- Joseph Bassey (Deputy Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly)
As the name stipulates, INEC in itself is an independent body. For this to be truly so, it means the commission should not depend on any arm of government for anything. The body should be able to exercise that autonomy and the process leading to the emergence of the chairman of the commission should be independent. The President of Nigeria should not be the one to appoint the INEC chairman. As humans, we are likely to listen to the dictates of the person that appointed us at some point.
An INEC chairman is likely to have sympathy for the President that appointed him and when this happens, we are not practising true democracy. There should be an independent process that should lead to the emergence of the INEC chairman, maybe through the hierarchy within the system. For our democracy to be sustained, we need to truly separate the powers. If the legislature should depend on the executive arm for the release of statutory funds, things will definitely not work smoothly. If the power to appoint the INEC chairman is taken away from the President, it will be a boost to our democracy.
- Chukwunyere John (Principal Partner, Chukwunyere John and Co., Lagos)
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission being an umpire officiating in the game of politics ought not to be appointed by a player or a participant in the game, because there is the need for neutrality. Where he is appointed by the President or any person, there is the tendency to reciprocate what the other person has done for him through the appointment. I would rather have loved a case whereby an independent body would appoint, or any situation that will guarantee more neutrality other than the umpire being appointed by someone who is going to participate in the game.
One may refer to the appointment of Prof. Attahiru Jega, who was appointed as INEC boss by former President Goodluck Jonathan, as excellent. The decision of Dr Goodluck Jonathan to concede defeat and Prof. Attahiru Jega’s ability to declare former opposition candidate, now President Muhammadu Buhari, as the winner of the 2015 presidential election, was quite an exception in this part of the world. However, in some countries, the President does not appoint the chairman of the electoral body.
I would love a situation where there can be more impartiality; where a mechanism is activated to enable an independent body to appoint the INEC boss. Members of the impartial selection body could include, but not limited to, key professional bodies like the National Association of Nigerian Students, the Nigerian Bar Association, and some sound elder statesmen; maybe one from each of the six geo-political zones of the country who have not yet been tainted by the murky waters of politics. Along that line, it is not limited to the ones identified. Also, the National Judicial Commission could be among.
- Abayomi Arabambi (Chairman, Labour Party, Ogun State)
T do not support sections of the 1999 Constitution and other amendments so far made with respect to the power given to the President to appoint the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission.
Once the power to choose is still vested in the President, it will be abused to favour the ruling party to rig elections and Nigerians and the country will be placed under the siege of tyranny. The tyranny of such powers was exercised by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress not too long ago when he appointed his niece into INEC and even refused to remove those above 60 years from the service of the commission.
Another evidence of why the power to appoint the INEC chairman should be removed from the President was exposed during the Kogi election when the Attorney General and Minister of Justice advised INEC to direct APC on how to conduct its primary after the demise of the former Governor Abubakar Audu.
This absolute power also came to play recently when a national commissioner of INEC accused Governor Yaya Bello of Kogi State of double registration, but the national chairman of the commission could not do anything because he was appointed by the President who is from the same party with the governor.
We now have an INEC chairman appointed by the President to conduct inconclusive elections. I will suggest that such powers to appoint the INEC chairman should rather be vested in the National Assembly to appoint a credible person from the group of retired Supreme Court or Appeal Court judges so that Nigeria will never again be visited with the kind of tyranny witnessed under the military.
- Boladale Bamigbola (Journalist)
I think it will be better if the President is relieved of the task of appointing the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. If the task should be taken off the President, who should be given the task? If the National Assembly is given that task, the likelihood of a party man emerging as the INEC boss is still very high. If civil societies are saddled with the responsibility, recent happenings are pointing towards them getting involved in politics too. If the Chief Justice of the Federation is given the task, the revelations coming from that arm of government in recent months are not so good for our image as a country, and wrong persons may still emerge.
If at all, the President won’t be allowed to singlehandedly pick the INEC chairman, the Council of State should be given the task. The Council of State, to a large extent, with the experience of members should be able to come up with those Nigerians with proven integrity, requisite experience and composure to lead the nation’s electoral body.
Out of several people that will be nominated by members, the person that will eventually take the job should be voted into office by members. There is no region that is not represented in the Council of State. And with the experience the members must have gathered over the years, an average Nigerian will expect them to be above board and put the nation first before other considerations. In this wise, the constitution should be amended and the Council of State should be given the task of picking the INEC chairman.
- Ezenwa Nwagwu (Partners for Electoral Reforms)
For almost every position in the country, the President appoints. The President appoints the Central Bank governor, the INEC chairman and almost every significant appointment.
You name an organisation as the Independent National Electoral Commission and the President appoints the chairman. It will take a lot for that President not to have influence over his appointee in such a case.
In South Africa, it is not President Jacob Zuma that appoints the head of the electoral body; it is advertised. It does not lend credence to claims of independence when the President appoints.
It is like when you have a football match and the team playing at home is given the liberty to pick the referee, especially when the President is going to be a candidate in the election.
You can say that ‘the man is a good man’ and will not interfere, but in the law-making process, you don’t talk about a good man; you must put safeguards to strengthen our institutions.
- Auwual Musa-Rafsanjani (Head, Transparency International, Nigeria)
In order to restore confidence in the electoral process and also give credibility to the whole process, we need to move from where we are today, whereby the President decides and chooses the INEC chairman. We should be able to move otherwise.
If we have a President that is not interested in the development of democracy, he could bring in somebody that will undermine the process.
I believe that we have had over 16 unbroken years of democracy; we have reached a point where we must improve on our democratic culture by ensuring that we truly have an independent electoral body that is impartial to do justice to all.
We can take examples from countries like South Africa, where the position is advertised and those who meet the set criteria are interviewed by a neutral body before appointment.
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