Politics

INEC Urged to Address Electoral Challenges and Restore Confidence in Nigeria’s Democratic Process

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INEC – In a recent keynote address at the 2023 Law Week Programme of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in Benin City, Edo State, prominent human rights lawyer Mr Femi Falana expressed deep concern about the state of democracy in Nigeria. According to Falana, Nigeria has transitioned into a state of plutocracy, where the rule of the wealthy prevails over the principles of democracy. This shift has resulted in a loss of confidence in the democratic process among the Nigerian people.

Falana called upon the NBA to exert pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to address several critical issues that marred the 2023 general elections. One of the pressing issues was the late arrival of INEC officials and ballot materials at polling stations, which led to logistical challenges and disruptions. Additionally, malfunctioning Biometric Voter Authentication System (BVAS) machines and limited or non-transmission of results from polling units to the Results Viewing Portal, IReV, were identified as problematic areas that needed urgent attention.

Highlighting a significant disparity, Falana pointed out that out of the 93 million registered voters, only 22 million actually cast their votes in the presidential election. This disparity raises concerns about the effectiveness of voter education and engagement, as well as the overall credibility of the electoral process.

Falana also stressed the need for INEC to address the issue of insecurity during elections. Instances of violent attacks on voters and officials, voter intimidation, snatching and destruction of voting materials, and widespread cases of vote-buying were reported during the 2023 general elections. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of ensuring accessible facilities for persons living with disabilities to enable their full participation in the electoral process.

To address these challenges and improve the integrity of future elections, Falana urged the NBA to convene a national summit to review the 2023 general elections. This summit should include representatives from all relevant stakeholders and be held once the election petitions are concluded by the various election petition tribunals, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. The outcome of this summit should guide the NBA in collaborating with the judiciary committees of both houses of the National Assembly to draft amendments to the Constitution and the Electoral Act. These amendments should aim to institutionalize credible elections in Nigeria.

Falana’s address concluded with a call to action for mass-based organizations to mobilize the Nigerian people and encourage their active participation in the democratic process. By empowering the citizens to take control of their political destiny, Nigeria can move towards a more inclusive and accountable democratic system.

In summary, Mr Femi Falana’s keynote address highlighted the challenges facing Nigerian democracy, including the rise of plutocracy, low voter turnout, logistical problems during elections, insecurity, and lack of accessibility for marginalized groups. He called upon the NBA to advocate for electoral reforms, convene a national summit, and collaborate with the National Assembly to institutionalize credible elections. His plea for mass-based organizations to engage citizens in the democratic process emphasized the importance of collective action in shaping the future of Nigerian democracy.

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