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Nigeria’s New Elections Chairman Promises Sweeping Reforms

  • Kim Lewis

The new head of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, has taken office with a promise to enact sweeping reform to ensure only credible candidates are elected and sworn into office next year.

Chinedu Offor, reporting from Lagos, said Jega promised President Goodluck Jonathan that only credible members of the INEC staff will be retained.

“What that means is that he is going to fire a lot of workers whom he thinks have compromised their position and increase the wages of those workers to insulate them, if that is possible, from financial inducement or bribery from politicians.

“He will also carry out training of the staff, especially in…using computers to assure votes are counted,” said Offor.

Jega will encounter challenges in his efforts to achieve these goals, Offor said. For instance, he will have to contend with influential politicians who want their candidates to be elected.

Attahiru Jega

Attahiru Jega

Jega also has to deal with the funding of INEC. Offor said the Senate wants it to be an independent body, not just in name, but also in reality, by having its budget set aside, instead of the being controlled by the president.

Another challenge will be to reduce the number of political parties.

“Right now, in Nigeria, we have approximately 53 potential parties, and most of them are not viable. So [Jega] has to find a way of reducing the number of political parties, which the Senate has asked him to do,” explained Offor.

“But the big question is: ‘How is he going to do this democratically?’

“The constitution of Nigeria allows anyone to set up their own political association. How are you going to prune down the number of political parties that have already been approved by INEC?”

Atta Jega says he will do everything possible to ensure there is a legitimate number of political parties in Nigeria that can effectively challenge any ruling party.

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