Theme: Towards Elections with Integrity in 2019: Challenges and Prospects
The Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) had its founders Day Lecture on the 27th March 2018. It is a yearly event usually held in commemoration of the Institute’s establishment in March 1979. This year’s lecture delivered by Professor Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) (now Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council at Plateau State University) was titled, ‘Towards Elections with Integrity in 2019: Challenges and Prospects’. The lecture took place at Andrew Otutu Obaseki Auditorium, National Judicial Institute.
Prof Attahiru Jega in his lecture noted that presently, more than 90% of the world states select their national leaders through elections and that regularity of elections was once assumed to be the key indicator of successful democratic transition but that given the experiences of countries such as Nigeria, however, there is now wide recognition that regularly held elections, which do not actually and truly count, undermines democracy. He noted also that electoral Integrity is now considered globally as a serious business deserving serious attention especially in countries, such as Nigeria, in which fraudulent elections have for long been the norm rather than the exception.
The challenge according to him is how to make elections in 2019 and subsequent ones better, so as to stabilize transition to democracy, deepen democracy and development, increase the legitimacy of elected governments and bring about good, democratic governance, which yields substantive dividends of democracy and addresses the fundamental needs and aspirations of the people. He said that the foregoing would require incremental positive and constructive collaborative engagement by all stakeholders focused on electoral integrity, which would deepen democracy and nurture good democratic governance, the panacea for substantive democratization. Undoubtedly, “threats to electoral integrity are not limited to poor, divided or war-torn countries. They can be found in every democracy”. They are however more profound in the African countries with ethno-religious diversity, rapacious and greedy elite and fractious politics in striving to capture power and state resources.
He highlighted the basic tenets of electoral integrity include to; inclusivity, cleanliness, competitiveness, access to governance as well as Representativeness, EMB Professionalism, impartiality and non-Partisanship and further noted that regularity of elections devoid of integrity undermines legitimacy of “elected” governments and exacerbates conflicts, with negative consequences on development.
In his recommendations he advised that elections should be professionally and impartially conducted by a competent and efficient election management Body who should substantially, if not totally, comply with global best practices and standards, which increasingly serve as the framework for assessing the integrity of elections. he also mentioned the need to address the deficit of integrity in African elections inorder for representative/liberal democracy to have substantive meaning and to catalyze democratic development in the continent.
He called on the youths to be more resourceful and show resilience in protecting and advancing the integrity of our elections come 2019 by engaging in and with the electoral process. He also called for the protection and defence of the independence of INEC while asking them to comply with internationally recognized standard norms and good practices in the conduct of elections.
In trying to address many of the identified challenges associated with electoral administration, especially election-day duties, he recommended that INEC needs to pay significant attention to identification, recruitment, training and deployment of credible volunteers for election duties and to be sourced essentially from amongst our youth.
He finally called for INEC to be unbundled as recommended by the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) led by Justice Uwais as this will enable it focus on its core mandate of organizing and managing elections with integrity, as other agencies or Commissions handle such other issues, as prosecution of electoral offenders, constituency delimitation, registration and regulation of political parties.
Those in attendance at the lecture were the Hon. Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice( represented by Mr. Sylvester Imhanobe), Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, CJN and Chairman of the occasion, Professor Attahiru Jega (Guest Lecturer), Senator Shehu Sani, Professor Adedeji Adekunle, SAN, Director General, NIALS, Rt. Hon. Ali Ahmad, Speaker, Kwara State House of Assembly (former chairman, House Committee on Justice) John Cardinal Onaiyekan (Archbishop of Abuja Diocese), Hon. Justice Bozimo, Administrator of NJI, Mr. Afam Ezekude DG Nigerian Copyrights Commission, representative of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Damian Dodo, SAN, Mr. Kefas Magaji, Chairman, Nigerian Law Reform Commission, Professor Yemi Akinseye George, SAN, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, Mr. Soyemo, SAN, Chief Gbenga Awomolo, SAN, representatives from the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INEC, members of the NIALS Faculty and the media.