The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) have called for the establishment of an Electoral Offences and Political Parties Registration Commission ahead of the 2019 elections.
A member of the joint group also known as Delegation, Terry Tselane, made the call at a news briefing on the 2019 general elections on Friday in Abuja.
Mr Tselane, who is the Vice Chairperson, Electoral Commission of South Africa, said that the delegation was in Nigeria to assess the political and electoral environment in the country ahead of the elections.
He said there was need to establish the commission as soon as possible to enhance the accountability of political parties with regards to funding of campaigns and other activities.
He said that the group had observed some challenges that could hamper the elections if not well addressed.
Mr Tselane said the challenges included hate speech, insecurity, vote-buying and lack of internal democracy in parties, but said that the delegation had made some recommendations that could help the government.
“The delegation believes that with political will and through efforts, many of the challenges can be addressed in order to enhance citizen confidence and participation in elections.
“It can also mitigate violence during and after the polls; the Federal Government needs to intensify efforts to address insecurity in many parts of the country as it could disrupt the electoral process.
“The government also needs to reiterate to all security services their constitutional obligation to be professional and impartial in guaranteeing election security for all citizens and political contestants.’’
Mr Tselane urged federal government to enforce the law in regards to illegal activities during elections, including vote-buying on Election Day wherever it occurred.
He said there was need to ensure sufficient time for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to implement electoral changes by signing into law the Electoral Act (as amended) Bill before August 16.
He said the government should approve and obligate INEC’s budget in time and ensure that other government agencies involved in the election received sufficient and timely funding.
Mr Tselane also urged the government to ensure that agencies such as National Orientation Agency (NOA) that had responsibilities for civic and voter education received adequate and prompt funding.
This, he said, was to support peaceful inclusive and credible elections, adding that INEC should undertake extensive campaign to raise voter awareness on need to register and collect the voter card before the elections.
He advised political parties to conduct transparent and democratic candidate-selection processes that adhered to their by-laws and policies.
Mr Tselane also urged the parties to encourage women, youths and persons with disabilities by providing free nomination forms while also respecting the rule of law.
He urged them to obey INEC’s guidelines for political parties, especially provisions against the use of violence and of hate speech that could incite violence.
He also urged the media to report accurately, responsibly and professionally in line with the media code of conduct in order to foster civil discourse, adding that fact-checking before publishing was also necessary.
On her part, President Emeritus, Fund for Peace US, Pauline Baker, who is also a member of the delegation said most Nigerians met by the delegation were full of hope for 2019.
Ms Baker said that the 2019 polls provided an opportunity for political parties, INEC, government, media, civil societies and Nigerians to build upon and expand the advances from past elections.
She said the delegation noted a strong commitment by INEC and civil society organisations to enhance citizens’ confidence and participation in the election.
She said the commission was also looking at how to mitigate violence around the polls, disclosing that INEC had expressed concern about vote-buying and was considering ways to address it.
Ms Baker commended civil society organisations for committing to monitor the electoral process as it would help to check a lot of things.
She assured that NDI and IRI would continue to observe the electoral process and that it planned to deploy a second pre-election assessment mission in September.