A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, on Thursday charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to live up to its responsibilities as election umpire and enforce the rules as dictated by the 1999 Constitution.
Agbakoba, who made the call in a statement issued by his Media Assistant, Niyi Odunmorayo, asked the commission to check the arbitrary defection of politicians from one party to another.
He stressed the need to restate the powers of INEC because the commission appears to have forgotten the powers conferred on it by the constitution as the ultimate supervisor of the country’s political and electoral process.
This, according to him, includes the power to make regulations and guidelines for elections.
He, however, expressed regret that INEC had allowed the National Assembly to encroach on its powers, particularly on the electronic transmission of election results.
Agbakoba said: “It is important to restate the constitutional powers of INEC as the ultimate regulator of the electoral process. The reminder is necessary because INEC appears to have forgotten the powers assigned to it by the Constitution in relation to the political and electoral process.
“Section 158 (1) of the Constitution provides that INEC in the exercise of its powers, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any authority or person (including the President of the Federal Republic). This establishes INEC as an independent authority in the exercise of its electoral functions.
“Paragraph 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution empowers INEC to organize, undertake and supervise elections. This includes the power to make regulations and guidelines for elections.
“These powers conferred on INEC makes substantial parts of the Electoral Act largely irrelevant. Surprisingly, INEC has allowed the National Assembly to encroach on its powers, in particular the vexed question of Electronic Transmission of Results.
“For example, when the National Assembly voted to reject electronic transmission of election results, INEC in the course of the debate, was mostly silent and did not assert itself even when the Constitution confers on INEC the powers to organize, undertake and supervise elections. These broad powers obviously include the matter of Transmission of Votes.
“The arbitrary defections of politicians from one party to another calls for strong regulatory control by INEC. The lack of internal democracy in most political parties has failed to receive robust regulatory response by INEC. The Nigerian political system needs INEC to act as a strong regulator. I suggest that INEC is entitled to withdraw certificates of return issued to elected office holders who defect. The logic is simple.
“INEC issues a certificate to a winning candidate who jumps ship to another party. There has to be sanctions. INEC ought not to be afraid of getting it wrong. INEC must be seen as a firm referee with clear rules and a determination to enforce those rules.”