Topical Issues
Electoral reforms

Uwais breaks silence on partial implementation of report

…Blames it on political interest.

Former Chief Justice of Nigeria [CJN] and Chairman Electoral Review Committee [ERC], Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais has broken his silence over the partial implementation of his committee report, blaming the situation on vested political interest. Worried by criticism that trailed the conduct of previous elections in the country, the late president Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua on August 28, 2007, set up a 22-member Electoral Review Committee headed by Justice Uwais, with a mandate to examine the entire electoral process, with a view to ensuring that, “we rise the quality and standard of our general elections and thereby deepen our democracy.”

The committee, which was given 12 months to complete its assignment was however given additional time due to unavoidable delays it encountered and the large number of memoranda it received. For instance, the committee sought for and received a total of 1466 memoranda from the general public and invited experts from foreign countries, including Botswana, Cameroon, Canada, Cote D’Ivoire, France, Ghana, India, Lesotho, Mexico, Niger Republic and South Africa.

At the end of its assignment, the Uwais Committee submitted its report to the late president with far reaching recommendations that would improve the performance of various institutions and stakeholders in the electoral process.

The recommendations were subjected to political machinations and permutations, as most of its recommendations were not implemented by the Federal Government. Speaking on the issue after four years of silence, Chairman of the Committee, Justice Uwais blamed the development on political interest. He spoke  in December in Abuja at the Civil Society Dialogue on Electoral Law and Process organized by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre [PLAC].

Baring his mind on the issue, Justice Uwais said: “As we know, the Bill that was produced by the National Assembly, though reflect on some of the recommendations of the Electoral Reform Committee, but not virtually all of the recommendations of the committee. “As far as the Electoral Reform Committee was concerned, the recommendations were intended to be in tandem with one another. “If you want to make a good job of it, you cannot just pick and choose a few.

Unfortunately, although I am not blaming the National Assembly, party interest came in.” Also speaking on the occasion, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC], Professor Attahiru Jega disclosed that the commission has proposed some amendments to the Electoral Act for the purpose of strengthening the electoral process. Some of these amendments, the commission explained, include section 52 of the Act whose amendment would pave the way for the take-off of the Electronic Voting by 2015.

In all, INEC had made request for 12 amendments to the 1999 Constitution and 19 amendments to the Electoral Act which was currently pending before the National Assembly. The INEC Chairman who was represented at the event by his Chief Technical Adviser, Mr. Okechukwu Ibeanu, disclosed that the commission was working towards the use of electronic voting by 2015.