INEC must be truly independent - SDP

Malam Shehu Gabam

SDP National Chairman, Malam Shehu Gabam

By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Malam Shehu Gabam has advocated true independence for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to add credibility to Nigeria’s elections.

Gabam said this when he spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

He appealed to the executive, judiciary and legislature to act within the law to strengthen the electoral processes in the country.

He said that the commission did its best in the conduct of the 2023 general election and the off-cycle election, especially in area of logistics delivery during elections.

Gabam, however, said that INEC’s performance was still being affected by the huge influence of the executive.

“Let me tell you the truth, INEC is not independent. A lot of people do not understand it when I raise these issues. There is nothing INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu can do. He is completely handicapped in conducting elections.

“What he can do is to produce election materials, deliver them to every state and polling unit, deploy INEC or ad hoc staff to supervise the election?’’ Gabam said.

He said that by law, the executive, under Mr President, was responsible for appointing INEC chairman, national commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).

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He added that the executive was also responsible for funding INEC and creating a conducive environment needed for the deployment of logistics and conduct of elections.

“If the environment is not conducive, INEC cannot deploy election materials. It is in the law. Every deployment of every security officer is under the approval of Mr President.

“Who is responsible for securing the environment? It is the executive. Who is the person for escorting INEC materials? It is the executive. So, where is the independence of INEC to fully control the election?

“Naturally, people don’t look at critical issues. They go after the person who is at the helm of affairs in INEC.

“But, if we are to tell ourselves the truth, there’s no independent INEC. It is the executive and INEC that conduct elections in Nigeria,’’ he said.

Gabam said that for INEC to be truly independent, the power to appoint INEC Chairman and commissioners must be withdrawn from the President.

He added that for INEC as a democratic institution to be strengthened, it also required the neutrality of security personnel and the support of all stakeholders.

“If you continue to weaken the system, we’ll continue to be victims of the system.

“We are the ones weakening the system- politicians, security agencies, including the media that are underreporting issues. That is why we are where we are today,” he said.

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