A High Court judge in the Federal Capital Territory, Justice Ishaq Bello, on Wednesday in Abuja said the handling of pre-election matters by the Independent National Electoral Commission had been overheating the polity.
Bello condemned in particular a situation where the INEC would list a candidate of a political party for an election even when the emergence of such candidate was still a subject of litigation.
“What I am saying here is that political parties would hang the complaint of an aggrieved member of the party without attending to it and when they get to court they bring lawyers and say the party member has not exhausted internal party remedies and say therefore the court cannot act on his plea,” he said.
Bello spoke at the retreat on modalities for making and gazetting INEC regulations, organised by the INEC for legal practitioners within and outside the electoral body.
The event was organised to receive advice and vital inputs in developing a framework for the enhancement of qualitative regulations.
The judge said the name of an aspirant should not be submitted to INEC as a candidate where there are still controversies over the candidate’s nomination. He frowned at a situation where such issues were pushed to the judiciary when it was clear that the judiciary had no say in pre-election matters.
He said that there should be a provision in the Electoral Act to stop the submission of names of disputed candidates.
“There is no proviso that prohibits within the constitution of the parties that while a grievance is being addressed by a political party, the name of its aspirant should not be submitted to INEC for purposes of the election,” he said.
According to him, the absence of such a provision is a very destructive weapon, adding that INEC has been enjoined to accept different candidates from different parties without actual reasons.
He therefore urged stakeholders in the country’s political system to address the issue.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, represented by INEC Commissioner, Mrs. Thelma Iremirem, assured the participants that the commission was determined to strengthen its electoral guidelines and regulations so as to deliver freer, fairer and more credible elections in 2015.
He said, “In line with INEC’s declared resolve to deliver freer, fairer and even more credible elections in 2015, the Commission is desirous of strengthening its electoral guidelines and regulations in the exercise of the powers conferred on it by both the constitution and the Electoral Act.
“We are presently in the process of conducting a wholesale review and enhancement of some of our existing guidelines and also working on entirely new ones on various aspects of our operations.
“Ultimately, the objective is to have these regulations and the prescribed sanctions for their violations duly gazetted, with a view to making them judicially actionable. I am of the strong opinion that this bold step will go a long way in formally signalling the Commission’s statement of intent towards sanitising the nation’s electoral process and also significantly assist it in the discharge of its statutory oversight, regulatory and supervisory powers.”