Following the reports of massive underage voting in the just held Kano State local government election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it had “no legal control or responsibility whatsoever” over State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).
INEC reacted to the scandal by saying it could not be held “directly or vicariously liable for an exercise outside our legal purview”.
“The attention of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been drawn to videos and pictures purportedly showing some underage thumb printing ballot papers in a recent election. These images have been circulating online since Saturday,” it said in a statement by Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, its Director of Voter Education and Publicity.
“The Commission wishes to inform the public that the images do not relate in any way to any election organised, conducted or superintended by INEC.
“As far as the Commission can ascertain, they relate to a Local Government election conducted at the weekend, and over which we have no legal control or responsibility whatsoever…
“It should be pointed out here that Local Government elections are exclusively the constitutional responsibility of the respective State Electoral Commissions, who are in no way under the control or supervision of INEC.”
On Friday, however, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC National Chairman, said the commission had formed a panel to investigate the reports so the anomaly would be corrected.
The nomenclature ‘State Independent Electoral Commissions’ seems to suggest that INEC, as the national electoral body, cannot in any way exercise influence over the electoral bodies of the various states of the federation, since they are all independent bodies. But is that really the case?
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION PROVIDES
The 1999 constitution, as amended, provides that SIECs shall have power “to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to local government councils within the state”, and that INEC shall have power “to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a State, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each State of the Federation”.
Also, that same section of the constitution, among other things, empowers INEC to “carry out such other functions as may be conferred upon it by an Act of the National Assembly”.
Now, the Independent National Electoral Commission Establishment Act states the functions of INEC thus: “To organise, conduct and supervise the elections into the office of chairmen and vice-chairmen of local government councils and area councils, membership of the local government councils and area councils, office of Governor and Deputy Governor, membership of the Houses of Assembly of the States, the office of President and Vice President and membership of the Senate and House of Representatives as may be specified in any enactment or law”.
Since INEC is empowered by its establishment Act to conduct local government council elections, and the constitution also empowers INEC to carry out any functions conferred on it by an Act of the National assembly, it can be argued, therefore, that INEC does have the power to conduct or at least supervise the various SIECs during LG elections.