The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Tuesday joined the ranks of Nigerians, who have expressed doubts over the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct credible polls in 2015. This was the position of the umbrella body of lawyers in the country at the end of its National Executive Committee meeting in Nasarawa State.
In a communiqué which was read by its national president, Okey Wali (SAN) at a press briefing in Abuja, NBA described the November 16 ‘inconclusive’ governorship election in Anambra State as embarrassing and unacceptable.
The communiqué read in part, “The inconclusiveness of the said elections and the serious operational and logistical challenges that gave rise to the supplementary elections have created serious doubts in the minds of Nigerians regarding the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct acceptable elections in 2015.
“The NBA views as very embarrassing and unacceptable the inconclusiveness of the Anambra State governorship election, occasioned by operational and logistic challenges in an election supervised by six national commissioners, 15 Resident Electoral Commissioners and a galaxy of permanent staff from the contiguous states.”
NBA affirmed that there were highly compromised officials within INEC and called on the relevant authorities to immediately arrest and prosecute those involved in the irregularities that marred the Anambra poll.
It added, “The NBA is also concerned that there are still apparently highly compromised officials within the Commission and these officials have been playing critical roles in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
“All the officials identified to have compromised their oath of office and official functions in the conduct of the Anambra governorship election should be arrested and prosecuted in proper constitutional courts”.
NBA also implored INEC and the National Assembly to speed up the promulgation of the Electoral Offences Commission Act, which is expected to deal with the arrest and prosecution of electoral offenders.
Also, NBA said INEC “must carry out a surgical operation of its processes and procedures.”
“It must tackle frontally the recurring challenges of operational and logistic failure ahead of the 2015 elections. INEC must also intensify continuous voters registration and weed out the fraudulent names that are self-evident in the current register, as this is fundamental to the credibility of future elections,” the communiqué added.
The association further advised all the political parties and candidates, who took part in the governorship poll in Anambra State to “carry out their protests within the ambit of the law and the Constitution.”
“The complaints, petitions and grievances relating to the election must also conform with the provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act,” it said.
Similarly, the NBA threw its weight behind the proposed National Dialogue/Conference on the condition that its report “shall be final, binding and validated by Nigerians through a referendum”.
The communiqué further explained that the association had set up a National Conference and Constitutional Review Committee to articulate its positions, firstly on the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel and the National Dialogue/Conference proper.
The lawyers’ body also flayed the steady decline in budgetary allocations to the judiciary, saying the development was not ‘right’.
It noted, “A situation where budgetary appropriation to the judiciary is dwindling while that of the other arms of government is burgeoning cannot be right.
“Statistics have shown that funding from the Federal Government in the annual budget has witnesses a steady decline since 2010, from N95bn in that year to N85bn in 2011, then N75bn in 2012, and dropped again in the 2013 budget to N67bn”.