Prominent human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has voiced concerns that the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could be jeopardised by the appointment of politically affiliated individuals as Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs). Speaking on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’, Falana reacted to the recent confirmation of new INEC RECs by the Senate, some of whom are alleged to be active members of political parties.
Falana referenced past administrations, including those of Yar’Adua, Jonathan, and Buhari, which established committees for electoral reforms. He emphasised the necessity for impartiality in electoral oversight, as recommended by the Uwais Panel, a stance echoed by President Tinubu during his leadership of the CAN.
The lawyer’s remarks come in the wake of President Tinubu’s appointment of 10 new RECs, which sparked concern among Civil Society Organisations and citizens over the perceived political ties of some appointees. Despite these concerns, the Senate proceeded to confirm all the nominees.
Falana highlighted that three of the appointees are from the ruling All Progressives Congress, and one is from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. He criticised the Senate’s approval of these figures, particularly pointing out the legal challenge mounted by the PDP in Akwa Ibom State against the appointment of Mr Etekamba Umoren, a former aide to Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The legal luminary suggested that the legitimacy of the appointments of the other three RECs should also be contested in court. He maintained that if these appointments are unlawful, their confirmation by the Senate would not be sufficient to legitimise them.
The sanctity of the electoral process is the bedrock of any democracy. The recent confirmation of new Resident Electoral Commissioners by the Senate, despite allegations of political affiliations, raises a red flag that cannot be ignored. As a collective voice in the journalistic sphere, we assert that the independence of electoral officers is not just a legal requirement but a fundamental necessity for free and fair elections.
The concerns raised by Femi Falana, a respected figure in legal and human rights circles, reflect a broader apprehension about the potential erosion of INEC’s impartiality. Those who hold the scales of electoral justice must do so without a scintilla of bias. The appointment of individuals with known political loyalties as electoral umpires cast a shadow over the transparency and fairness that INEC is mandated to uphold.
We stand with the notion that the integrity of INEC must be protected at all costs. Confirming RECs with partisan backgrounds sends a worrying message to the electorate about the potential for electoral manipulation. Civil Society Organisations and the judiciary must scrutinise these appointments to ensure that they align with the constitutional mandate for electoral impartiality.
The path ahead for INEC is fraught with challenges, but it is a path that must be navigated with the utmost integrity. We urge the Senate to reconsider its stance and for the judiciary to assert its role in safeguarding the democratic process. Only through vigilant oversight and adherence to the principles of democracy can we ensure that the people’s will is accurately and fairly represented.
Did You Know?
- Femi Falana is not only a renowned lawyer but also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a title awarded to legal practitioners who have distinguished themselves.
- The Uwais Panel, mentioned by Falana, was a committee set up in 2007 to propose reforms to Nigeria’s electoral system.
- INEC was established in 1998, and its independence is considered crucial for conducting free, fair, and credible elections in Nigeria.
- The Senate’s role in confirming RECs is a constitutional requirement, intended to provide a check on the executive’s appointments.
- Akwa Ibom, where one of the contested REC appointments originated, is known for its vibrant political scene and has been a focal point for electoral debates in Nigeria.