Council of State approves sanctions for poll riggers

No Comments » March 25th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Electoral Reform Project



 

 

THE NATION

Council of State approves sanctions for poll riggers

 25/3/2009

Governors won yesterday a major battle to keep the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) alive. The proposed electoral reform recommended that SIECs be dumped.

But election riggers got a blow in the nose, with the go-ahead for the President to send an Electoral Offences Commission Bill to the National Assembly. When the bill is passed into law, electoral offences will become criminal, drawing heavy sanctions. This will end the slap-on-the-wrist era for confirmed poll riggers.

At the end of a prolonged debate, this year’s first Council of State meeting okayed the continued existence of SIECs, but governors must ensure that the conduct of the electoral bodies is reviewed.

The governors, it was learnt, also gave a commitment to take responsibility for the conduct of SIECs.

The council called for the review of the Police Reform Committee’s report, which recommended N2.8trillion and $150million intervention fund for the police for the next five years, with N320billion annual funding for the next five years.

A 10-man committee headed by the Vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, was set up to review the Mohammed Dikko Yusufu Police Reform report.

Former President Olusegun Obaasanjo, former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and former Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, were not at the meeting.

It was chaired by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. At the meeting were Dr Jonathan, Senate President David Mark, Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former President Shehu Shagari, former Head of States – Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, Head of Interim Government Chief Ernest Shonekan and governors.

Former Chief Justice of the Federation Justice Mohammed Uwais, who is the Chairman of the Electoral Reform Committee, Justice Alfa Belgore, and Attorney-General of the Federation Mike Aondoakaa were present.

Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Imo State Governor Ikedia Ohakim, with whom were Oyo State’s Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala, Jigawa’s Sule Lamido and Aondoakaa, said the Council deliberated on two critical issues and some “few minor issues”.

Ohakim said: “One of the critical issues is the draft white paper on electoral reform. Council exhaustively discussed the draft white paper, made some far-reaching decisions which will be eventually passed to the National Assembly for them to deliberate upon.”

On the electoral reform, he said: “The council approved almost 80 per cent of the recommendation of the white paper. There was one other issue council deliberated extensively and that is of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) where council agreed that the SIEC would be visited with far-reaching reforms by the state governments. The state governments have the mandate to go back to their states and recommend those far-reaching reforms that will be visited.”

The governor said that the council agreed that there was no need to put more burden on the national electoral body, “and so the burden to conduct Local Government elections was left to SIEC”.

Ohakim said there was a commitment from the governors to ensure that credible people handle elections at the state level.

“The Council reviewed the white paper reform of the Police. We are all aware of the M. D. Yusufu Presidential Committee on the reform of the police. Council also approved the appointment of Alhaji M. Bukka as the MD of the Population Commission,” Ohakim said.

“Council agreed on the establishment of a Constituency Delimitation Commission. Council agreed on the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission and council agreed on the establishment of Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission.

“Holistically, council looked at the unbundling of INEC to create efficiency.

“Council also agreed that the delimitation of constituency will be undertaken by INEC as one of its functions.

“Council noted the recommendations for the use of electronic voting machines and discussed the issue of holding elections on a fixed date and then given a period of six months within which all electoral matters will be gotten rid off. Council rejected this recommendation because it will impinge on the fundamental human rights of the citizens to pursue their case to logical constitution and if election matters are not concluded before the date of the swearing in, unnecessary vacuum will be created and we have a lot of provisions in our existing laws to take care of this.

“Council also rejected the shifting of the burden of proof from the petitioners to INEC. Council agreed that he who is bringing a matter should be able to bring the burden of proof on that.”

Ohakim went on: “At the end of deliberations on the white paper, the council decided that a draft bill for an act to amend the Constitution, draft bill for an act to amend the Electoral Act 2006, draft bill for an act to establish the Electoral Offences Commission, draft bill for an act to establish the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission and draft bill for an act to establish the Centre for Democratic Studies be forwarded to the National Assembly.

“The Council also looked at the draft white paper reform of the Police, which states that the police require N2.8trillion within the next five years and $150 million as intervention fund at the end of which it set up a 10-man review committee to be headed by the Vice-President.

The council, according to Ohakim, noted: “The issue of security must be treated very importantly, if we must meet the Vision 202020 and agreed that there is need for this intervention; that the Federal Government, states, local governments and the private sector must collectively fund the police.

“Other critical points on the police reform were the issue of logistics, capacity building, image of police, and provision of equipment for the police.

“Other members of the committee are the Minister of Police Affairs, NSA, IG of Police, one governor each from the six geo-political zones.

“They are to review the workability of the plan, the mechanism for the intervention and mechanism for the reform of the police and to review the white paper recommendation that N320 billion will be deducted from the federation account annually for intervention for the next five years to reform the police. And they are to present their report in the Council of State meeting.”

The President urged governors “to look at condemned people in our cells which total about 826 persons in our prisons, which include 15 females”. “Some of them have stayed condemned for the past 20 years, and that members should not shy away from their responsibilities and members accepted to go home and review the issue of these 826 condemned persons in our various cells across the council,” Ohakim said.

On the planned amendment of the Constitution, Aondoakaa said: “The President has commenced the first constitutional amendment of the Land Use Act. The President is of the opinion that title should be granted by governors but if you have been granted the rights to a property, you should be able to sell the property without going back to the governor. As it is now, if you have a property with a C of O, you cannot go to the bank to borrow money without going back to the governor to get the consent. It is so ridiculous that if you have to rent your property for more than three years, you have to go back to the governor. The President is of the view that this provision has brought impediment to the growth of development of property.”

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