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A coalition of over 80 human rights organisations under the aegis of Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room said on Friday that President Bola Tinubu should set up an independent national electoral reform panel to bring credibility to elections in Nigeria.

The membership of the reform panel, the coalition said, should comprise independent election experts and stakeholders who would review the logistical, legal, and administrative shortcomings of INEC as well as make additional reform recommendations.

The convener of NCSSR, Mallam Yunusa Yau, made the recommendation during a press conference held in Abuja about two weeks after his election.

According to him, the CSOs were worried about the conduct and credibility of the upcoming off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States in November 2023 following the shortcomings experienced in the general elections.

He said, “The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) is following up on its report of the 2023 general elections and is demanding for urgent national electoral reforms to re-ignite citizens confidence in Nigeria’s electoral process.

“A post 2023 general election survey recently conducted by the Situation Room has exposed a significant dip in citizens’ confidence in INEC. Citizens now query the ability of INEC to conduct credible elections in the country.

In the light of upcoming off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States in November 2023, Situation Room is worried about the credibility of INEC and its ability to conduct free elections in the light of the shortcomings experienced during the general elections of February and March 2023.

“Given the need for urgent action to be taken regarding INEC, Situation Room is calling for an independent national electoral reform panel to be set up urgently by President Bola Tinubu. Situation Room is not in any way tying its call to the outcome of the 2023 general elections, nor would we consider that this panel represents a question surrounding the results of the 2023 General Elections. Nevertheless, Situation Room’s call is being made as a national call to help salvage Nigeria’s electoral process. The independent panel will need to work freely without interference from the INEC as presently constituted.

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“The membership of the independent national electoral reform panel should comprise of independent election experts and stakeholders who will review the logistical, legal and administrative shortcomings of INEC as well as make additional reform recommendations. The reform panel should also be charged with recommending the implementation of previous electoral reform proposals that have examined the mode of appointment into INEC to remove the recruitment of partisan elements into the Commission.

“In addition, the panel should also recommend needed legal framework and time frame for achieving the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission as well as the best, least expensive paths to creating and maintaining a credible Voter Register for the country, amongst other issues.

“This call is being made in light of the Situation Room’s observation of 2023 general elections, off-cycle governorship elections and the continuing decline of citizens confidence to manage elections.”

Source: PUNCH

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