The National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Malam Shehu Gabam has advocated for 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 it best in the conduct of 2023 general election and the off-cycle election, especially in area of logistics delivery during election.
Gabam, however, said that INEC’s performance was still being affected by the huge influence of the executive.
“Let me tell you the honest 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).
He added that the executive was also responsible for funding INEC and creating conducive environment needed for 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 independent 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 election 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Gabam said that for INEC to be truly independent, the power to appoint INEC Chairman and commissioners must be withdrawn from the president.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 strengthen, it also required the neutrality of security personnel and support of all stakeholders.
“If you continue to weaken the system, we’ll continue to be victims of the system.
“We are the one weakening the system- politicians, security agencies, including the media that are under report issues. That is why we are where we are today.
“Unless we agree that we have a nation, and that we have to work for that nation. The institutions of nations must be strong and be above any parochial interest.
“The executive must resist themselves from interfering in INEC’s elections. The power to appoint any chairman and RECs must be off the executive. That is the only way to have free, fair and credible elections,’’ he said.