Prof Alewo Johnson-Akubo, the Vice Chancellor (VC), Salem University Lokoja, has urged the Federal Government to strengthen the nation’s democratic process by improving the credibility and transparency of elections in the country.
Johnson-Akubo, made the call on Wednesday in Lokoja during the 2023 Law Week of Lokoja Chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Johnson-Akubo, in a lecture paper titled: “Nigerian democracy: The journey so far from 1999 till date,” noted that the nation’s democracy had come a long way with many challenges desiring urgent and acceptable solutions.
The VC said once credibility and transparency of elections were improved upon by an enhanced independence and effectiveness of INEC, the nation’s democracy would thrive well.
“The political thuggery, vote selling and buying, violence, crises, miscarriages of justice and lack of transparency and military interventions that occasioned Nigerian democracy have done a lot of harm to the system.
“But taking an exorcists position, we can change the tide by creation and implementation of electoral reforms that can address irregularities, violence, and voter suppression amongst others.
“The government should encourage political parties to adhere to democratic principles and discourage vote-buying and other corrupt practices in order to foster and sustain a healthy democracy in Nigeria.
“We also prioritise judicial independence and transparency by ensuring that judges are shielded from external pressures as well as appointing them based on merit and integrity, and establishing mechanisms for transparency within the judiciary, ” he said.
He noted that improving access to justice, investing in ongoing legal education for legal professionals, and promoting alternative dispute resolution mechanisms would collectively foster a legal environment that could uphold the rule of law and safeguard citizens’ rights, thus enhancing the democratic fabric of the nation.
According to him, enhancing accountability and transparency in government operations by enacting and enforcing laws that require public officials to declare their assets and financial interests will also strengthen democracy.
The VC also called for prompt and comprehensive tackling of security challenges, including addressing the root causes of conflicts and insecurity.
He added: “Government must invest in law enforcement capacity, intelligence, and community policing to ensure the safety and security of citizens as well as promote dialogue and reconciliation mechanisms.”
Earlier, the NBA Chairman, Lokoja Chapter, Mr Ibrahim Alhassan, explained that the theme of the 2023 Law Week was carefully chosen in view of the challenges bedeviling the Nigerian democracy.
Alhassan expressed the hope that at the end of the lectures, the practising lawyers, politicians and other stakeholders would be better informed on how best to shape the Nigerian democracy. (NAN)