Group Canvasses Constitutional, Electoral Reforms

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A non-governmental organisation has called on the National Assembly to rise above partisan interests and give Nigerians a constitutional and electoral framework that would improve conduct and standard of general elections in Nigeria.

The Citizens’ Forum for Constitutional Reform (CFCR) which is championing credible electoral process in Nigeria also enjoined Nigerians to demand comprehensive and sincere electoral reforms before the 2011 elections that would imbue and restore confidence of Nigerians in the electoral process.

Abia state Co-ordinator of CFCR, Richard Okoro, said in an interview with The TIDE in Umuahia that with the constitutional amendment already in its final phase, the National Assembly should rise beyond parochial interests and respect the wishes of Nigerians who have made their inputs through their respective State Houses of Assembly.

He said that by 2011, Nigeria should be able to have a clean electoral process that would meet international standards, adding that the country could not afford to be found wanting at a time many nations were deepening their democracies for the good of their nationals.

 Okoro called on the political parties to put national interest first and support the on-going constitutional and electoral reforms by offering rational suggestions that would advance the country’s democracy.  

He expressed disappointment that the federal government failed to adopt, wholesale, the Justice Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee report, especially its recommendations on appointment of chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission; disposal of election petitions before swearing-in of elected persons; creation of Constituency Delimitation Commission and shifting of the burden of proof in election petitions to INEC and stripping the commission of the right of appeal in election petitions, among others.

“The country would have benefited immensely from these rejected recommendations by the Uwais panel. Even if there would be lapses during implementation, such would be corrected as the nation matches forward. However, I believe with the present effort, a process that will bring about a credible electoral reform and giving Nigerians a people-centred constitution has begun,” Okoro said.

According to him, Nigeria would record immense transformation when the votes of the electorate begin to count as the people would have the moral force to hold their leaders accountable.

With the transmission of the report of the State Houses of Assembly on the constitution amendment, Okoro called on the national Assembly to expedite action on altering the provisions of the constitution to enable them to find time enough to attend to the issue of electoral reforms before next year’s general elections.