Against the backdrop of challenges experienced during the 2019 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) has called on the electoral body, the federal government to reform Nigeria’s electoral process.
The group made the call in a statement signed by Toyin Odofin, CACOL’s head of media and publications.
It noted, “According to the reports and information at our disposal, lack of transparency and inconsistent numbers during the collation of results by the INEC cast a long spell over the integrity of the 2019 elections.
“Numerical discrepancies and anomalies on polling unit results forms were identified and were mostly corrected by collation officers on the spot, but without a clear system of record-keeping.
“Also, leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters and abuse of incumbency at federal and state levels. Inconsistent numbers during collation, lack of clear checks and explanations, and insufficient public information undermined, to a large extent, the integrity of the elections.
“Citizens did not have sufficient means to scrutinize results. INEC did not provide centralized information on the declared results for the different locations and has not posted complete results data on its website.
“Similarly, there was a lack of disaggregated results by local governments, wards or polling units, which would allow thorough checking of results. All of these are not meant to happen and we seriously concur with international observers’ position that, the discrepancies coupled with insufficient public information were not in line with international standards, especially on access to information and public accountability.”
CACOL quoted the recent report released by the European Union as proof of the urgent task to be undertaken.
It said: “According to the European Union (EU) report, it was noted that such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society, and the media.
“This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation, well in advance of the next elections. It was added that INEC should considerably strengthen its organizational and operational capacity as well as its internal communication, noting that the inter-agency body responsible for electoral security should work more transparently and inclusively with regular consultations with political parties and civil society.
“The mission said the seven areas of priorities for electoral reform included requirements in law for full results transparency with data easily accessible to the public.
“In similar spirit, we aver that the EU recommendation calling for the introduction of a legal requirement for parties to have a minimum representation of women among candidates, faulting the low number of female candidates for the polls is in good taste as it rhymes with the global policy of inclusiveness and affirmative action towards rebuilding the nation for progress and sanity.
“We agree too that election tribunals should cover pre-election cases in order to improve access to remedy and to avoid petitions being taken to different courts, all at the same time.
“One of the best ways of getting around the inevitability of these proposed reforms is for this government to consider the political reforms bill sent in by the last legislature by dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s while it works with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media, and other experts to make sure that these and other recommendations by the EU, other cognate institutions are implemented, and with areas of concern adequately addressed.”