Episode 101 Blog – 4th March 2022 Auwal Musa Rafsanjani on what impact the amended Electoral Act will have on the Integrity of elections in Nigeria’s Democracy

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani on what impact the amended Electoral Act will have on the Integrity of elections in Nigeria’s Democracy

Episode 101 Blog – 4th March 2022Auwal Musa Rafsanjani on what impact the amended Electoral Act will have on the Integrity of elections in Nigeria’s DemocracyIn addition to being the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Head of Transparency International (Nigeria) and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Amnesty International Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani was elected Chair of the Transition Monitoring Group last year, which is monitoring Nigeria’s transition to Democracy, and this makes him the right person to discuss the impact that the amended Electoral Act which was signed last week will have on the Integrity of elections in our Democracy.Rafsanjani said that we are making progress, that Nigerians had lost confidence in the process because of the corruption, manipulation and violence associated with elections in Nigeria, but that this amendment that had been brought about through the efforts of civil society working with the Independent National Electoral Commission was a big improvement.For example the new legislation requires the early release of funds to INEC, it is to have its money at least a year before the elections.Ayo asked whether, given that we are already a year from the elections, INEC has its funds now. Rafsanjani said that the point was that now, anyone who prevents the release of the funds INEC needs can be liable to criminal sanctions. He agreed with Ayo that it might not affect the 2023 elections but said that now at least we have the legislation in place.Rafsanjani said that in addition to electronic transmission of results, the amended Electoral Act makes provision for the electronic accreditation of voters, using smart card readers. Ayo said that card readers had malfunctioned before and INEC staff resorted to manual accreditation. Can INEC now use only electronic accreditation and nothing else, or does it have the freedom to choose?Rafsanjani said that the principle is that INEC has the legal mandate to use electronic accreditation which is designed to prevent multiple voting and other such ills. In the past people could go to court to challenge INEC for using smart card readers because they weren’t in the Electoral Act. With this amendment that will no longer be possible. Secondly INEC is assuring Nigerians that it will use all available technology to ensure the integrity of elections because this will do a lot to combat electoral manipulation and election fraud. He said he was very confident that there is determination within INEC to ensure that they will not fail, and if there are any shortcomings, they will address them because that’s the only way to restore confidence in elections.Ayo asked whether civil society had raised expectations to an unreasonable degree, by suggesting that before this amendment we never had free or credible elections and that we could never have them without it. Now that it has been passed, isn’t there going to be a belief that our elections will now be perfect? Is that reasonable or should we bear in mind the President’s statement that improvements and reforms may be incremental, and recognise that it won’t be all darkness on one side and all brightness on the other.Rafsanjani said that it would depend on the Nigerian people, that we have to change the way we think and behave because even if INEC does its best, if voters, political parties and the government don’t change the way they behave, it won’t be possible to have free credible elections. So the mindset of the people has to be changed and political parties have to educate Nigerians, just as INEC and civil society have been doing. It won’t be 100% perfect unless we as Nigerians are ready to change how we do things.Ayo asked whether the legislation wasn’t supposed to deal with our characteristics as Nigerians. Rafsanjani said that that in the past we had elections without this progressive amendment. Although it would improve our electoral process, elections won’t be perfect because some people are determined not to follow the rules. But many Nigerians are happy that we are changing from the analogue way of elections which allow for violence, rigging and so on.Ayo said that when it comes to that, we must hope that if the hunter learns to shoot without missing, the bird must learn to fly without perching.On matters that are external to elections in which the public take part, there are some provisions such as the requirement that candidate lists should be with INEC six months before the elections, Rafsanjani said that the early conduct of party primaries was one reform that civil society had struggled for because it would deal with the situation where the outcome of primaries is still being challenged when people go to the polls.Ayo asked about the issue of political appointees having to resign which the President complained of when signing the amendment. Rafsanjani cited the example of Abubakar Rimi, a former Kano State Governor who had resigned in order to contest in 1983. That was as it should be because of public officers using public resources for their campaigns. Ayo pointed out that Rimi was an elected Governor and wouldn’t be affected by this amendment, but that there had been cases of some Governors appointing as many as 500 Special Assistants just so that they could vote in party primaries. Rafsanjani said this was why it had to be in the Act because the parties appeared unable to address the issue through their party constitutions. Putting it in the Act would make things fair.Ayo said we’d have to wait and see whether the provision would be removed, or brought into line with the Constitution. She thanked Rafsanjani for showing how the amendment would improve elections and urged everyone to vote.As usual we’d like to know what you think. If you didn’t vote before, was that because you don’t feel that elections in Nigeria to date have been credible, and are you encouraged to vote now that the amendment has been enacted? Do you think that we should tackle problems in our elections by passing laws, or should we wait until we as a people and our politicians change their behaviour? Can the law modify or improve the behaviour of politicians and ‘we, the people’?See InsightsBoost postLikeCommentShare

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