National Conference Committee wants SIECs scrapped

Committee wants all elections in the country conducted by INEC

The National Conference Committee on Devolution has recommended that all elections in the country should be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The recommendation is however subject to the approval of the Conference at plenary. Should it be approved at plenary, the Conference would recommend to President Goodluck Jonathan that the State Independent Electoral Commissions, SIECs, be scrapped.

At its meeting on Thursday, the 28-member Committee, co-chaired by a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah, agreed that local government elections conducted by the SIECs had not promoted democracy and therefore all the elections in the country should be centrally conducted.

The other elections are the presidential, governorship, National and State Houses of Assembly elections.

A member of the 28-member Committee and former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, said no other party except the party ruling in any state had won elections conducted at the local government level.

Another delegate from Bayelsa, Asara Asara, said the situation in some states was even more pathetic because the ruling parties in some states disqualify candidates of the opposition parties, thereby allowing candidates of only one party to run in such elections.

Mr. Asara gave examples of the council polls in Anambra and Nasarawa States, saying the opposition candidates in the former were disqualified while those in the latter had their victory cancelled by the electoral commissions.

However, a delegate from Anambra State, Alphosus Nwosu, denied the claim and insisted that it should not reflect in the Committee’s votes and proceedings.

Buba Galadima, a delegate from Yobe State, urged the Committee to scrap the SIECs noting that “it would be the most revolutionary decision” taken by the National Conference if eventually adopted.

Mr. Galadima, a member of the All Progressives Congress, APC, warned that Nigerians were watching the Committee and therefore it should do what they wanted.

A Kano State delegate, Junaid Mohammed, said the elections conducted by the SIECs had been a disgrace and therefore “conducting elections should be taken away from these characters.”

Another delegate and elder statesman, Magaji Dambatta, also backed the stripping of SIECs of powers to conduct council elections and proposed an amendment to the existing provision in the 1999 Constitution (amended).

However, a delegate from Benue State, Jacob Tilley-Gyado, opposed the move to allow INEC conduct all elections. According to him, the job of the Committee was to devolve powers from the centre to the federating units. He said allowing INEC to handle all elections would amount to giving the centre more powers.

A former military governor of North Western State, Usman Farouk, also opposed the proposal.

However, in ruling on the issue, Mr. Attah explained that devolving powers does not necessarily mean that certain powers should not be taken from the federal government or centre to the federating units.

“The right thing for Nigeria is for the centre to conduct all election,” he added.

The Committee also voted to retain aviation; foreign affairs; award of national titles and honours; meteorology; bankruptcy and insolvency; currency, printing and promissory notes; foreign loans; arms and ammunition; citizenship, naturalization and alien; census and national identity; control of capital (capital market); and drug and poison retained on the exclusive list of the Constitution.

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