Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has stated that the widespread practice of cross carpeting among candidates for office should be outlawed in any revisions to the Electoral Act of 2022.

According to Jega, the practice of candidates switching parties undermines the very fabric of our democracy.

While speaking at the Citizens’ Townhall on Electoral Reforms in Abuja on Tuesday, Jega—a political science professor at Bayero University, Kano—also called for a review of the appointment process for the Commission’s Chairman and Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and for the unbundling of the electoral body, INEC. The event was co-organized by a monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, and the European Union.

Although he acknowledged the need for improvement, he maintained that the Electoral Act of 2022 was the best our nation has ever had.

According to him, outlawing cross carpeting is necessary to strengthen our democratic system and enhance politics. Candidates damage the core process of democracy due to the hurdles they confront during the carpeting process.

This pattern of executive governors elected under one party switching to another party without consulting their constituents is still visible today. It is imperative that we ban that feature in the next election act as it undermines democracy at its core.

Another area that needs reviewing is the process for appointing the chairman and RECs. The legislature should support this because it will make sure that such posts are filled with honest people by requiring thorough screening and verification.

If we don’t change the way individuals and parties nominate candidates for office, we’ll keep having elections where a large number of candidates fail to garner enough support to warrant the expenditure of scarce election resources. This is why I’m in favor of dismantling INEC.

Participants at the town hall gathering came from all walks of life, but they all agreed that the lessons learned from the off-season elections in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa make it imperative that the Electoral Act of 2022 undergo further revisions.

Some participants have voiced their concerns about the following: the prevalence of vote buying; the length of time it takes to resolve litigation filed before or after the election; and the role that hate speech, disinformation, and false news play in setting a precedent.

Concerning matters pertaining to the administration of election results, the prosecution of electoral offenses, violence, suppression of voters, and election security, they maintained that changes were equally sacred.

Their reasoning was that the integrity of the electoral process, including the selection of the INEC chairman and commissioners, would be enhanced if the commission were to be unbundled.

During his speech, Yiaga Africa’s Executive Director Samsom Itodo said that the 2022 Electoral Act had accomplished various goals for the electoral process, the most notable of which was the significant decrease in the issue of over-voting in the 2023 general elections.

Nonetheless, he voiced his worries about the constant emergence of new fault lines that necessitate further investigation, even when more reforms are being produced.

Incorporating modern technology into our electoral system, particularly encouraging citizen participation through the establishment of a forum for a national dialogue about the necessary improvements, has been overdue, according to the Yiaga head.

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