the seats in an election conducted under the First-Past-The-Post it should be excluded from benefiting from the Proportional Representation.

 (h)  The Electoral Act 2006 should be amended to establish criteria for the production of party lists for the allocation  of Proportional Representation seats in a manner that will ensure the inclusion of women and disadvantaged groups.”

 

PUNCH

Parties: No more free money

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By JIDE BABALOLA

 

Published: Sunday, 4 Jan 2009

THE era of free money from the Federal Government to political parties appears to be over under a new electoral system recommended by the Electoral Reforms Committee.

All parties that make negligible impact in 2011 poll will be denied grants regardless of the new political arrangement to be adopted by the administration of President Umaru Yar‘Adua.

In other words, only parties that make very serious impact at the poll will receive allocation under the proposed electoral set up.

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission are at the moment helpless in controlling funds given to existing 50 parties in the country.

As part of its far reaching recommendation, the ERC has proposed that as from 2011, all parties that made negligible impact in elections should be denied government grants.

The recommendation is contained in Section 2. 2. 5. 4 (c) of its report currently before the President.

It states, ”The funding of political parties should be based on their performance in general elections. After the 2011 election, only parties that score a minimum of 2.5 per cent of votes should be eligible to receive grants from public funds,”.

All the existing political parties, including those that recorded less than 2,000 votes nationwide, began the collection of N6 million each from the INEC headquarters in Abuja in December.

Some INEC officials feel concerned about the waste of government funds on political groupings that are in a state of near-oblivion.

But they are handicapped to take any drastic action on the matter because of rigid constitutional provisions that necessitate annual provision of government grants to all political parties.

In its report submitted to the President, the Justice Mohammadu Uwais-led ERC said many of the current parties were “very weak and unable to effectively carry out political mobilisation, political education and discipline.”

It described the 2007 elections as the worst since 1922 when the country conducted its first elections.

The ERC emphasised the need to actualise electoral reforms, including a review of the nation‘s multi-party political system.

”We should review the inherited multi-party political system, especially given the performance of the existing 50 political parties, which has tended to push the country towards becoming a one-party state.

”The views expressed by Nigerians during the public hearings were overwhelmingly in favour of reducing the number to between two and seven. It is not a mere coincidence that the relatively freest elections in Nigeria were those conducted under the two-party system between 1989 and 1993,” the ERC stated.

The body prescribed additional conditions for the registration of political parties under Section 2. 2. 5 of its recommendations.

The additional conditions include the need for political associations to have consistently verifiable and functional offices in at least two-thirds of all states, and retaining 20 per cent of leadership positions for women.

Provisions in Sections 91 and 92 of the Electoral Act 2006 obligate the Federal Government to provide grants to political parties through INEC.

Though both the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act 2006 authorise the commission to audit political parties‘ accounts, INEC lacks the power to deny them subsequent financial grants.

Our correspondent, who visited the hitherto premises of the Alliance For Democracy, observed, that the party had joined the ranks of parties without an identifiable national headquarters address as its office located at Plot 2096, Bumburna Close in Wuse area of Abuja had been turned into a residential home.

When Sunday Punch visited the building on Friday, AD‘s signboard had been removed, while neighbours in the area, said the owner of the building, Alhaji Musa Usman, had sold it after the party failed to pay rent arrears.

INEC‘s Commissioner for Publicity and Information, Mr. Philip Umeadi, expressed concerns about loss of government funds being given as grants to weak or moribund political parties.

He, however, said the commission was helpless because of constitutional limitations.

He said, ”I don‘t want to give you my personal opinion on what to do on the issue of political parties. In the last election, we had 50 registered political parties. There were not up to 23 that fielded candidates in the election.

”But there is nothing we can do. The law says if you apply to register as a political party, we have an obligation to register you. All you need to do is to comply with the provisions of the law; you have a registered office, you have a complete executive council and we register you.

”In fact, if we fail to register you after three months, you are entitled to take us to court as a political party. I don‘t want to give you my personal opinion on the matter because I tell you quite frankly, the government is losing a lot of money. That was the reason why when we sent the auditors to audit the accounts of some of the political parties, the auditors could not find them.

”Some of them started writing us letters to say that they didn‘t see the auditors. So, we came up with a publication for them to now re-confirm the addresses of [the parties] to enable the auditors to come. It is the provision of the law and there is nothing you and I can do about it. We do not have any choice in this situation. We will continue to pay them,” he stated.

He said only constitutional changes could ensure that the unwieldy number of political parties were pruned down.

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