#TrackNigeria: A Civil Society Organisation, The Integrity Friends for Truth and Peace Initiative (TIFPI) has stressed the need for further amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act and the National Broadcast Code to enhance the country’s electioneering process.
The organisation made the call in a statement signed by Mr Livingstone Wechie, its Executive Director, in Abuja on Tuesday.
It said the two amendments were necessary ahead of the 2023 General Elections.
It said the amendment should ensure urgent unbundling of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to insulate it from any form of political patronage.
It also proposed certain conditions following sack or resignation of electoral officers before they could join partisan politics, in line with Sections 306 and 307 of the 1999 Constitution.
It made particular references to the recent resignation of the Cross River INEC REC, Dr Frankland Briyai and Prof. Attahiru Jega, the immediate past chairman of the commission, who had both joined political parties.
As part of its input to the amendment, TIFPI had earlier proposed a 30-year jail term for electoral violence, vote buying and inducement.
It also proposed to the Ninth National Assembly to consider review of other laws relating to elections as a way of strengthening the nation’s democratic institutions.
“TIFPI proposed that the Electoral Act must be quickly amended to include that as a mandatory condition if an election official or INEC staff resigns or leaves office such official cannot join a political party or run for an election except 10 years ahead of such resignation or until after 10 years of his or her resignation or sack in keeping with Sections 306-307 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
“In the case of retirement such a person can only join a political party or run for an election after five years of retirement.
” These provisions are necessary because it is believed that such INEC or election official is in custody of sensitive election information exclusive to the Electoral empire classified from politically exposed persons.
“More so this is to protect the electoral integrity and trust of the electoral empire as well as insulate it from suspicions and unwarranted abuses or political patronage and sympathy.
“Recently the former INEC scribe Prof. Atahiru Jega announced his membership of a political party which he once deregistered to drive home his political ambitions.
“Shortly afterwards the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Cross River State announced his resignation from his appointment as REC to run for governorship of his state.
“Whereas there is no express criminal liability or any other whatsoever in their actions even though many have raised moral questions, it raises a lot of curious and suspicious concerns which go to the root of public trust and confidence on the Electoral Empire, such a dangerous trend.
“Hence the need for this amendments to help purge INEC of any political contamination. Hence any breach of this fundamental proposed amendment should amount to a criminal liability,” it said.
On the NBC code, it said: “TIFPI canvases that our Media Laws should be strongly amended to make National Broadcasting Commission NBC fully independent to issue Broadcast Licence independently based on merit without recourse to Presidential approval.
” This will reduce the current situation where most Broadcast Licence holders are only those close to power.
“It will no longer be based on political patronage. we must borrow from advanced nations like USA where the Broadcast Licensing Authority is independent of the Oval office or president.
`This will enhance media freedom and kill the threats by politicians to harass and intimidate the media unduly who do not cow.
“It will enable government enjoy competitive debates with the masses and opposition. It will strengthen our electioneering reportage and access to media from all shades so people in election will not be limited in their access to press.”
The organisation also called for the harmonisation between the Broadcast code and the constitutional provision empowering Local Government Authorities with respect to radio and TV licence charges or fees.
It said the step would avoid double payment or taxation by media operators. (NAN)