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We must stop electoral fraud, says President

Posted by By LUCKY NWANKWERE, Abuja on 2007/08/30 | Views: 2531 |

We must stop electoral fraud, says President


President Umaru Yar’Adua on Tuesday inaugurated the much talked-about Electoral Reform Panel, saying the country could not carry on as if unaware of the danger post-election dislocations posed to the peace, stability, growth and development of the country.

President Umaru Yar’Adua on Tuesday inaugurated the much talked-about Electoral Reform Panel, saying the country could not carry on as if unaware of the danger post-election dislocations posed to the peace, stability, growth and development of the country.

The 22-member panel is charged with the responsibility of working out a credible electoral process that would raise the standard and quality of general elections in the country to internationally acceptable standards.

The move, which is in fulfillment of his promise to bequeath to the country an enduring electoral process, would ensure that a solid foundation is laid for the growth and consolidation of democracy in the country if achieved.

Justifying the need for electoral reform, President Yar’Adua pointed to what he said was the consistency, since 1959, with which every general election result had been disputed and contested in the country, describing it as a sad feature of the nation’s political developmental history.
He said: "Beginning with the 1959 general elections, almost every poll has suffered controversy resulting from real and perceived flaws, structural and institutional inadequacies and sometimes deficiencies in the electoral laws and even the constitution.

"We cannot pretend that the post-election dislocations that this trend engenders are not a threat to the peace, stability, growth and development of our nation."
Yar’Adua pointed out that his administration was determined to "evolve an electoral process that will enable us anchor democracy as the framework for national integration, sustained growth and national development".

He said the country had no option than to halt the ugly trend because Nigerians had come to see democratic governance as the most acceptable form of government for the country.
"If we achieve this feat, we would then have anchored our democratic culture firmly with everlasting peace, security and political stability. This would enable us to turn our collective energy and effort to developing our nation from its current state of under-development to join the league of developed nations", he further pointed out.

The president also cited the seeming interest of the international community in the affairs of the country, saying effective democratic consolidation in Nigeria would have positive implications for the countries in the West African sub region and the African continent as a whole.
He referred to the members of the panel, headed the former Chief Justice of the Federation, Mr. Justice Muhammed Uwais, as not only accomplished Nigerians, but also people of impeccable character, expressing the hope that they would not fail the country.

He charged the panel, which has one year to conclude its assignment, to:
o Undertake a review of Nigeria ’s history with general elections and identify factors which affect the quality and credibility of the elections and their impact on the democratic process.
o Examine relevant provisions of the constitution, the Electoral Act and other legislation that have bearing on the electoral process and assess their impact on the quality and credibility of general elections.
• Examine the roles of institutions, agencies and stakeholders in shaping and impacting on the quality and credibility of the electoral process. These should include government, electoral commissions, security agencies, political parties, non-governmental organizations, media, general public and the international community.

• Examine electoral systems relevant to Nigeria ’s experiences and identify best practices that would impact positively on the quality and credibility of the nation’s electoral process.
• Make general and specific recommendations (including but not limited to constitutional and legislative provisions and/or amendments) to ensure:
o A truly independent Electoral Commission imbued with administrative and financial autonomy;
• An electoral process that would enable the conduct of elections to meet acceptable international standards;
• Legal processes that would ensure that election disputes are concluded before inauguration of newly elected officials; and
• Mechanism to reduce post-election tensions, including possibility of introducing the concept of proportional representation in the constitution of governments.
• Make any other recommendations deemed necessary by the panel.

In the discharge of their assignment, Yar’Adua told the members to be conscious of on-going court processes that pertain to the last elections, advising that they focus on aspects of the assignment that would not be construed as being prejudicial to any on-going election petition matter.

In his response, the chairman of the panel, Justice Mohammed Uwais, agreed that democratic governance should be nurtured with free and fair electoral process and pledged that his committee would come up with a credible electoral process for the country.
Two prominent members of the panel were absent at the inauguration, namely Mr. Olisa Agbakoba and Rev. Father Mathew Hassan Kukah.

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