The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has challenged Nigerians to national conversation to determine whether or not the regime of political parties should be improved upon or to maintain the status quo on the existing 91 political parties in the country.
The Commission also stated that despite its policy of transparency,i t cannot expose some of the sensitive materials used in the 2019 general elections.
National Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu who threw the challenge on Monday at the 2019 Press Freedom Award urged Nigerians to stop blaming the commission for the registration of too many political parties saying that the registration of political parties is a function of political framework.
He stated that the only stringent condition for the registration of parties in the country is that which stipulated that an association must own office in any part of the Federal Capital Territory, adding that other conditions are mere paper work.”
Yakubu who was represented at the occasion by the National Commissioner and Chairman Committee on Information and Voter Education said having a multiparty democracy is not akin to having 1000 political parties that espouse almost the same ideology.
Yakubu stated that under the extant law, de-registered political parties can easily reapply for registration under a new name since they already have offices in the FCT.
“We have had instances where some people blame INEC for registering too many parties.The truth of the matter is that the registration of political parties is a function of the Constitution framework.
“The condition which a political party must meet in order to be registered is embedded in the law and the only condition which is the Constitution framework is that such an association must have an office in the Federal Capital Territory.
“It is immaterial whether the office is located in Maitama, it is immaterial whether the office is located in Gwagwalada, it is immaterial whether the office is located in Kuje. So long as the association has an office in the Federal Capital Territory, it suffices; every other thing is paper work.
“And the law also said that if the commission does not register the party within 30 days and does not give reasons for its non registration, that the association becomes a political party automatically.
“As Nigerians and as journalists, we need a national conversation on whether we need to improve on the regime of political parties registration or whether we need the number of political parties we have as at today.
“Having a multiparty democracy is not akin to having 1000 political parties that espouse almost the same ideology. So we need a national conversation.”
Okoye also clarified on the differences between the INEC and the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) stating that many people in the past have used the two interchangeably and confusing their roles.
“The media must therefore be abreast and knowledgeable of the statutory role of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC). Often, the media group and organisations use both interchangeably and confuse the role and place of both institutions in the electoral process.
“Sometimes when people are reporting about the SIEC, they report as if the are reporting the INEC. The only nexus between the SIEC and INEC is the fact that the voter register that is used in the conduct of local government elections is the same voter register that INEC compiled.
“So the Constitution and the law obligate the INEC to hand over the voter register to the SIEC for them to use in the conduct of local government election. Other than that there is no nexus between what the SIEC does and what INEC does at the national level
“He also urged journalists to have a good knowledge of the Constitutional and electoral framework for the conduct of elections, enjoining reporters on the political beat to know that anyone aspiring to the position of the president in country must be a Nigerian by birth while an aspiring member of the National Assembly or State House Assembly or can just be a Nigerian by naturalisation.
The INEC boss assured that the commission is committed to providing a level playing field to its numerous public and a quantitative, seamless and hassle-free electoral services for the electorates in all its actions and operations.
While enumerating the dangers of fake news especially its destabilisation power on the society, Yakubu said it is challenging dealing with deliberate misinformation, adding that information relating to the intentions of the commission and its processes could be difficult to communicate.
“The issue of fake news is now a bug issue. It is now difficult to filter fake news and real news. The tragedy is that in a society where rumour mongering is a big national challenge, fake news can destabilize the society and lead to complete breakdown of law and order .
“It is also challenging dealing with deliberate misinformation. Information relating to the intentions of the Commission and its processes can be very difficult to communicate. While it is the policy of the Commission to be transparent, some of the materials used in the election are sensitive and cannot be exposed.”
The INEC boss said, “the media must see the Commission as a critical national treasure and strive to support it , and where necessary criticise it but in a constructive and not in a destructive manner.
“The Commission will continue to partner with and cooperate with the media towards delivering g good elections in Nigeria.”