Jega suggests INEC unbundling, banning of cross carpeting
Former chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has suggested further amendment of the Electoral Act to proscribe cross carpeting by elected political office holders.
He also called for the unbundling of INEC as, according to him, the electoral body was burdened with many responsibilities which needed to be taken off its shoulders.
Jega made the call on Tuesday in an address at the citizens’ town hall meeting on electoral reforms organised by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committee on Electoral Matters.
He said while sometimes challenges faced in primaries pushed politicians to move to other parties, cross-carpeting often undermined democracy.
He said, although it was more rampant in the legislature, governors have taken it as normal to move to other parties, particularly the ruling party, after they were elected on another platform.
He therefore suggested that politicians who cross carpet should be forced by law to go through another election to retain their seats through the amendment of the Electoral Act 2022.
“People have elected you on a platform and it is really unbecoming for somebody to abandon the mandate that has been given to him or her to now move to another party. And we have seen it, not just in the legislature, now even executive governors are abandoning their mandates midway and moving to another party.
“And the law is very clear, if you move, unless there is a crisis in your party, obviously you have to vacate that seat, a by-election needs to be conducted to fill the vacancy. So, I believe that, we need to ensure that in the Electoral Act, we proscribe the issue of cross carpeting.
“If we proscribe it, then it will be a matter of principle; then you should be able to vacate your seat and go for another election. I think it is a very important issue that we must address. Because it is one of the issues that is destroying the essence of electoral politics in the country.”
Jega also advocated for a “transparent process” for the appointment of the commission’s chairman, national commissioners and resident electoral commissioners.
“It is also important to unbundle INEC. INEC is saddled with too much responsibility and this is affecting other core responsibilities of INEC. So, the unbundling of INEC must be taken seriously,” he said.
Jega said there should also be a threshold for a political party to meet before fielding a presidential candidate for a general election, to avoid situations of having 20 or even 73 candidates on the presidential ballot paper.
Other speakers at the event called for full implementation of the Justice Uwais report on electoral reforms, the 35% affirmative action for women and addressing growing voter apathy.
In his address, the chairman House Committee on Electoral Matters, Adebayo Balogun, said the event was organised to enable stakeholders to contribute to the electoral reform exercise.
Similarly, the Senate’s Committee Chairman, Senator Sharafadeen Ali, said recommendations made by the stakeholders would be considered and integrated in the reform exercise.
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