A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has provided a rationale for why Presidents should not have the authority to appoint INEC chairmen.
Jega articulated his perspective during a two-day retreat organized for senators by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, on Saturday.
Jega also advocated for amendments to the 2022 Electoral Act, noting that while Nigeria’s current electoral laws are arguably the best in the country’s history, they are not flawless. He stressed the need for further amendments to eliminate ambiguities, clarify certain provisions, and enhance the electoral process. Among the proposed changes is the mandatory electronic transmission of election results in the upcoming 2027 general elections.
Regarding INEC’s leadership, Jega emphasized the necessity of removing the President’s power to appoint the Chairman and National Commissioners of INEC to ensure the Commission’s impartiality. He recommended a revision of the law to ensure the resolution of election-related disputes and judgments before the swearing-in ceremony.
Jega addressed concerns surrounding Section 64 of the Electoral Act, which deals with the transmission of election results, by advocating for clear provisions mandating the electronic transmission of results, including polling unit-level data and result sheets used at various levels of result collation. He emphasized that INEC should have adequate time to prepare for these changes if the Act is amended early in the electoral cycle.
Furthermore, Jega proposed the introduction of early voting for eligible individuals on election duty, such as INEC staff, observers, security personnel, and journalists, or alternative arrangements to facilitate their voting, particularly in presidential elections. He also called for diaspora voting, particularly for presidential elections, to enable citizens abroad to participate.
In terms of gender inclusion, Jega recommended enhancing the representation of women, possibly up to 35% of elective positions in parliament and on candidate lists of all political parties.
Jega also urged the prohibition of cross-carpeting by elected officials, extending this restriction not only to members of the National Assembly but also to elected executives, governors, and local government chairmen. INEC should be empowered to conduct elections to fill vacancies resulting from cross-carpeting.
He stressed the need for stringent conditions for candidate withdrawal and replacement to prevent abuse and proposed empowering INEC to screen and, if necessary, disqualify candidates with questionable credentials or evidence of forgery and other criminal activities.
Additionally, he recommended that candidates outside political parties and tax-paying citizens should be allowed to file suits against candidates who provide false information to INEC regarding their candidature.
To ensure timely resolution of electoral disputes, Jega suggested reviewing the process of appointments to INEC to minimize the President’s involvement in appointing the Chairman and National Commissioners.
He recommended entrusting the National Judicial Council or a joint committee of the National Assembly with the responsibility for advertising, screening, shortlisting, and recommending candidates for confirmation hearings. He also proposed guidelines for public scrutiny and petition submissions during this process to ensure transparency, non-partisanship, and stakeholder engagement.