INEC tasks states electoral commissions on credible LG polls

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to ensure that local government councils

By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised States Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to ensure that local government councils elections are credible in all states.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this when he received the executives of the Forum of State Independent Electoral Commissions (FOSIECOM) in his office on Wednesday in Abuja.

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He also advised state governors to allow the SIECs some level of independence to enable them conduct credible polls.

Yakubu said the conduct of local councils elections was fundamental to the proper functioning of the Nigerian   democracy.

He said that although both INEC and SIECs were created by the constitution, SEICs were responsible for the conduct of local councils elections, while INEC was uncharge of federal and state elections.

He said that INEC was also empowered by Section 98 of the Electoral Act 2022 to conduct local government or area council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Yakubu said that over the years, attempts were made to encourage the SIECs to maintain their independence.

This,  according to him,  included the signing of Memorandum of Understanding with SIECs in the form of training, provision of some facilities, and institutionalisation of the culture of planning.

He said that INEC also established the joint INEC/FOSIECOM consultative committee headed by a national commissioner.

Yakubu said all these initiatives were done in the firm belief that by working together, the 36 SIECs would leverage on the experience of INEC for a progressive improvement in the conduct of local government elections.

“Unfortunately, the conduct of local government election in virtually all the states of the Federation has become mere coronation of candidates of the ruling parties.

“It is time to stop the coronation and conduct proper elections. State governors should allow the SIECs to have greater capacity for independent action.

“Many of the SIECs have no functional offices in the local government areas in their states and cannot recruit their own permanent staff.

“In some states, the SIECs are either not properly constituted, have no security of tenure or their critical functions have been taken over by government officials,” he said.
Yakubu added: “Some SIECs are only constituted on the eve of elections and dissolved thereafter.

“They are also severely under-resourced to the extent that some of them rely on INEC even for basic facilities such as ballot boxes and voting cubicles.”

He said that consequently, many Nigerians including some candidate in local government elections mistook the SIECs for INEC.

This situation according to Yakubu,  had forced INEC to reconsider some aspects of its relationship with the SIECs.

“Our support is now largely restricted to the voters’ register as provided by the Constitution.

“ INEC cannot shoulder its own extensive responsibilities and at the same time extend almost limitless support to other independent electoral commissions for elections outside our mandate across the country from our lean federal budget,’’ he said.

Yakubu appealed to the commissions to learn from the FCT area council election conducted by INEC, so they could enhance the credibility of LG polls.

“While there are legal and financial constraints to your operations, your independence does not necessarily draw from statutory or financial provisions alone.

“The courage with which you discharge your obligation to protect the integrity and credibility of elections is the most important determinant of success.

“There are no shortcuts to the discharge of this enormous responsibility,’’ he said.

While assuring SIECs of INEC’s  continued support to push the boundaries of electoral reform, Yakubu said there must be a determination on SIECs part to do the needful.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of FOSIECOM, Chief Jossy Eze, called for  review of the MoU between INEC and the forum to make SIECs more functional and effective in the face of changing electoral needs, challenges and expectations.

Eze said it would also give the forum more impetus and new direction toward achieving the core objectives of conducting free, fair and credible elections at all levels.

He also called for the development of a new strategic work plan for support to SIECS which the last plan was for the period of 2019-2023.

Eze, also the Chairman, Ebonyi SIEC, appreciated INEC’S innovations to improve Nigeria’s elections as well as its support to the struggle of SIECS, toward financial independence.

“We strongly believe that our financial independence is not only achievable but a sine qua non for virile Local Government elections in Nigeria.

“FOSIECON has again,  recently submitted a memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on Constitutional amendment.

“We solicit INEC to throw its weight behind our quest for true independence,’’ he said.(NAN)

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