Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said on Thursday that elected political officials, who defect from the political party that brought them to power, should vacate their seats to allow for fresh elections to fill the vacancy.
Speaking at the “All Nigeria political Parties and Political Stakeholders Summit” convened by the Offices of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs and National Security Adviser, which held at the International Conference Centre, ICC, Abuja, Jega also disclosed that INEC has submitted a proposal to the National Assembly for the amendment of the electoral act to enable the commission determine the criteria for parties to get on the ballot.
The INEC boss spoke on the backdrop of litigation cases involving the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress over the defection of five governors and 37 House of Representatives members from the ruling party to the opposition. Some elected political officials have also gone in the opposite direction.
However, the APC representative at the summit defended the defections.
“An opportunity came once in a life for a merger of three political parties to birth APC”, the interim national woman leader of APC, Sharon Ikeazor, who represented the national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said. “So it is only fair to give our politicians a chance to move around. After that I assure you that we the women in politics will end political promiscuity in Nigeria”, she added.
But Jega, who spoke on the topic “Inter-party Collaboration, National Stability and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria”, described such defections as political nomadism, although “on one hand the legal framework is not too clear”.
“If you are elected on the platform of a political party and you cross carpet and change your political party then obviously you have to relinquish the seat and election needs to be conducted to fill that seat. This is an important issue we should address”, he added.
Mr. Jega decried the rampant change of political parties by Nigerian politicians.
“While we must respect the right of citizens to choose at will what parties to belong to as part of their freedom of association, the negative effects of haemorrhage of party members and rancour it generates cannot be underestimated”, he said.
The INEC chairman called for more collaboration among political parties through the Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC.
“We need to improve the functioning of IPAC to ensure full commitment of all parties to the Council and Code of Conduct. We also need to improve the funding profile of IPAC to enable it continue to play its role in growing our democracy and national stability”, he said.
He added that “the thorny issue of deregistration of political parties remain. INEC has submitted a proposal of the amendment of the Electoral Act to expunge the provision empowering the Commission to deregister political parties, but instead empower the Commission to determine the criteria for parties to get on the ballot”.