Ten Years of Democracy: A Review of the Electoral Process - Justice Uwais Committee Report

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Justice Uwais Committee Report
In December 2008, the National Electoral Reform Committee (NERC) headed by Justice Uwais submitted its report to President Umaru Yar’Adua after a year and a-half of work which included receiving and reviewing various inputs from civil society and the Nigerian people. The NERC made the following ground breaking recommendations:
•    Independent Candidacy;
•    No carpet-crossing under any circumstances;
•    No elected official whose election is being disputed before the court of law will be allowed to assume office until the disputes on his or her election is dispensed with
•    Biased media reporting to attract fine of N1,000,000.00;
•    Provide additional 108 seats for House of Reps;
•    Retain Open Secret Ballot;
•    Reduce number of political parties drastically;
•    Abolish State Independent Electoral commissions (SIECs);
•    Unbundle INEC - Electoral Offences Commission, Constituency Delimitation Commission and Political Parties, etc Registration and Regulatory Commission to relieve INEC of some duties
•    Provide for Electronic voting;
•    INEC Chairman and Deputy to be of different gender;
•    INEC positions to be advertised;
•    No office-holder in the party should hold any position in government;
•    Establish ceiling on Individual donations:
•    President = N20 million;
•    Governor = N15 million;
•    Senate = N10 million;
•    House of Reps = N5 million;
•    State Houses = N2.5 million
•    Chairmanship of local government = N3 million;
•    Councillorship = N500, 000.00.

In response to the NERC’s report the government released a White Paper on March 11, 2009 indicating its readiness to implement some, not all of the recommendations. A thorough look at the 7 bills submitted by the President on April 30, 2009 to the National Assembly related to electoral reforms indicates that the government has accepted 73 out of the 83 recommendations made by the NERC. Some of the key ones include the proposal to remove INEC’s control over the party registration process and its supervisory power over parties with the creation of a Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission (PPRRC) to assume these powers. Government also agreed to establish the Electoral Offences Commission.

One major recommendation which the President reacted negatively is the recommendation that the power to appoint the Chairman of INEC be taken away from the President. On May 12, 2009 he reiterated his strong objection to the recommendation and argued that transferring this power to the judicial arm of government would violate the principles of separation of powers. Similar views were earlier expressed by Professor Maurice Iwu, INEC Chairman who praised the Justice Uwais Committee Report but stated his support for “the power of the president to appoint the Chairman of INEC.”

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