…By Dorcas Funmi for TDPel Media.
In a keynote speech delivered in Benin City, Edo State, renowned human rights lawyer Femi Falana expressed a worrying observation that “plutocracy has replaced democracy in Nigeria,” leading to a significant erosion of trust in the democratic process among the population.
Falana delivered his remarks during the Nigerian Bar Association’s (NBA) 2023 Law Week Programme.
Call for INEC to Address Systemic Issues in Electoral Process
Falana urged the NBA to use its influence to prompt the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to tackle a range of systemic issues that hamper the integrity of the electoral process.
He specifically highlighted concerns about the delayed arrival of INEC officials and voting materials at polling stations, malfunctioning voting machines, and problems with the transmission of results.
Alarming Voter Turnout and Disengagement from Politics
During his address, Falana drew attention to a troubling statistic, stating that out of the 93 million registered voters, only 22 million participated in the presidential election.
This significant disparity underscores the widespread disengagement of the Nigerian populace from the political process, as people lose faith in the efficacy and fairness of elections.
Recommendations to Address Electoral Challenges
Falana presented recommendations to INEC to address the challenges faced during elections.
These include tackling insecurity at polling units, addressing violent attacks on voters and officials, voter intimidation, theft and destruction of voting materials, prevalent cases of vote-buying, and the need for improved accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Calls for a National Summit and Collaborative Efforts
Falana called on the Benin branch of the NBA to advocate for a national summit to review the 2023 general elections once the election petition tribunals, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court have concluded their processes.
The summit should involve representatives from all relevant stakeholders.
Furthermore, Falana emphasized the importance of collaboration between the NBA and the judiciary committees of both houses of the national assembly to draft amendments to the Constitution and the Electoral Act, with the aim of institutionalizing credible elections in Nigeria.
Mobilization for Active Participation in Democracy
In his concluding remarks, Falana stressed the need for mass-based organizations to mobilize the Nigerian people to actively participate in the democratic process and take control of their political destiny.
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