The House of Representatives, on Thursday, commenced an investigation on alleged violation of the Electoral Act by political parties in the recently concluded primaries to choose candidates for the 2019 general elections. The House, which set up an ad hoc committee to look into the matter, also charged the panel to determine whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) colluded with the parties to flout the Electoral Act in the conduct of the primaries.
The resolution was sequel to a motion titled: ”Lack of internal democracy in the conduct of party primaries towards 2019 elections” moved by Rep. Abubakar Adamu (APC-Niger) at a plenary preside over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara in Abuja. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the just-concluded primaries across party lines were said to be characterised by imposition, substitution, extortion, lack of transparency and other malpractices during the conduct.
Speaking, Adamu condemned the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for what he described as ”the lack of internal democracy” in the conduct of the elections. Adamu accused the parties of failing to adhere to the provisions of their constitutions and the Electoral Act with regard to the conduct of primaries.
He said, “some parties brazenly refused to hold primaries in contravention of Section 87 (10) of the Electoral Act which makes it mandatory for parties to hold primaries, thereby leading to crisis in some state chapters of political parties.” “Governors in many states interfered with the elections by either imposing their preferred stooges as candidates on the parties and ensured that some aspirants were denied the right to participate or were shortchanged in the elections after paying huge amounts to obtain nomination forms,” he said.
He argued that if legislative measures were not adopted to address the trend, ”the National Assembly may, in the nearest future, be the assemblage of governors’ stooges to the detriment of our democracy and the interest of the electorate.”
He decried the act of selling nomination forms to aspirants at exorbitant rates even when party leaders had predetermined the winners of primaries. The lawmaker described the act as ”unjust which can be equated as corruption.” According to Adamu, some parties sell forms at exorbitant rates and don’t explain or justify their expenses.
”Even where clear winners emerged in the primaries, the results were altered and other persons declared winners, thereby shortchanging the electorate and violating Section 87 (3&4) of the Electoral Act.
”The crisis in the parties has generated many litigation, which may spill over into the tenure of the next governments as some of them may not be terminated before the end of the tenure of this government. ”And in some cases, there were violent attacks, including burning of property, maiming and killing of people,” he remarked.
He expressed concern over the level of widespread irregularities in the various party primaries, irrespective of the presence of the INEC officers, who monitored and supervised the process. Supporting the motion Rep. Adekunle Akinlade (APC-Ogun), who contested and lost the governorship ticket of the party, said that the party shortchanged so many of its members during the conduct of the primaries.
He alleged that he clearly won the Ogun State APC governorship primary, but that the APC leadership in the state decided to give the ticket to another contender. Also speaking, Rep. Muhammad Soba (APC-Kaduna) said that he felt shortchanged during the party primary, just as he complained that the nomination forms were too exorbitant. Another APC House member, Rep. Mojeed Alabi (APC-Osun) stated that the the conduct of the party primary was faulty. According to him, political parties by their formation and orientation are oligarchic in nature.
Rep. Nnenna Ukeje (PDP-Abia), Rep. Sergius Ogun (PDP-Edo) and some other lawmakers expressed their displeasure with the conduct of the primaries by political parties. When the Speaker, Mr Dogara, put the motion on a voice vote, it was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.
Thereafter, the speaker constituted the ad hoc committee comprising Rep. Edward Pwajork (APC-Plateau) as chairman. Other members of the committee include, Reps Olayounu Tope (APC-Kwara) and Baballe Bashir (APC-Kano).
The committee would investigate why the INEC decline court orders to conduct elections into delineated constituencies, particularly in Ushongo 1 (Mata) and Ushongo 11 (Mbagwa) in Benue State.
Also, the ad hoc committee is further expected to ascertain the income and expenses of the major political parties in the last four years in line with Section 226 of the constitution.
The probe, according to the lawmakers, will enable the National Assembly correct any defects in the Act and strengthen the extant law, including the constitution in order to improve the nation’s electoral process and deepen democracy.
The committee has four weeks to conclude its assignment and report its findings to the House for further legislative action.