Credible election: Anglican Bishop urges financial autonomy for INEC

The Bishop of Anglican Diocese of Kaduna, Rev. Timothy Yahaya, has called for financial autonomy for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to guarantee its independence and ensure free, fair and credible future elections.

Addressing the 21st Synod of the Anglican Communion in Kaduna, Bishop Yahaya, also urged that sitting judges should be made returning officers in future general elections as is the practice in Egypt, as part of far reaching electoral reforms that would make INEC more effective and eschew alleged electoral malpractices noticed in the 2019 general elections.  

According to the clergy, “the way the chairman and members are appointed into the electoral commission, how they are fired and funded could determine how independent the body would be in conducting free and fair elections.

“The last elections seems to again put paid to fears that an electoral body appointed by a ruling party and approved by the Senate, funded by the government headed by it, could be compromised to do the bidding of that party. 

“Therefore, Synod observed that the pattern for appointing the electoral commission ought to be revisited. Some people often suggest that they should as well be elected. If that is okay, then, such election could be done by delegates or by an electoral college with the electors drawn on an agreed formula and reflecting all parts of the country.

“Synod suggests that a consolidated fund, backed by law could also be set up for electoral commission’s activities, to avoid bottlenecks that usually arise from power play among executive and the legislature, vis-à-vis, the commission in terms of trying to influence the body or merely showing power for recognition,” he said. 

Speaking further, Bishop Yahaya said, “the integrity of ad hoc staff, especially vice chancellors of universities, most of whom, as past events have shown, did not pass the integrity test or are not brave enough to resist being influenced to rig elections, suggested that instead, judges should be used to serve as state returning officers. This practice exists in Egypt. 

“However, judges without good record of integrity should not be used, such an open duty could put a judge in the spotlight, hence any of them could be honest in such job. But then there is fear of exposing judges to attack, given the risky nature of their profession. Clergy of all faiths that have integrity could also be made state returning officers, given that some of them could take advantage to showcase their integrity by being upright in such a national call to duty.”

To reduce electoral malpractice, the Bishop called for complete electronic voting system, “full electronic voting system as earlier opined is the best solution as the polling unit for real voting would be online, not in physical location, while some other electioneering activities might still be done in physical spaces”

He called for the setting up of a special election offences disciplinary commission and tribunal to try suspected violators of election laws and rules; while advocating banning of victims from contesting elections, or voting in subsequent elections for a specified period as punishment for electoral offenders. 

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