Ndubuis Orji, Abuja
The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, passed for second reading a bill seeking to bar electoral officers from participating in partisan politics within five years of their retirement, resignation or relief of their duties.
Those to be affected by the bill, which was sponsored by chairman House Committee on House Services, Wale Raji, if passed into law, include the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), members of the commission, Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) among others.
Raji, in his lead debate, stated that though Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives every Nigerian the freedom to belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his or her interest, electoral officers due to the amount of information available to them in the course of their duties, should not participate in partisan politics until five years after their disengagement from service.
The lawmaker argued that the proposed legislation will help to improve the integrity of elections in the country and boost the confidence of electorates . He added that the same rule which prohibits judicial officers from appearing in court or tribunal as counsels should apply to electoral officers,especially as it concerns participation in partisan politics.
“It is also a way to build the confidence of the electorate towards the activities and affairs of the commission. By isolating these officers from engaging in active politics, this amendment will prevent any possible abuse of office or using a position once occupied to gain undue advantage during an election,”Raji stated