Ahead of the 2019 general elections the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Monday, commenced a 2-day training for its legal officers as part of measures to addressing a new trend of electoral offenses of vote buying.
The training which is organized for INEC legal staff from 10 States in the Northern Region is aimed to evolve measures to tackle the new challenge of vote buying which allegedly took place during the just concluded Ekiti Governorship election.
The program is supported by the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) and European Center for Electoral Support (ECES).
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Speaking at the opening of the event in Kaduna, INEC’s National Commissioner, Abubakar Nahuche said the event was a collaboration with EU-SDGN and ECES to equip legal officers with knowledge to tackle emerging electoral challenges.
“The training should equip staff with how to address emerging electoral offenses such as vote buying which came up during Ekiti Governorship election.
“It will also prepare the officers for legal issues expected to come up before during and after during the 2019 general elections,” he said.
According to him the legal staff needs to be abreast with best global best practices legal mechanisms to curb this trend in future elections.
He said the legal profession is dynamic globally and the commission cannot afford to be left out.
“We are committed to ensuring that our staff is updated and abreast of global trends.
“Going through the topics selected for the seminar, I am hopeful that this will give them the required skills to tackle the emerging challenges.
“It is expected that they will be better informed on various issues such as advocacy, drafting and front loading evidence” he said.
Earlier, the Project Coordinator of ECES Nigeria, Mr Rudolf Elbling said the training was the third in the series as similar training was conducted for INEC Legal Services Department in Benin, Edo State and Keffi, Nasarawa state.
The Country Coordinator, represented by Mrs Maria Teresa Mauro ECES, Senior Expert Legal said conducting election is a very complex exercise in all democracies across the World.
He said there were several stakeholders who had specific roles to play as well as rights and responsibilities before, during and after elections.
“The training seeks to boost the confidence of the legal officers and positively reposition them in handling of election petitions and front-loading of evidence.
“There is therefore the need for a clear regulatory framework to guide every stage of the electoral process and set the rule of the game.
“In essence, the electoral legal framework must stipulate clear direction and guide on what to be done, when, how and by whom.”
According to him, the legal officers have the primary responsibility of ensuring that elections and indeed other activities of the Commission are conducted in a way consistent with existing laws through proper interpretation and application of the rules.
“It is my hope that presentations and deliberations at this training will keep participants abreast of best global best practices in electoral law and place them in a vantage position to professionally render valuable legal services to the Commission.
“The topics to be addressed at the training are purposefully relevant to strengthening the institutional capacity of INEC to address legal issues.
“The presentations are Election Dispute Resolution and Best Practices, Strength and Weaknesses of the 2015 Elections from Legal perspective.
“Potential impacts of the 2018 Electoral Act, modern drafting techniques, opinion writing and brief writing and election petitions: practice, procedure and advocacy.
Participants at similar training demonstrated adequate professional knowledge of legal issues relating to elections and of course, strong commitments to ensure that the legal interests of the Commission ahead of the 2019 elections are duly protected.
The ECES coordinator said “the center is proud to be part of initiative of supporting the legal services department of INEC and will in the next few days replicate this training in other parts of the country.
“We also plan to support training of INEC Legal Officers and Police officers in the prosecution of election offenses.
“We shall organize workshop for political parties on legal framework, compilation of judicial decisions and round tables with Judges of Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal and Federal High Courts and Judges of Election Petitions Tribunal.
“It is our expectation that all these supports will deepen knowledge and sharpen skills on how to use law and its instruments as veritable tool for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections come 2019”.