Leke Baiyewu, Abuja
The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has called on Nigerians, including civil servants, to register with the political parties of their choice to improve the quality of governance in the country.
He also called for the use of electronic voting for party primaries to make them more transparent and credible.
Ekweremadu made the calls at the inauguration of the ‘Responsive Political Party Programme in Nigeria’ by the International Republican Institute in Abuja on Tuesday night.
He said, “The notion that civil servants cannot be members of political parties in Nigeria is unfounded. For the avoidance of doubt, the Supreme Court is clear on this in the case of INEC versus Musa and others (2003). In a judgment delivered by His Lordship, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mohammed Uwais (retd.), the apex court declared that any guidelines, be it Independent National Electoral Commission’s electoral guidelines, civil service rule or the Electoral Act, that bars civil servants from belonging to political parties is inconsistent with Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution.
“This section clearly provides that ‘every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests.’
“By belonging to a political party, civil servants will also be in a position to block the nomination of leaders, who do not care about their welfare.”
He said the National Assembly was working on removing the restrictions on electronic voting from the electoral laws to enable technology to play greater role in creating more credible and transparent electoral process which would reduce election petitions.
The lawmaker, however, stressed that the credibility of any electoral process starts with a free, fair and credible primary election.
Ekweremadu added, “Unfortunately, our political parties still operate manual membership registers that are largely unreliable and obsolete.
“To get their primaries right, political parties should upgrade to both electronic register and electronic voting systems. This will substantially reduce pre-election disputes.”
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