By Ezeocha Nzeh
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned the 18 political parties to ensure they conduct credible primary elections ahead of the upcoming off season polls in the country
INEC is expected to conduct one off season governorship election on November 6, in Anambra State, while two elections are scheduled forJune 8, and July 16 for Ekiti and Osun governorship elections respectively
Speaking during the Commission’s meeting with leadership of political parties on Thursday in Abuja, INEC National Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, regretted that the inability of political parties to conduct credible primary elections to pick their candidates have left so many flaws on the electoral process, leading to the courts deciding the outcome.
Yakubu, who expressed the Commission’s our appreciation to the party leaders leaders over their support also reassured them of his you that the Commission will contininuous consultation on matters critical to the consolidation of the nation’s electoral process.
“At our last meeting held on 5th February 2021, the main subject matter was our proposal to address the crisis of voter access to Polling Units in Nigeria. The Commission proposed to do so by converting the well-known and well-established voting points and voting point settlements to polling units and consolidating them with the existing polling units.
“We decided to consult widely with stakeholders. Considering your central role in our democracy, the Commission began the series of consultations with leaders of political parties. After extensive interactions with other stakeholders and fieldwork by officials of the Commission, the number of polling units and consequently voter access to them has been substantially enhanced. Nigeria now has 176,846 polling units. Only yesterday, Wednesday 16th June 2021, the Commission presented the new polling units to Nigerians and their distribution nationwide. The list is already uploaded on our website and social media platforms.
“Infographics containing the summary of the new distribution of polling units in Nigeria is contained in your folders for this meeting. We believe that political parties will use the information in planning for future elections, including the nomination of your polling agents for elections.
“Closely tied to the expansion of voter access to polling units is the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), including the creation of a portal that will enable Nigerians to commence their registration online before concluding the process physically at designated centres. The Commission has fixed Monday 28th June 2021 for the exercise to commence nationwide. The CVR will be a major issue for discussion at this meeting. The Commission will demonstrate to you how the proposed online registration will proceed, including a presentation of the new INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED).”
“As you are aware, a number of bye-elections and major end of tenure elections are scheduled to hold before the 2023 General Election. We have concluded all arrangements for these bye-elections, including the sensitive materials that will arrive today in the two constituencies. So far, the processes have been rancour-free. We urge you to appeal to your candidates and supporters to maintain the current peaceful atmosphere.
“Again, as you are aware, the Commission has already released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Ekiti State Governorship elections holding on 18th June 2022 and that of Osun State holding on 16th July 2022. Copies of the timetable have been sent to your various offices officially, but we have also included the infographics in your folders for this meeting. “The purpose of the advanced notice for the two elections is to provide you and other stakeholders ample time to prepare for the elections as we have done in similar situations in the past, the latest being the Anambra Governorship election and the Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
INEC also disclosed that it has received correspondences from all the 18 registered political parties which have expressed interest to participate and have scheduled their primaries for the election in line with the dates provided for in the Timetable released by the Commission, adding that about 14 political parties have completed their primaries for the 68 constituencies in the six Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors ship seats in the Federal Capital Terrory (FCT) .
“A total of 14 out of 18 political parties have nominated 110 candidates for Chairmanship/Deputy Chairmanship positions and 362 candidates for Councillorships. Altogether, 14 political parties have nominated 472 candidates to vie for 68 elective positions in the FCT. An infographic distribution of the nominations by Area Councils is included in your folders for this meeting.
“On this note, I would like to remind political parties about the recent letters written to you by the Commission on the imperative of complying with the provisions of the law as well as our regulations governing the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates.
“The Commission is not happy that candidates for elections are now being determined through litigation, long after elections have been concluded and winners declared by INEC. The problem lies squarely with the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates by some political parties.
” We urge you to hold yourselves to the same high standard of free, fair, and credible elections that you hold INEC in all elections.
You must ensure strict compliance with your party Constitutions, the law and the Commission’s regulations and guidelines on party primaries in particular and the management of party affairs in general. After all, Nigerians only exercise their democratic right to elect leaders from the candidates presented by political parties. Electing good leaders begins with the quality of primaries conducted by political parties. We will do our part to ensure that our elections continue to improve.”