Scraping state electoral commissions will overburden INEC – Yiaga Africa

Samson Itodo
Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo

An election observer group, Yiaga Africa, has warned against abolishing the State Independent Electoral Commissions and transferring their duties to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had in May called for the scrapping of SIECs.

According to him, governors have abused the rights of local governments by using SIECs to impose leaders on them through sham elections.

Fagbemi added that the powers of SIECs should be transferred to INEC..

However, in a statement on Friday, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said abolishing the SIECs and transferring their responsibilities to INEC would overstretch the commission and undermine the autonomy of states.

He said, “Yiaga Africa has observed increasing calls for the abolition of SIECs and the transfer of the responsibility of conducting local government elections to the INEC. This policy proposal is fundamentally flawed and would have far-reaching implications for Nigeria’s 25-year democracy if implemented. First, it will overstretch an overburdened INEC leading to poorly conducted local elections.

” Second, it undermines the autonomy of states guaranteed in the Constitution, potentially leading to an overconcentration of power in the Federal Government. Thirdly, it weakens local democracy and citizens’ participation as local communities will be stripped of the opportunity to participate in decision-making. ”

Instead of abolishing the commission, Itodo urged the government to amend the constitution to safeguard the operational, administrative and financial independence of SIECs.

He said, “Ensure that the power of the SIECs to make its own rules and regulate procedures should not be subject to the approval or control of governors, thereby protecting their autonomy.

“Address the ambiguity regarding the tenure of Local Government Chairmen and councillors through constitutional amendments to minimize arbitrary dissolutions of local governments by hovernors supported by state legislatures.”

He, however, called on state assemblies to come up with a legal framework that would guide the conduct of elections in their states, adding that state electoral laws should be harmonised with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act.

Itodo added, “State assemblies must enact a robust legal framework for SIEC activities, including guidelines for conducting elections, dispute resolution procedures, and penalties for electoral misconduct. State electoral laws must be harmonized with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Act to ensure uniformity and legal coherence.”

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