ADDRESS BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT A ONE-DAY PUBLIC HEARING ON THE NATIONAL ELECTORAL OFFENCES COMMISSION (ESTABLISHMENT) BILL 2021 ORGANISED BY THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON INEC, HELD AT THE CONFERENCE ROOM 022, NEW SENATE BUILDING, WEDNESDAY 28TH APRIL 2021.
Your Excellency the Senate President
Your Excellency the Rt. Hon. Speaker of the House of Representatives
The Chairman Senate Committee on INEC
Leaders of Political Parties
Representatives of various organisations
Ladies and Gentlemen
- On behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I would like to thank the leadership of the National Assembly and of the Senate Committee on INEC for the giant step of organising this public hearing.
- Similarly, I would like to thank the distinguished “trio of Sen. Abubakar Kyari (Borno North), Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta Central) and Senator Kabiru Gaya (Kano South) for sponsoring the Bill. I recall that Sen. Kyari, in particular, has been working on this Bill since 2016 when he was Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC in the 8th Assembly.
- At last, we are here today for public input into the Bill for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission 13 years after the recommendations of the Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais Committee on Electoral Reform (2008) echoed by the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu Committee on the 2011 post-election violence (2011) and, most recently, the Senator Ken Ugwu Nnamani Committee on Constitution and Electoral Reform (2017).
In addition, there issues that reinforce the recommendations of the Uwais Committee arising from the reports of police investigation, INEC administrative enquiries, court judgements, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and several accredited election observers.
- No doubt, INEC is saddled with so many responsibilities ranging from the registration and regulation of political parties, registration of voters, delineation of constituencies, conduct of elections/bye-elections/referendum/recall and prosecution of electoral offences, among others. The tasks are Herculean.
- Of the numerous responsibilities carried out by the Commission, the prosecution of electoral offenders has been one of the most challenging. For instance, since the 2015 General Election, 124 cases of electoral offences were filed in various courts out of which 60 convictions have been secured so far, including the most recent one in Akwa Ibom State.
- The Commission would like to see more successful prosecution of offenders, not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of election results but most importantly their sponsors. We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including party chieftains and candidates that seek to benefit from violations of the law, are apprehended. We believe that the work of the proposed Commission will help in this regard. The Commission will submit a detailed clause-by-clause comment on the Bill to the Senate Committee on INEC ahead of the commencement of the Committee’s technical work.
- However, while we are excited by today’s public hearing, I would like to reiterate our appeal to the National Assembly for the expeditious passage of the Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill 2021 and the pending review of the electoral legal framework generally. We are confident that the National Assembly will expedite legislative action and conclude work on the legal framework in earnest. The Commission is anxious to know the legal framework to govern the conduct of the 2023 General Election.
- By the principle established by the Commission, the next General Election will hold on Saturday 18th February 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days or 660 days from today. We hope to release the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the General Election immediately after the Anambra Governorship election scheduled to hold on 6th November 2021. In order to do so, there should be clarity and certainty about the electoral legal framework that will govern the election. We are confident that the National Assembly will do the needful soonest.
- Finally, I wish to restate the Commission’s support for this Bill and we commend the initiative of its sponsors and the commitment of the leadership as well as the membership of the National Assembly to its actualisation.
- I thank you for your attention.