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Nigerian Lawmakers Amend Constitution; Legislature, State Assemblies and Electoral Commission Will No Longer be Funded Directly by Government

In Nigeria, pro-democracy groups say new amendments to the Constitution should improve the electoral process. Senators changed Section 36 to grant autonomy to the Senate itself, the state assemblies and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Their funding will no longer come directly from the government.

It’s a welcome development after years of protests by Nigerians, says Sina Loremikan, a member of the Zero-Corruption Coalition, a Lagos-based pro-democracy and anti-corruption group.

“It is generally agreed among Nigerians that it is never too late to amend the Constitution. We have witnessed a lot of challenges from the way the Constitution was handed over to us and we feel that all hands must be on deck to ensure we have a constitution that can relieve us of the burden we’ve been carrying for over a decade.”

The autonomy granted to INEC, says Loremikan, still requires prudent management of its funds, but the change shortens the [bureaucratic process] required to access the resources.

“The fact that they have autonomy does not mean they have unlimited power to go and raise money, disburse the money and get their goal accomplished.”

Changes to the constitution as it regards elections, he says, will not make much difference unless electoral officials are not only trained but also held responsible for any problems that bring the polls into question.