The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said the National Assembly was determined to amend the Electoral Act to strengthen the country’s electoral process.
Saraki stated this at a summit on elections, organised by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in collaboration with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) on Monday in Abuja.
He said that emerging issues in the electoral process had indicated that a lot needed to be done to meet the yearnings of Nigerians by ensuring free, fair and credible elections.
“We must remain keenly aware that more than ever before the Nigerian people demand a responsible government whose fate, they alone can determine.
“It all starts with having a virile electoral system with impeccable integrity and universal application as minimum standards.
“We must fashion out an electoral scheme that does not disenfranchise any Nigerian, one that does not have room for ballot tampering and manipulation.’’
He assured that the legislature would perform better with recommendations from participants on how to arrive at free and fair election.
Senator Saraki urged participants to deliberate on issues that had affected the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country.
“For so long now, our citizens in the Diaspora have demanded inclusion in the democratic process, a right afforded in many other countries to citizens, irrespective of location.
“This is similar to the now germane issue of the voting opportunity of IDPs and people living in severely-challenged, hard-to-reach areas either due to security or other unforeseen challenges.
“It will be important to take another look at the role of our security personnel from the Police to the Department of State Security and the military.
“This is so in the light of certain revelations that the previous government had signed into law an amendment to the Electoral Act empowering the military to be used during elections for a variety of reasons.
“A corollary to this is the issue of the viability or otherwise of setting up electoral offences tribunal charged with dealing with electoral offences.
“This is especially important as there is an overwhelming national consensus to end election related violence and enthrone a new election culture built on integrity, safety and neutrality,’’ he said.
Mr. Saraki also called for deliberation on the desirability of the card reader in the electoral elections.
He commended the British Department for International Development (DFID) and the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) for collaborating with the senate on the summit.
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, on his part, called for early conduct of primaries by political parties to make the nation’s electoral process more credible.
He said that late conduct of primaries posed serious challenges to the electoral system, and stressed the need for Nigeria to learn from international best practices.
“In the United States of America, presidential primaries for presidential candidates start about twelve months to the election, culminating in the convention.
“In Ghana, although neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Act gives any specific period for the conduct of presidential and parliamentary primaries, individual parties have provisions in their respective constitutions for early primaries,’’ Mr. Ekweremadu said.
He said that early primaries would afford parties and candidates the opportunity to shape their identity and future direction.
In his remarks, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, assured that all pending re-run elections would be concluded on or before July 31.
He called for amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act to ensure that candidates whose elections were nullified as a result of improper nominations by their candidates should have their certificates re-issued to the runner-up.
According to him, doing so will save the nation the huge cost of conducting fresh elections in such circumstances.
Mr. Yakubu accused political parties of compounding democratic challenges by failing to properly nominate candidates.