Cross Carpeting Among Candidates Undermining Nigeria’s Democracy – Former INEC Chair, Jega

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Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Attahiru Jega, has said if any amendment must be effected in the 2022 Electoral Act, it must include the proscription of cross carpeting prevalent among candidates standing for elections.

Jega said the trend where candidates cross from one political party to another was undermining the fundamental process of the nation’s democracy.

Jega, a professor of political science at Bayero University, Kano, while speaking at the Citizens’ Townhall on Electoral Reforms, jointly organised by a monitoring group, Yiaga Africa and the European Union in Abuja, on Tuesday, also advocated the unbundling of the electoral body, INEC, as well as review in the appointment process of Chairman and Resident Electoral Commissioners RECs of the Commission.

He insisted that the 2022 Electoral Act is the best we have had as a country, saying there is still room for reforms.

His words, “If we want to improve politics and deepen our democratic system, there will be a need to proscribe cross carpeting. The challenges they(candidates) face cross carpeting make them undermine the fundamental process of democracy.

“We have seen this trend where even now Executive Governors elected under one party, move without consultation to another party. We need to ensure that in the new electoral act moving forward, we need to proscribe that aspect because it is destroying the essence of democracy.

“The appointment of the chairman and RECs is another aspect that should be reviewed. This should be backed by the legislature because it will ensure there is full screening and verification to determine the integrity of the personality in those positions.

“I also support the unbundling of INEC and we need to review how people and political parties can present candidates for elections, otherwise in a particular election we will continue to have elections where we have multiple candidates who cannot score significant votes but end up wasting resources that goes into conducting elections”.

Other stakeholders across various works of life who attended the town hall meeting insisted that experiences from the recent off-season elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa have made it very germane to introduce more reforms in the 2022 Electoral Act.

Chief among concerns raised by some of the participants is the continuous trend of vote buying, timelines for resolving pre-election and post-election litigations, as well as antecedents being created by hate speech, disinformation and fake news.

They argued that reforms were equally sacrosanct, especially on issues bothering election result management, electoral offences prosecution, violence, voter suppression and election security.

They were of the view that unbundling INEC would boost the credibility in elections, including the mode of appointment of INEC Chairman and Commissioners.

Samsom Itodo, Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, while delivering an address acknowledged that the 2022 Electoral Act achieved some milestones in the electoral process, as the problem of over-voting was greatly reduced in the 2023 general elections.

He, however, expressed concerns that while more reforms are being churned out, new fault lines keep emerging that need to be looked into.

According to the Yiaga boss, the injection of contemporary technology in our electoral system was long due, especially citizens’ involvement through creating a platform for national conversation on the reforms required to improve the system

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