By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue clear guidelines on the proper interpretation of Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022.
The school made the call to Abuja in a statement titled “Call for Effective Enforcement of Internal Democracy under the Electoral Law, 2020” addressed to the President of INEC and signed by its Director, Dr Sam Amadi.
Amadi said the call for clear guidelines was important as the section provides for modes in which a political party elects its candidate.
According to him, the appeal is also important to avoid an imminent violation of the 2022 electoral law by most political parties before the general elections of 2023.
He said the guidelines were important to ensure the democratic election of all delegates to elective congress, primaries and conventions from all political parties for the 2023 general election.
“There is a need for the Commission to issue clear guidelines on the proper interpretation of Section 84 to avoid imminent violation of the Electoral Act 2022 by most political parties.
“The Commission should exercise its power as a regulatory agency to issue an authoritative interpretation of the provisions of the new electoral law relating to the conduct of primaries,” he said.
Amadi also called on INEC to issue a determinative interpretation of the 2022 Elections Act – as well established by the United States Supreme Court’s classic decision in Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council 467 US 837 (1984).
He cited the court’s decision stating that the court will defer to the agency’s interpretation of its laws as long as those interpretations are logical, reasonable and rational.
“In this premise, we ask the Commission to:
“Issue an authoritative statement in the form of interpretative guidelines on the conduct of primary elections for the 2023 general election.
“A directive that only delegates duly elected by members of the party to the convention, meeting conventions convened pursuant to section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 are legible to vote for candidates in any elective primary or convention of a party for the purpose of choosing candidates for elected office.
“Therefore, no statutory delegate who is not so elected is qualified to be a delegate to such a primary or elective convention.
Amadi also called on INEC to issue an authoritative statement that in determining the validity of any elective congress, INEC would take into account the report of its officials who monitored the congress.
“Where the INEC officials’ report indicates that the congress has been organized fraudulently, the Commission will cancel that congress.
“And, will not allow any delegates from the canceled congress to participate in the elective congress or the primary to choose candidates for elective positions,” Amadi stressed.
He said the new electoral law empowers the CENI to regulate the management of political parties to ensure that the objective of electoral democracy, “which is political equality, is achieved.
“The law grants the Commission the power to disqualify any candidate resulting from a process that is not manifestly democratic.
“It is time for the commission to fully exercise that power to save our democracy from the grip of party bureaucrats and their bosses,” he said.
Amadi said the school had written about the apparent violation of some of the provisions of the 2022 electoral law by political parties.
According to him, it is a question of asking the CENI to intervene to protect the fundamental principles of electoral democracy as enshrined in the constitution and the new electoral law.
Amadi said the new electoral law holds the key to reversing the political capture of electoral democracy in Nigeria by a few political stalwarts, which have turned the party leadership into a weapon against the democratic freedoms of Nigerians and the consolidation of democracy.
He said that while the electoral law was nowhere perfect, it provided levers for effective regulation of political transactions.
This according to Amadi is, particularly with regard to party membership and selection of election candidates, indicating that the constitution and the Elections Act 2022 grants INEC the power to effectively regulate electoral democracy in Nigeria.
He said the most consequential reform of the 2022 electoral law was the democratization of the way political parties choose their candidates for elective office.
“Section 84(2) of the law provides for three modes of primary election: (1) direct primary, (2) indirect primary and (3) consensus.”
He said that while a political party was free to choose any mode of primary election it wished, the fundamental requirement was that the procedure met the requirements of a democratic election. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Maureen Ojinaka/Isaac Aregbesola
By Emmanuel Oloniruha