Friday, July 31, 2009

Presidency Goofed on Electoral Reform

I wish to call the attention of the general public to the act of deliberate misinformation by the presidency particularly the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, on issues relating to Uwais Committee report on Electoral Reform. Adeniyi in a chat with State House Correspondents on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 was quoted in the media that the (Political Party Registration and Regulatory Commission) bill thrown out by the Senate on May 26 was prepared by the Uwais Committee as one of its recommendations and not by the president or his cabinet. That is being economical with the truth.
I have read the ERC report and the true position is that though Uwais committee did recommend for the establishment of PPRRC as one of the three new commissions to be created in the process of unbundling of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the committee did not prepare any bill having known that the 1999 Constitution will have to be amended first before this can be done.
The three bills prepared and attached to the ERC main report are: A Bill for an Act to Amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999; A Bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act, 2006 and A Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Commission. Even in proposing the establishment of Political Party Registration and Regulatory Commission, the ERC on page 29 of its report proposed a democratic nomination process which will see to it that the National Judicial Council will advertise the Board positions, screen the applications and recommend to the President for appointment subject to Senate confirmation.
Unfortunately, in the executive bills sent by the President to the National Assembly on April 30, 2009, the president decided to play omnipotent role in terms of appointment, removal and control of Board of the proposed Commissions. Specifically, as regards the PPRRC Bill, section 3 (2) of the bill states that the Commission’s Board members are to be appointed solely by the president. Section 5 of the Bill also empowers the President to unilaterally remove any Board member at his whim and caprice. Section 14 gives power to the President to give general directions to the PPRRC and this must be obeyed. What then is the whole essence of having a new Commission that will be dependent on the executive?
ERC advanced reasons for proposing the establishment of the new Commissions and we should not forget that the Committee received 1,466 memoranda from the zonal public hearings conducted in the course of doing its work from which the recommendations were distilled. I agree that the present economic realities might not be favourable to the setting up of new Commissions but if that is what we need to do to have credible elections, I am all for it.