The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was on Sunday, 20th of December, 2020 disclosed that its proposing an electoral reforms that will bring an end to the frequent bye-elections and other areas of the nation’s electoral process and contest.
This was disclosed in a report released by the commission Under the reforms, the INEC is seeking an amendment to sections 68; 109; as well as 117 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as parts of efforts to curb the frequency of by-elections.
If passed into law, a lawmaker either from the National Assembly or state legislature who resigns his legislative seat on account of ill health or to contest for a higher elective post, among others, will be replaced by the candidate of the party with the next highest votes in the election.
Furthermore, the reform seeks a legal framework; to enable the political party that sponsored a late candidate to replace him through its internal party mechanism; rather than be compelled to hold fresh primaries to pick a replacement as the extant practice.
The INEC is also considering an amendment to section 285 of the constitution; to make it possible for all pre-election disputes to be concluded before the conduct of the general election.
In addition, sections being considered for amendments are sections 78 and 84 of the Electoral Act to enable political associations wishing to be registered as political parties to file their applications; also, to have all processes concluded at least 12 to 18 months before the general election; and the same thing should apply to political parties wishing to merge.
The INEC National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, gave details on the impending reforms at the weekend at the 2020 annual summit of political parties and stakeholders with the theme: “Two decades of party politics and democracy in Nigeria: Issues and prospects.”
The event was jointly organised in Abuja by the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and Political Parties Leadership and Policy Training Centre.
According to him, altering the provisions of the constitution; with a bearing on the electoral process must be pursued simultaneously with amending the Electoral Act.
He explained that the constitution is the fundamental law of the land and the Electoral Act; derives its potency and efficacy from the constitution.
He said: “Our proposition is that resignation of membership should devolve the seat automatically; to the candidate and political party that came second in the election; while the political party that sponsored a late candidate should replace him through their own internal party mechanisms”
“This will engender more respect for the sovereign right of the voters; make elected representatives more responsive; and reduce the spate of by-elections in Nigeria thereby saving the taxpayers’ money.”
Regarding the proposal to reduce the frequency of by-elections due to the resignation of lawmakers, Okoye said the aim is to ensure stability and avoid the distraction that by-elections cause.
On pre-election matters, Okoye said: “The INEC proposes further alteration to section 285 of the constitution to make it possible for all pre-election disputes to be concluded before the conduct of elections”
“This can be achieved by making it possible for the court of the first instance to conclude all pre-election matters within a period of 60 days rather than 180 days while the Court of Appeal can hear and deliver its judgment within a period of 30 days rather than 60 days. All pre-election matters should terminate at the Court of Appeal.”