A bill for an act to amend the electoral act to prohibit electoral officers from engaging in partisan politics within five (5) years of retirement, resignation and official relief of duties and other related matters has passed second reading in the house of Representatives.
The Bill sponsored by Wale Raji from Lagos state when passed into law seeks to protect the integrity of the electoral body from external influence.
” Honourable Colleagues, in the light of the above proposal for the amendment of the Electoral Act, 2010, please find below my oral submissions.
The Electoral Act is hereby presented for amendment by the creation of new sub-section 2 of section 146 of the Principal legislation as follows:
(2) Notwithstanding (1) above, and anything to the contrary in any enactment or law, a person who holds or has held office as a member of the Commission appointed by the President by virtue of the 3rd Schedule, Part 1 (F) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Resident Electoral Commissioner appointed under the Act shall not, until after a period of five years immediately after retirement, resignation or official relief of duties, be qualified for any elective office in Nigeria.
Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended provides that every Nigerian is free to belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his/her interest. The import of the above provision is to the effect that every Nigerian adult has the inherent/Constitutional right to participate freely during an election and cannot be disenfranchise unduly.
However, by virtue of Section 45 (1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it provides that nothing in Section 40 of the Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, with respect to the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health, or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons. The import of the above is to the effect that the provisions of section 40 of the Constitution will not invalidate any law of the National Assembly that is tailored towards the protection of public order and morality.
In the light of the above, I submit that the level of information available to a National Electoral Commissioner and the Resident Electoral Commissioner respectively, during their period of service as electoral staff, of which the general public is not privy to especially the methods and the procedures on how elections are conducted, it has become imperative to restrict them from taking part in aspiring for elective positions in government for a period of at least five (5) years of their disengagement from the commission. This is to ensure that such officer has lost touch with recent happening in the Electoral commission.”
He added that due to the level of information available to a National Electoral Commissioner and the Resident Electoral Commissioner respectively, during their period of service as electoral staff, of which the general public is not privy to especially the methods and the procedures on how elections are conducted, made it become imperative to restrict them from taking part in aspiring for elective positions in government for a period of at least five (5) years of their disengagement from the commission.
“By isolating these officers from engaging in active politics, this amendment will prevent any possible abuse of office or using a position once occupied to gain undue advantage during an election.
An argument that such an officer has or is being disenfranchised should be counter with the clear provisions of Section 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution which limits the strength of such a person’s right to be voted for or field for an elective position to protection of public order and morality. For instance, sometime in August, 2019 the Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Cross River State, Dr. Frankland Briyal, resigned his appointment in the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Calabar, to enable him contest in the governorship race in Bayelsa State. This action did not escape criticism but also caused discomfort within the political party the aspirate intended to seek its ticket thereby creating a national embarrassment for our electoral system.
Another practical instance can be seen in the case of judicial officers (Judges) in Nigeria who are barred from appearing in court as legal practitioners before any court or tribunal in Nigeria upon retirement or official disengagement. Section 292 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides thus:
Any person who has held office as a judicial officer shall not on ceasing to be a judicial officer for any reason whatsoever thereafter appear to act as a legal practitioner before any court of law or tribunal in Nigeria.”
Mr Raji said the amendment will ensure that such officer has lost touch with recent happening in the Electoral commission which in turn will protect the electoral body and elections generally from undue influence and manipulations.
The lawmaker added that this would also build the confidence of the electorate towards the activities and affairs of the commission as it
will also prevent any possible abuse of office or using a position once occupied to gain undue advantage during an election.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020