Yar'Adua Approves INEC's Reorganisation

No Comments » March 3rd, 2009 posted by // Categories: Electoral Reform Project



Yar’Adua Approves INEC’s Reorganisation


•White Paper on Uwais Panel’s report okays independent candidacy, proportional representation in govt •Burden of proof in election petitions shifted to umpire •Petitions to end before winners assume office

By Tunde Rahman, 03.03.2009


A major reorganisation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is under way as President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua has okayed the recommendations of the Justice Muhammed Uwais-led Electoral Reforms Panel on the reform of the commission.
Under the planned reform, INEC will consist of a board that formulates broad electoral policy and direction as well as a professional/technical      election management team to handle the actual conduct of elections.
The appointment of INEC chairman will be advertised and coordinated by the National Judicial Commission (NJC), which will forward the name of the nominee to the Senate for ratification.
Also, States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) and Resident Electoral Commis-sioners (RECs) will be abolished.
SIECs will be brought under the INEC structure, while RECs will be replaced by Directors of Election for each of the 36 states of the federation and Abuja who will be career civil servants.
INEC’s funding will also be a first charge from the Consoli-dated Revenue Fund of the federation.
But the reorganization will require an amendment of the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution and 2006 Electoral Act and as such government has directed that the Federal Ministry of Justice should commence the process accordingly.
Government’s decisions on the recommendations of the Uwais panel are contained in the Draft White Paper, which THISDAY sourced exclusively last night.
The draft was put together by a nine-man ministerial committee which has Minister of Defence Shettima Mustapha as Chairman.
Uwais panel had recommended that “the membership of the Board of INEC should consist of the following: (a) a Chairman – who must be a person of unquestionable integrity; (b) a Deputy Chairman – who must be a person of unquestionable integrity. However, the Chairman and Deputy must not be of the same gender; (c) six persons of unquestionable integrity, two of whom must be women and one of whom must come from each of the six geo-political zones of the Federation; (d) one nominee of Civil Society Organizations working in the area of elections and accredited by the proposed Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission; (e) one nominee of Labour Organiza-tions; (f) one nominee of Nigerian Bar Association; (g) one nominee of Women Organizations; and (h) one nominee of the Media.”
The panel also said once appointed, no organisation shall have the power to recall its nominee.
Accepting the decision, government, however, said in the white paper that, it “accepts the recommendation but in the case of (C), government accepts that reference to gender should be expunged. Government further directs that the nomination from Labour organisation should come from the Nigeria Labour Congress, the one from women organizations should come from the National Council of Women Societies and the one from Media should come from the Nigeria Union of Journalists.” 

Independent CandidacyIn the draft, government also approved independent candidacy, but specified the number of constituency-based verified signatories that must back up such candidature for the various offices.
According to the white paper, “government accepts the recommendation for independent candidates. Govern-ment also notes that such has implications for the development of political parties.”
Under the arrangement, an independent presidential candidate will need 10 verified signatures per each of the wards in the country; governorship candidate, 20 per ward in the state; Senatorial, 30 per ward; House of Represen-tatives, 40 per ward; State House of Assembly, 50 per ward and Chairmanship/ Councillorship, 100 per ward.
The Uwais panel had recommended the amendment of Sections 65 (2) (b) and 106 of the 1999 Constitution to make room for an individual to run as an independent candidate.

Proportional Representation
Another recommendation accepted by the government in the white paper is the one on proportional representation. It states that 30 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly, states House of Assembly and Local Govern-ment councils will be filled based on the representation of parties in proportion to the valid votes won in the election.
Seventy per cent of such seats are recommended to be filled through the First-Past-The-Post system.
On the amount an individual can contribute to support the campaigns of a candidate, the government accepted thus: Presidential – N20 million, Governorship – N15 million, Senatorial – N10 million, House of Rep – N5 million, State House of Assembly N2.5million, Council chairmanship – N3 million and Councillorship-N500,000.
With respect to election petition and following the recommendation of the Uwais panel, government supported calls for internal democracy within parties, but called for a reworking of the laws to make disputes arising from party’ primaries justiceable in courts.

Burden of Proof of Election Fraud The government also accepted the recommendation that relevant provisions of the Electoral Act should be amended to create exception to the general legal rule, which places the burden of proof in respect of allegation of election rigging on the party that alleges, to the electoral body.
According to the draft, “Section 146 of the Electoral Act 2006 should also be amended to reflect that a petition based on allegation of fraud and corrupt practice shall succeed if the petitioner proves on the balance of probability that the election was marred by such practices.”

Conclusion of Petition Before Swearing-in Also accepted by government is the recommendation which called for the conclusion of all election petitions before winners assume office.
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.
But the government said if petitions are not concluded before the swearing-in date, the Chief Justice of the Federation will take over office for a period not more than three months in respect of the President and Chief Judge of the state in respect of governors.
This proposal, according to the draft white paper, is, however, to take effect after the 2011 elections.
The draft white paper was last Wednesday presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which set up a three-man committee headed by Attorney-General and Justice Minister Michael Aondoakaa to put final touches to it.
Other members of the committee are Secretary to the Government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed and Permanent Secretary, SGF office, Dr. Akeem Baba Ahmed.
They are expected to present their report to FEC tomorrow.


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