New Telegraph

NLC: Nigeria’s elections now theatres of war

…seeks punishment for violence perpetrators

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has described elections in Nigeria as theatres of war, where bloodshed and mayhem has become a normal occurrence. President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, who made this known yesterday in Abuja at a ‘Roundtable for Electoral Reforms,’ stressed the need for perpetrators of election violence to be punished within the full ambit of the law. According to him, other reforms being canvassed by Congress include having persons appointed into the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) truly independent and conform to the principles of independence at all levels and also leveraging on technology to ensure credibility in elections to know who voted and who didn’t. While noting there were required improvements in the current laws, especially how to ensure electoral offenders don’t go scot free, Wabbe said electoral reforms should come earlier before elections, to enable people get used to them or amendments made to the Act.

His words: “Election days and venues have been turned into theatres of war. We must create an atmosphere of free, fair and credible elections that will enable people elect their leaders without molestation or any act of violence. “Enough of bloodshed just because of election; you find out many people are being killed and in election venues, there is mayhem. We call on security agencies to provide maximum security on election days, also, those offenders must not go scot free, no matter the party they belong to.

“People that foment trouble, kill others or cause violence or mayhem on election day, certainly we must find space in our laws to ensure they are identified and punished to serve as deterrent.” Wabba called for reforms in the nation’s electoral process. According to him, “Having participated in the process of election from 1999 to date, we have seen that there is still a lot of room for improvement in our electoral process. “Be it on the aspect of the law, be it on the aspect of how to choose candidates, be it in the aspect of inclusion, particularly gender and youths.

Those are the areas that we need critical reforms, but we don’t want reforms that will come at the eve of elections. “Having such processes at the eve of elections will not provide the necessary environment and understanding that is required for citizens to participate and for the law to become effective. “We have gotten the commitment of the National Assembly, they say they are willing and ready to make sure that reform processes are driven much earlier. They gave commitment to the effect that by December, we should be able to be discussing the new electoral law.”

INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, lamented that electoral reforms in the country keep focusing on national elections rather than on state and local elections to ensure quality governance. Ibeanu said there was need for the process “to strengthen the commission, strengthen the political parties and to make other agencies; the judiciary, police and army independent and accountable.” On his part, Executive Director of Yiaga, Samson Itodo, called for reduction in cost of campaigns, money parties charge aspirants for running for office and for increased election security.

“The 2015 amendment to the Act confers some powers on INEC to request an informed deployment for election security, but we still have our security agencies undermine the process in some cases and not give INEC the cooperation that is needed. “As we go to Edo and Ondo elections, it is very important our security agencies ensure they uphold the principles of professionalism, patriotism, transparency and accountability in the management of elections and security operations.”

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