The Federal Government is finalising its plan to set up a 20-member committee to review existing electoral laws and past reports on electoral reforms, including that of the Justice Muhammad Uwais National Electoral Committee, The PUNCH has learnt.
It was learnt that the committee was to be constituted and inaugurated by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
Five of the proposed members of the committee, our correspondent learnt, would be nominated by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The date for the inauguration of the committee is to be announced after the committee is fully constituted and necessary arrangements are perfected for the smooth running of the activities of the panel.
Speaking with our correspondent on the telephone on Sunday, Special Adviser to the AGF on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, said the committee would be inaugurated soon.
“The proposal is just waiting for the final directive of the AGF,” Isah stated.
Another source confirmed to our correspondent, however, that the INEC had yet to send the names of its five nominees that would sit on the panel.
A document obtained from a source, who is involved in the plan to set up the new committee, indicated that the panel would be given 16 weeks to “review the electoral environment, laws and experiences from recent elections conducted in Nigeria and make recommendations to strengthen and achieve the conduct of free and fair elections in Nigeria”.
Part of the proposed scope of the committee’s work, it was learnt, would be to review the extent of implementation of the report of the panel headed by Uwais, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, and advise government on its implementation.
The Uwais panel on electoral reform submitted its report on December 11, 2008, with recommendations that included the establishment of commissions to deal with electoral offences, constituency delimitation and political parties’ registration and regulation.
The PUNCH further learnt that the proposed committee would also be expected to review conflicting court judgments on legal disputes on past elections.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the scope of the committee’s work reads in part, “Review the laws impacting elections in Nigeria, in relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to assess their impact and adequacy for the administration of elections in Nigeria.
“Review of recent judicial decisions on election petitions as they relate to conflicting judgments; absence of consequential orders; delay in issuing Certified True Copies of judgments; harmonisation of the Electoral Act in view of the judgments with a view to enhance the electoral process.
“Review of the lessons learnt from the 2015 general elections and make recommendations for the improvement as they relate to the judicial decisions and experience from field operations.
“Identify and assess international best practices on electoral system relevant to Nigeria’s experience and identify best practices that would impact positively on the quality and credibility of the nation’s electoral process.
“Review the extent of the implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 Electoral Reform Commission headed by Justice Muhammad Uwais (Uwais Report) and advise on outstanding issues for implementation
“Advise on the implementation of outstanding recommendations in the ERC report.”
The proposed committee, it was gathered, would, among others, “recommend the best approach to effective prosecution of electoral offences.”
The document added, “Consolidate the recommendations for Electoral Reform into a single Electoral Bill to achieve the repeal of the 2010 Electoral Act and the re-enactment of a new Electoral Act for the country
“Prepare and recommend a draft bill for approval of the President for submission to the National Assembly to achieve timely passage into law of the proposed bill.
“Make any other recommendations deemed necessary.”
INEC’s Deputy Director, Publicity and Voter Education, Mr. Nick Dazang, said though he was not aware of the plan to set up the committee, the move would be a culmination of the past efforts of the commission.
Dazang, who spoke to our correspondent on Sunday, stated that the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had been intensifying the efforts made under the administration of the immediate past chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to reform electoral process.
He said Yakubu had met with a number of stakeholders, including legislators.
Dazang added, “I’m not surprised if it has reached this stage of setting up a committee. Even though officially, I’m not aware of it, that will be a culmination of the efforts that the commission has begun before now.
“Certainly, if there is a commission like that, INEC will send representatives because it is in our interest to have the laws reviewed. As you know, we have been canvassing the establishment of electoral offences commission and tribunal and the Attorney General of the Federation’s office has a role to play in bringing this about.
“I think the White Paper on Ahmed Lemu’s report specifically charged his office to take the lead in the setting up of the commission and tribunal.
“The Justice Uwais panel was on electoral reforms and Ahmed Lemu’s report was on post-election crisis after the 2011 general elections.
“So it is a welcome development and INEC will embrace the idea with two hands because it is in our interest to have the laws reviewed and the electoral offences commission and tribunal established so that the impunity that we see during election is checked.”