The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has raised concerns over the spate of recent court judgments and other court orders in respect of the nomination, substitution, or disqualification of candidates for the November 11th Governorship elections holding in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States.
The Commission noted that these judgments are coming too close to the election after all the sensitive materials have been printed.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu raised the concern at a consultative meeting with Leaders of Political Parties held at the INEC Headquarters, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He noted that “The reprinting of the materials in compliance with court orders within a short period of time is not only expensive but the management of the process very challenging.”
“Although the Commission has already published the final list of candidates for the three States, four recent court orders have compelled us to review the list. These changes have been reflected in the updated list of parties and candidates on our website.”
Pro. Yakubu However said, “This decision is without prejudice to any pending appeal by the affected candidates or their political parties”.
Speaking on preparations for the Election, The INEC Chairman said “ we are at the concluding stages of our preparations. This is the first time that the Commission will be conducting three off-cycle Governorship Elections simultaneously across different geo-political zones.”
“This is made possible by the coincidence of the end of tenure of the current holders of the offices which fall within the constitutional timeframe of not earlier than 150 days or later than 30 days before the expiration of their terms of office as enshrined in Section 178(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
He added “The Commission has delivered all non-sensitive materials for the elections to the three States. The training of various categories of ad hoc staff is ongoing. We have made soft copies of the complete register of voters available to all political parties participating in the elections.”
“We conducted the mock accreditation of voters and the upload of results to our IReV portal using the BVAS. Stakeholder engagements are ongoing. Our state offices have concluded the readiness assessment of our facilities as well as the movement of critical facilities to our 56 Local Government offices across the three States.”
On the upload of details of party agents for the off-cycle elections, Prof. Yakubu explained that so far, “political parties have uploaded the names of their polling and collation agents to the dedicated web portal.”
“ As I informed Nigerians at the meeting with our Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) last week, a total of 137,934 agents made up of 130,093 polling agents and 7,841 collation agents have already been uploaded to the portal.”
He continued, “However, not all the political parties have nominated agents for all the polling units and even the collation centres in the three States. In the next few days, the Commission will publish the detailed distribution of agents uploaded by all political parties for public information.”
The INEC Chairman further disclosed that the printing of agents’ identity cards will be completed by the weekend, adding that they will be embedded with QR codes for security reasons.
Prof. Yakubu, for the umpteenth time called on Political actors in the three States where off-cycle elections will be held to eschew violence, stressing that free fair, and credible elections are only possible in an atmosphere of peace.
He said “As electioneering campaigns continue to intensify; the Commission reiterates it’s concern about the spate of violence in the three States involving parties and candidates. I wish to remind you as party leaders that free and fair elections are only possible in an atmosphere of peace.”
“After all, the election is a process involving human beings as voters, election officials, observers, and the media whose safety is of paramount concern to us. While we will continue to work with the security agencies in this regard, political parties acting individually or collectively through the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) also must impress on your members, candidates, and supporters to maintain peace during the campaign rallies and procession,” He added.
Responding, the Chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), Engr. Yagbagi Sani, called on INEC to demonstrate impartiality, and transparency to reaffirm citizens’ trust and confidence ahead of the Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi States’ elections.
According to him, “to reaffirm citizens’ confidence, INEC must continue to demonstrate impartiality, transparency, and a commitment to conducting free, fair and credible elections. This is not only a moral imperative but a necessary step towards preserving the integrity of our democratic system”.
The IPAC Chairman acknowledged the efforts of INEC towards preparations for the off-cycle governorship elections despite the challenges the Commission might be facing while stressing the need for the Commission to put in its best to be done to ensure that the elections are free, fair, credible, hitch-free, and meet the provisions of the law