President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, swore in the new chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, alongside new national commissioners, at a ceremony at the council chambers of the presidential villa.
He urged them to uphold the law and shun external influences.
“The nation has reposed a lot of trust and confidence in you. You cannot afford to fail,” he said.
The Council of State, at its meeting last month, confirmed the appointment of the new INEC chairman and five national commissioners for the electoral body. They commissioners include: Amina Zakari, northwest; Anthonia Okoosi-Simbine, north central; Baba Shettima Arfo, northeast, Soyebi Adedeji Solomon, southwest and Mohammed Mustafa Lecky from the South-South.
The president pledged to respect the independence of the Commission, and not interfere with its operations.
He said “It starts from change of attitudes, change of work ethics, change in attitude to corruption and corrupt practices, change of party political conduct-right from primaries to the emergence of candidates and finally the conduct of elections”.
President Buhari said his administration respects the independence of the electoral body, by not interfering in its activities, but will encourage them to conduct transparently free and fair elections.
“All of us, and this includes other political parties have a responsibility to safe-guard the sanctity of democratic values; and the foundation of such values are free association, transparent electoral process and free and fair elections”.
Noting the Federal Government’s constitutional constraints in engaging with the State’s Electoral Bodies, the President said it is totally unacceptable to hide under the cover of the technicality of law to deny the citizens’ rights.
He said the Federal Government is considering a different strategy of engaging with state government so state electoral commissions are freer than they presently are.
“In almost all the States, the party of the sitting government wins all the Council Elections. There is nothing wrong with that if it is the true wish of the people, but majority of Nigerians more often than not think it is not, hence have little respect for the outcome of our council elections. This is responsible for questioning the integrity of such election winners throughout their tenure” he said.
Another area of concern, the President said is the justice administration of the Electoral Tribunals. He said addressing the electoral shortcomings was long overdue adding that all found culpable in electoral fraud, violence and thuggery should be prosecuted.
“Unless our system stops covering up all forms of electoral malpractices we can hardly get it right. No system endures with impunity” he adds.
The INEC chairman who responded on behalf of the newly sworn in commissioners, pledged commitment in the discharge of duties.
“We shall not fail the nation,” said Mr. Yakubu.