Funding Nigeria’s electoral process through the newly-introduced Treasury Single Account can only lead to disaster, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said.
Jega said this while delivering a keynote address at the 2015 e-Nigeria Conference, organised by the National Information Technology Development Agency which began in Abuja on Tuesday.
The former INEC boss said the nation would have run into a constitutional crisis if there was any run-off election following the 2015 general elections, as the seven-day window allowed by law to conduct such an election was practically impossible.
He said, “To a large extent, effectiveness of electoral processes is conditional on availability of financial resources to deliver efficient services consistent with international minimum benchmarks and global best practices.
“Electoral processes cannot be effective if an election management body is starved of funds and/or has to go cap-in-hand to an incumbent executive begging for funds before it can conduct an election.
“The financial autonomy of INEC needs to be strengthened. It should continue to be on the first line charge and have all its funds released through the statutory transfer fund as appropriated by the National Assembly.
“Subjecting an electoral commission to the so-called Single Treasury Account, I believe, is a recipe for disaster.”
Apart from financial independence, Jega listed other factors that could make for effective electoral process to include strengthening the electoral legal framework through an amendment to the constitution and the Electoral Act and an improvement on the professional competence and administrative capacity of the electoral commission.
According to him, others are extensive knowledge-sharing amongst African EMBs; improvement of relations between INEC and all strategic stakeholders and partners in the electoral process; and increased use of adaptable technology for transparency and efficiency in the delivery of electoral services.
On the legal framework, he said, “Both the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) contain the essential elements of a sound legal framework for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
“However, there is tremendous scope for improvement to ensure a more robust legal framework for greater effectiveness in the conduct of future elections. INEC has identified all the areas where improvements are needed in the constitution and the Electoral Act and engaged the National Assembly.
“Regrettably, no amendment came into effect before the 2015 general elections. We must do something long before 2019, so that subsequent bye-elections, long before the next general elections, could benefit from an improved legal framework. The earlier this is done, the better.”
Jega praised the role of technology in the 2015 elections but added that much more needed to be done to improve the system. He regretted that original equipment manufacturers were hardly available in the country.