By Ezeocha Nzeh
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has presented registration certificates to 23 new political parties.
The commission said that it would re-administer existing polling units to address the worrying issue of vote-buying, which has posed a big challenge to the electoral system.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this Thursday in Abuja, when he presented certificates of registration to the newly registered political parties at the commission’s headquarters.
Yakubu, who promised that the new polling unit structure would make it difficult for voters to display their ballot papers after marking them, expressed the commission’s worry about the monetisation of elections in the country.
He said: “Vote buying is a cancer to our elections and we must work together collectively to stamp it out. On the part of the commission, starting with Osun State governorship election coming up on September 22, we will change the way our polling units are administered.
“It will be done in such a way that there will be no room for voters to expose their marked ballot papers between voting cubicles and the ballot boxes.
“We shall further re-strategise with the security agencies for a more robust response to the arrest and prosecution of vote buyers. We will also engage with all well-meaning groups for more effective voter education and voter sensitisation,’’ he said.
Yakubu also hinted that INEC had concluded arrangements to publish the notice for the 2019 general elections to kick-off the activities.
“The formal commencement of 2019 general elections begins tomorrow (today) with the publication of notice of elections.
“Already, the commission has concluded arrangements for doing so in all our offices nationwide as required by law.
“This will be followed by the conduct of primaries beginning from Saturday, August 18 to Sunday, October 7, 2018,’’ he said.
The INEC boss said that the new political parties could participate in the 2019 general elections, but not in the Osun governorship poll as the nomination process had closed.
“From today (yesterday), you have equal status with any political party in Nigeria. This means that you can sponsor candidates for elections, including the 2019 general elections.
“However, since the commission has closed nominations for the Osun State governorship election holding on the September 22 none of you can sponsor candidates for that election,’’ Yakubu said.
He charged them to respect their constitutions and abide by INEC guidelines and regulations, as well as obey the Electoral Act and submit themselves to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In his remarks, the National Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Alhaji Mohammed Nalado, said that the registration of the new parties would open the landscape for more participation in politics.
On behalf of the new parties, the National Chairman of African Action Congress Party (AACP), Omoyele Sowore, pledged that the new parties would bring changes to Nigeria’s democracy as well as rescue the country from the state of hopelessness.