Sunday, April 14, 2024

CSOs proffer solution to Nigeria’s electoral, governance logjams

BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

A coalition of civil and human rights groups has implored labour unions and professional bodies to be more alive to Nigerian electoral process and public governance, saying they “must no longer be left in the hands of judicial officers, electoral umpire and political actors alone.”

The groups made this known in an open letter they addressed to leaders of the nation’s democratic allies including the Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Nigerian Bar Association, Nigerian Medical Association, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Nigerian Society of Engineers and Nigeria Union of Journalists.

The petition issued on Sunday, of which the 2023 presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively, were copied, was signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi for the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), Nigeria; Prof Justin Akujieze for Ekwenche Research Institute, Chicago, USA, Comrade Aloysius Emeka Attah for Civil Liberties Organization, South-East Zone and Prof Jerry Chidozie Chukwuokolo and Engineer Ikenwoke Nwandu for South-East Based Coalition of Human Rights and Democracy Organization.

They called on the democratic forces and professional bodies to save Nigerian Democracy before it becomes extremely late, adding that, “Things have become so bad in Nigeria that without foreign and domestic borrowings, the country runs the high risk of collapsing including government’s day-to-day activities.

“The resources to keep and maintain the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the DSS, the NIA, the paramilitaries and the over-heads or running costs are substantially sourced from local and international consumptive borrowings. Without local and foreign borrowings, paying active workers and retired workers’ remunerations and maintenance of key infrastructures and social service deliveries and funding of capital projects, etc, will become impossible. A clear case in point was the proposed 2024 Nigerian Government Budget of N26trillion (roughly $26b), with N9trillion deficit and N7.8trillion new borrowings.

“It is therefore our factual declaration that the electoral process including political participation and public governance in Nigeria are not the sole properties or businesses of the judicial officers, electoral umpire and political actors or a conduit pipe for personal enrichment; or a Columbian Medline Cocaine Cartel or the Cambodian Khmer Rouge’s “Big Brother Cartel”. The collective lukewarm attitudes and mundane approaches by the petitioned have turned the publicly hired managers of Nigerian electoral umpire, judicial and political institutions into demigods and outlaws.

“Opposition political actors are also not helping matters when it comes to deepening democracy and rule of law in Nigeria; likewise the mainstream labour unions and their leaders that continuously allow issues over wages to dominate their industrial actions or downing tools. Quest for public governance through the electoral process does not end in election rigging or installation of the rigged as the winner. The “break-and-quench” or “hit-and-run” approaches of the opposition political actors can never augur well or deepen democracy in Nigeria.

“The present Government of Ahmed Bola Tinubu is holding our collective patrimony and destiny in trust and its actions including policies, programs and appointments must be proactively checkmated at all times through lawful means. We call on the petitioned above listed to set aside their religious differences and ethnic affiliations and lawfully rise to save the Nigerian Democracy including the inalienable rights of the Nigerian citizens to political participation and governance accountability. It is most sacrilegious for judicial officers to desecrate the electoral decisions and choices of members of the voting population through “the magic of judicial technicalities”. Cases in point are in Plateau, Zamfara and Kano where Governors and dozens of opposition lawmakers across the country; popularly chosen by majority of the voters have been pronounced ousted on technicalities and instructions of the powers that be. Voters, no matter their parties or faiths or tribes, must be allowed to choose their leaders,” the CSOs leaders added.

According to their findings, “Involvement of regular court judicial officers in electoral matters has become a conduit pipe for judicial officers’ corruption and beyond the law lifestyles in Nigeria in the past 20 years. It has been investigated and found that removal of regular court judicial officers from electoral courts in Nigeria will cut down judicial officers’ corruption by 70 percent.

“Nigerian Government must be lawfully forced into fresh electoral and judicial reforms including: Professionalization and departmentalization of electoral courts; Scrapping of Senate of the National Assembly and retention of “the House of Representatives” (unicameral legislature) with increase of Reps seats not exceeding 500 which must include equitable constituency seat allocations using human population per square kilometer across the six geopolitical zones

“Removal of House of Reps (National Assembly) and State Houses of Assembly seats from political parties’ membership and affiliations for purposes of drastic reduction of money politics and corruption, quality representation and lawmaking and direct involvement of the electorates in the election of the lawmakers

“Legislative confirmation of the appointment of INEC Chair, National Commissioners and RECs; CJN, PCA, AGF, President of the Federal High Courts and the Chief Judge of the FCT by two-thirds of the constituency members (not members present) of the National Assembly (House of Reps) including two- thirds of the reps from each of the six geopolitical zones; and elimination of “simple majority” and legislative rubber-stamping of such appointees including “the bad and the ugly” among them.”

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