Immediate past national chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said National Assembly’s rejection of the 2019 general election sequence as fixed by the INEC portents danger for the electoral umpire and Nigeria’s democracy.
The former INEC chairman, who conducted the 2015 general elections that ushered in the All Progressives Congress (APC) federal government, said the action of the NASS takes away the constitutional independence of INEC and leaves room for all sorts of manipulations of the electoral umpire subsequently.
“Jettisoning the INEC sequence for the 2019 general elections is dangerous for the INEC. It takes away the independence of INEC and is therefore dangerous for Nigeria’s democracy”, he said in a programme Matters Arsing aired by the African Independent Television (AIT) on Tuesday.
Prof. Jega insisted that the NASS resolve to amend the sequence though within its constitutional purview was one action the federal lawmakers ought to have avoided to grow the nascent democracy especially by encouraging the INEC to exercise its independence in organising and conducting free, fair, and equitable elections in Nigeria.
On the argument that the reordered sequence which brought forward the national assembly, governorship elections and placed the presidential election last against the sequence by the INEC that fixed the presidential, governorship, national assembly and FCT elections in that order, would rather kill minor political parties than preserve them.
It could be recalled that INEC had insisted on following the sequence and pattern adopted in the 2015 general elections while the NASS upturned it by amending Section 25 of the Electoral Act by reordering the sequence. In doing so the NASS had insisted it was in the interest of minor parties and to prevent unnecessary bandwagon effect.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari has withheld assent to the amended Act even as the leadership of the NASS (Senate and House) have been unanimous that they would veto the president and ensure that the sequence remains as amended.
Jega insisted that rather than focus on sequence the NASS should encourage the INEC to organise and conduct election that is free, fair and equitable and in particular an election that is credible and acceptable to Nigerians.
“The focus should be on the need to have elections that Nigerians generally can believe is credible and therefore acceptable”, he said.