Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: INEC - More Cause for Alarm

PROFESSOR Attahiru Jega, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has a penchant for explaining INEC's failings. After two years on the saddle, he thinks INEC's deficiencies play no part in credible elections.

When Jega speaks with candour about malpractices in political parties does he understand he is indicting INEC for neglecting its duties of monitoring the parties? Sections 222, 224, 225 and 226 of the Constitution gave INEC tremendous powers to ensure political parties operate within the law. Which political party in the past two years has Jega prosecuted for contravening the law?

"Political parties budget funds with which to bribe security agencies and INEC officials during elections. Of course, this is being resisted but we have to stop all this in our electoral process. Many political parties also budget money for litigation and, therefore, look for cases to spend the money on," said Jega at a seminar in Abuja.

The law does not only expect Jega to resist the offers. He is expected to arrest the bribe givers. If parties budget for bribes, how has Jega dealt with the issue since he discovered the practice?

Section 226 (1) states, "The Independent National Electoral Commission, shall in every year prepare and submit to the National Assembly a report on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party. (2) It shall be the duty of the Commission, in preparing its report under this section, to carry out such investigations as will enable it to form an opinion as to whether proper books of accounts and proper records have been kept by any political party, and if the Commission is of the opinion that proper books of accounts have not been kept by a political party, the Commission shall so report." Jega accused the parties of poor accounting. He should take responsibility for poor supervision of the parties.

He blames everyone except INEC and its officials. "There was one candidate that refused to withdraw and the political party forged a letter that he had agreed to withdraw," Jega informed his audience adding that INEC did nothing about the forgery because provisions of the Electoral Act disallowed INEC from interfering in internal affairs of parties.

This bland interpretation of the Electoral Act is convenient. Forgery is a criminal offence, anyone who is aware of a crime and refuses to report it, is a party to the crime. INEC and its officials are therefore responsible for the levity political parties apply to the law.

For Jega to know about these infractions with direct bearing on the fidelity of our democracy, and have the effrontery to excuse his inaction is another cause for alarm over INEC.

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