Nigeria: CREDO Welcomes "Registration of political Parties" With Caution
December 5, 2002
CREDO for Freedom of Expression of and Associated rights welcomes with caution, the "registration" of 22 political parties in Nigeria. CREDO acknowledges that while the "registration" is an improvement on the past, it does not on its own mean that the political process in Nigeria has been democratised.
Commenting on the "registration" CREDO's coordinator Rotimi Sankore stated: "The right to freedom of association cannot exist at the prerogative of the government. It is a constitutional and human right that must exist independent of any incumbent government. Association is also only one aspect of democracy. Genuine democracy means the full democratisation of, and guaranteed access to and participation in the entire political process."
Commenting further, he emphasised that "To guarantee a level playing field, there must therefore be a framework for the regulation of funding of political parties. This should place a ceiling on political party spending to ensure that the rich and powerful cannot purchase political office and power to the exclusion and detriment of the rights of Nigerians. Political party accounts must be open to public scrutiny. There must also be restrictions on individual and organisational donations to political parties to prevent parties becoming hostages to few wealthy backers. All donations over a certain amount must be made public, and donations beyond the means of contributors investigated."
"Public and state owned media must also ensure equitable access and coverage of activities of all political parties both during and in between elections. Mechanisms to ensure editorial independence, and prevent state or public media from becoming mouthpieces of ruling parties must be firmly in place."
"Appointments to the electoral commission must be transparent, its funding constitutionally guaranteed and the Commission itself manifestly independent of the government."
CREDO believes, that it is not the role of government, self-interested as it is, to screen and register parties. Rather an Independent Electoral Commission should merely recognise the existence of parties that notify it of their intention to participate in electoral processes, once they fulfil basic administrative procedure. The Nigerian political party "registration" process is in need of further review to ensure that it cannot be used to censor or restrict the right to association and participation in the political process. For instance, there is no further reason for the continued exclusion of independent candidature at any level, or age restrictions, which exclude adults under 30 years of age from most offices.