ABUJA —FORMER Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, yesterday, raised an alarm that there are danger signals over the 2019 general elections.
He also said it was through God’s intervention that the country was not thrown into constitutional crisis during the 2015 general elections.
Jega, who raised the alarm while delivering the 2018 Democracy Day lecture in Abuja, also told the Federal Government to ensure that security operatives display high sense of professionalism and neutrality in the forthcoming elections..
He further said there was deficit of good governance in the country and that the government should not only be concentrating on theft and embezzlement in its fight against corruption, but should do something about bribe-taking at all strata of government.
The former INEC chairman, who said INEC is currently confronted by electoral challenges, noted that the plethora of violence witnessed during the just concluded congresses of All Progressives Congress, APC, portended great danger and threat to democracy.
He said if political parties could not observe internal democracy and conduct peaceful congresses, it is a dangerous sign over what would happen in the general elections.
Speaking on the danger signs as the 2019 elections draw nearer, Jega said: “The first thing to consider is electoral violence and there is no better way to address this than what happened in recent party congresses and its potential danger.
“If political parties cannot organise their internal elections peacefully, how can they engage the other parties with civility in the general elections? It is very important that this is addressed because if there is crisis in the elections, it is the electoral commission that gets blamed.
“So, it is very important that we improve our systemic mechanisms of addressing violence and conflicts related to elections and in particular improving the score of internal democracy within political parties. We may be running out of time, we must try harder and do everything possible within the shortest time.
God saved us from constitutional crisis in 2015
“I kept giving examples of some aspects of existing legal framework, which could have created constitutional crisis if not for God’s intervention in 2015. For example, a constitutional provision that requires the electoral commission to conduct a run-off election within seven days, is impossible in this country but that is what the constitution says.
“Why is it impossible? By the time the electoral commission announces result, it would have been two days and then if you take out those two days, you will be left with five days to prepare for the next run-off election.
INEC operating under serious pressure
“So it is very very important to accelerate this process of having a new improved legal framework for INEC to be able to do its job because right now, it is operating under serious pressure.
“Again, we should be mindful of the ECOWAS protocol that we have signed, which requires all signatories to ensure that any amendment to the electoral legal framework is concluded at least six months before a general election, ideally it should be at least one year before general elections.
Security agencies should be neutral, impartial
“The last point I want to make is that security agencies need to display professionalism, neutrality and impartiality.
‘’This is very important. In fact, in all fairness, the relative success that we had in the 2015 general elections was because of the active engagement of what we call the inter-agency consultative committee and the commitment of security agencies to do their best under very difficult circumstances.
NASS members notorious reckless in demanding bribe
Lamenting the level of corruption in the polity, especially in bribe taking in the ministries and National Assembly, he said it had got to a notorious and reckless level.
He said: “I wonder what is happening with intelligence and investigative responsibilities of security agencies in policing our National Assembly. Some chairmen of the committees in National Assembly have become notorious on this issue of demanding bribe with impunity.
“I have passed through the university system, I have heard so many stories of so many vice-chancellors about the woes they go through on question of budget and so called oversight assignments.
“I am not saying that chief executives are saints but all we are saying is that we must point the search lights so that Nigerians and particularly public office holders should have basic common decency and integrity by which they discharge their responsibilities because virtually everybody seems to forget about what is going on.’’
We’ve experienced rough times —Buhari
In his remarks, President Muhammadu Buhari said a government elected by the people must continually be in touch with the aspirations of the people, and work for their highest possible good.
He said: “The theme of this year’s celebration, “Peace Building and Good Governance for Sustainable Development,” has been carefully selected to reflect our current opportunities and challenges.
He said: “We have experienced rough times, but through good governance, we have not allowed ourselves to be overawed by existing challenges.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in his message, said the framers of the country’s cconstitution recognized checks and balances, adding that where such exists, there would be friction and conflict.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, noted that in democracy globally, there must be compromise among the three arms of government.