The public hearing was aimed at facilitating citizen’s inputs in the electoral reform process to foster proper election administration in Nigeria before the 2015 elections.
Following the conclusion of the 2011 elections the Executive and the National Assembly expressed their intent to reform the electoral process to address the challenges identified during the elections and the subsequent gubernatorial elections so far organized by Independent National Electoral Commission in 2012. The Independent National Electoral Commission suo motu has advanced proposals for reform in the Electoral Act in a bid to consolidate on the gains and improvements recorded in the conduct of the 2011 elections.
In recognition of the ardent need to undertake far reaching electoral reforms in the build up to the 2015 elections, young Nigerians and civil society organizations participated at the first National Youth Public Hearing on Electoral Reform. The public hearing was aimed at facilitating citizen’s inputs in the electoral reform process to foster proper election administration in Nigeria before the 2015 elections. The public hearing also marked the process of setting the Youth Agenda for the 2015 elections.
The public hearing drew participants from youth CSOs across the six geo-political zones, youth in political parties, persons with disabilities, women groups etc. The public hearing was organized by Youth Alliance on Constitution & Electoral Reform (YACORE), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), National Youth Movement on Constitution Review (MYMCR) and supported by the Democratic Governance for Development Project of the United Nations Development Program UNDP/DGD. A youth panel was constituted to superintend over the public hearing. The members of the panel are; Ezenwa Samson Nwagwu, Ms. Chika Oduah, Mr Echezona Asuzu, Mr. Atoye Aristotle, Mr. Bukhari Mohammed Bello Jega and Barr. Nkiru Nnaemego.
Key personalities at the hearing include Professor Attahiru Jega, – Chairman of INEC who was represented by Present at the meeting was Mrs. Thelma Iremiren (OON, MFR) INEC National Commissioner, Dr. Mourtada Deme, Project Director – UNDP/DGD represented by Mrs. Ann Ikpeme, The Senior Special Assistant to the President, Comrade Jude Imagwe and Mr. Reed Slack, Country Director, National Democratic Institute amongst others.
Issues & Recommendations
- Nigerian youths desire far reaching electoral reforms that will enhance youth political participation in the 2015 elections and beyond.
- For Nigerian elections to conform to global best practices and improve 0citizens’ participation in the electoral process, the Electoral Act and 1999 Constitution should be amended to factor in citizens inputs.
- The Justice Uwais Committee’s recommendation no doubt provides laudable recommendations on electoral reform. While we demand the full implementation of that report, we also propose a review of the report to safeguard youth participation and address the perennial issues of social exclusion and political marginalization.
- There should be youth representation of the board of Independent National Electoral Commission;
- Independent candidacy should be mainstreamed in our electoral process;
- Political parties should create functional, vibrant and well structure youth wings;
- Removal of Attorney General’s power to prosecute electoral offences therefore section 147(c) and the second alteration Act should be amended such that the power of the AG to prosecute does not apply to electoral offences.
- Electoral offences commission should be established to prosecute all electoral offences. Grievous Electoral offences should be punished with 10 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
- There should be proportional representation as follows: 30 percent affirmative action for young persons.
- Qualification for membership of the national assembly, section 65 and 106 of the constitution should be amended to reduce the age limit for senate to 30 and 25 years for House of Representatives and state houses of assembly. Academic qualification should be increased to university qualification or its equivalent.
- INEC should be independent, section 63 should be amended to reflect removal of the chairman by the president acting on address supported by 2/3rd majority of the senate praying he be so removed for inability to perform his functions, due to infirmity of the body of the mind or for misconduct through a judicial committee.
- Section78 (7) of the Electoral Act should be amended to the following grounds for de-registration of political parties:
- Breach of any of the requirements for registration
- Failure to win a seat in the national or state houses of assembly
- Failure to show the approval of delegates to congress to the commission through town hall meetings.
- Political parties must have youth representatives capable of influencing party decisions.
- The Electoral Act should be amended to permit electronic voting. However, INEC should consider the dominant infrastructural challenges in its attempt to deploy electronic voting system;
- There should be system of automatic registration once a person attains the age of 18. Such a system can only be possible if we have a comprehensive data bank of our national identity;
- There is lack of full inclusion of the persons living with disabilities in the electoral process as seen in Section 56 of the Electoral Act;
- There should be special provision of security for persons living with disability pre, during and post elections;
- There should be life insurance for elections officials and elections monitors or observers. This will serve as a means of mitigating the security challenges always befalling election officials and monitors.
- INEC/YOUTH Parley: It is recommended that YACORE, PER and NYMCR should collaborate with the office of the Director CSO and Gender Desk to organize an INEC / Youth Parley that will create a platform of interaction between the leadership of INEC and young people. The program will give INEC the opportunity to interact with young people and share relevant information that will increase the value of youth participation in the build up to the 2015 elections. It will also provide a unique feedback interface for INEC and a platform for young people to advocate electoral reforms.
Barr. Samson Itodo
National Coordinator YACORE
Comrade Ezenwa Nwagwu
Chair, Partners for Electoral Reform
Comrade Echezona Asuzu
General Secretary, NYMCR
– National Youth Public Hearing on Electoral Reform, Rock view Hotel, Abuja.