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Primaries: Reps probe parties over violation of Electoral Act

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Primaries: Reps probe parties over violation of Electoral Act

The House of Representatives, last week, constituted a 10-man committee to investigate political parties and the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC) over allegations of violation of the Electoral Act in the conduct of their primaries, PHILIP NYAM reports

 

The House of Representatives has constituted a 10-man ad hoc committee headed by Hon. Bashir Baballe to investigate alleged violation of the Electoral Act by political parties in conjunction with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the just concluded primaries. The resolution was taken following the adoption of a motion on the lack of internal democracy in the conduct of party primaries towards 2019 general elections sponsored by Hon. Abubakar Chika Adamu (APC, Niger).

The investigation is with a view to correcting any defects in the Electoral Act or strengthening it and other laws including the Constitution in order to improve the country’s electoral process and democracy. Since the various political parties concluded their primaries ahead of the 2019 general elections, there have been cries and complaints of rigging, imposition and other forms of electoral offences leveled against party leaders and members.

In the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), some governors are up against the party’s national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole over the conduct of the primaries in their states, particularly the gubernatorial elections. The opposition parties have not fared better. In the Social Democratic Party (SDP), former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana is challenging the emergence of former Cross River State governor, Mr. Donald Duke as the presidential candidate of the party. The leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also has its share of these crises.

The Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) itself contains a number of provisions that seek to enhance the conduct of free and fair elections. But unfortunately, to an average politician, the end justifies the means when it comes to elections as they can employ different tactics to emerge victorious whether legal or not.

The Independent National Electoral Commission is also often caught in the web of the antics of some of these politicians, making the electoral empire to look helpless. It is therefore not surprising that Nigerian elections have always been riddled with petitions and protests; and these have robbed the nation of credibility in the conduct if her elections.

Presenting the motion, Hon. Adamu, who said congresses are regulated by the party constitution as well as the Electoral Act, expressed worry over widespread reports of irregularities recorded during the process owing to brazen disregard for both the constitution and the Act by political parties. He also decried the practice whereby some parties refused to conduct primaries thereby violating Section 87(10) of the Electoral Act which led to crisis in some chapters of political parties.

“Notes that the congresses/primaries of all political parties are regulated by constitution of the parties and the Electoral Act; worried by widespread reports of irregularities that attended the congresses of the parties held between September and the first week of October; “Disturbed that many parties in many states neglected or failed to adhere to the provisions of both the constitution of their parties and the Electoral Act with regard to the holding of primaries; “Further disturbed that some of the parties brazenly refused to hold primaries in contravention of Section 87(10) of the Electoral Act, which makes it mandatory for parties to hold primaries; thereby leading to crisis in some state chapters”. Citing the case of APC primaries in Niger State, the lawmaker lamented situations whereby governors assumed the positions of demigods by imposing candidates on the parties.

“I am concerned that governors in many states interfered with the elections by either imposing their preferred stooges as candidates on parties and ensured that some aspirants were denied the right to participate or were shortchanged. “Aspirants for the House of Representatives and the state House of Assembly were denied the opportunity to contest the primaries even after they purchased forms and were screened. “I will speak on the primaries for the House of Representatives and State House Assembly. We bought forms and were screened, direct primaries was adopted and set for October 6.

On that day, election materials were said to have been disbursed but I can tell you that no contestant can say he saw details of the result because no election held. “Sadly, the governor after his own affirmation left the state and when he was confronted, he said that President Buhari asked that tickets be given to the most popular candidates, which is contrary to APC constitution; Governors are not disciples or prophets. Even President Buhari is not one. “Niger State is facing neo-colonization because this also affected State Assembly aspirants; we must kick against this practice if we want to grow our democracy,” Adamu stated.

Supporting the motion, Hon. Adekunle Akinlade (APC, Ogun) bemoaned the lack of internal democracy in parties and noted the need to check the excesses of governors and individuals who take it upon themselves to decide the future of the country. Akinlade who also lost at the gubernatorial primaries said the process was hijacked by enemies of democracy. On his part, Hon. Mohammed Musa Soba posited that the irregularities that marred primaries particularly that of APC, started with the option of direct and indirect primaries which according to him, culminated in imposition of candidates. Soba, who recently dumped the ruling party over the outcome of the primaries, insisted that parties that cannot practice internal democracy cannot give the country true democracy.

“It is common knowledge that democracy can only thrive when electoral processes are credible, transparent and democratic; a party that can’t practice internal democracy, can’t give you democracy neither can persons who stand for impunity and disregard for rule of law give a nation true democracy”. Contributing, Hon. Nnenna Elendu- Ukeje (PDP, Abia) noted that a democracy begins with an electoral process that is not flawed and corrupt, adding that a nation’s leadership is also reflective of that. Elendu-Ukeje stressed the need for persons hungry to serve the country to be given a chance as opposed to those brought forward by others. “Look at the mid-term election in the U.S. and you see people hungry to serve their country. And in Nigeria, we are forced to deal with people brought on by others and imposed on us.

“If we do not do anything about these anomalies that threaten our democracy, then we shouldn’t be complaining. We must speak up against impunity in our parties,” she submitted. Also, Hon. Abubakar Lawan in his contribution, said events during the primaries was one of impunity versus the rule of law, added that as a result, over 200 cases of pre-election matters have been filed. In adopting the motion, the House also mandated the ad hoc committee to ascertain the income and expenses of major political parties in the last four years in line with Section 226 of the Constitution. This investigation is coming on the heels of a revelation from INEC that the parties have not been submitting their audited accounts to it as provided for in the law. How this ad hoc committee will go about this onerous assignment is yet to be seen as many are waiting to see how the lawmakers who are members of these parties will sit in judgement against their respective parties.

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