The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the spate of recent court judgements and orders on the nomination, substitution or disqualification of candidates after all the sensitive materials have been printed is hampering its preparations for the November 11 governorship elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states.
The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this at the quarterly meeting with political parties yesterday at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.
He also expressed concerns about the spate of violence in the three states involving parties and candidates, warning that free and fair elections are only possible in an atmosphere of peace.
“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.
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“These changes have been reflected in the updated list of parties and candidates on our website. However, this decision is without prejudice to any pending appeal by the affected candidates or their political parties.
“As electioneering campaigns continue to intensify, the commission reiterates its 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,” Yakubu said.
The INEC boss said the election is a process involving human beings as voters, election officials, observers and the media whose safety is of paramount concern to the commission.
Yakubu noted that with just a little over two weeks to the election, INEC is at the concluding stages of its preparations and that this is the first time 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 said.
Responding on behalf of the registered political parties, the Chairman of IPAC, Engr. Yabagi Sani, said 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. There is no doubt that INEC is showing its best efforts in its preparations in spite of obvious encumbrances.
“However, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that elections in Nigeria are hitch-free, credible and substantially comply with the provisions of the controversial 2022 Electoral Act,” Sani said.
He also urged INEC to work diligently in persuading the security agencies to play by the rules of engagement and resist the temptation of being used by desperate politicians.
“The involvement of security agencies in the electoral process, when it becomes unavailable, must be based on professionalism, neutrality, and a commitment to the defence of our democracy, rather than partisan interests. The citizens must feel secure in their participation in the electoral process, knowing that their safety and security are assured.
“The present precarious state of insecurity in the country and in particular the three states where the November 11, 2023 off-season elections will be taking place poses a real threat to the full participation of the citizens in the exercise,” he said.
We won’t allow intimidation in Kogi, Bayelsa, Imo —Military
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa, has said the military high command under his watch would never allow intimidation or any other act of violence in the November 11 governorship elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.
Musa, who stated this at Defence Headquarters, Abuja, while playing host to the Minister of Defence, Abubakar Badaru, stressed that the military was well-prepared for the off-cycle elections in the three states, saying efforts have been put in place to ensure there is no violence before, during and after the exercise.
Speaking during the visit, Musa told the gathering that the military will stop at nothing to ensure the polls in the three states are devoid of violence.
“We are also prepared for the coming elections in the three states of Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa. I want to ensure that the elections go on democratically, without any fear or intimidation.
“We don’t want any violence. I want to appeal to all stakeholders that it does nobody any good if anybody is killed because we have to go and vote. So, it is important that we all put hands on deck. We will make sure that the elections are free and they are peaceful so that the results can also bring out what people want,” he added.
The defence chief, however, assured President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that despite the wave of military coups in West Africa, the military would protect Nigeria’s democracy.
He said, “We want to assure the president and all of you that the armed forces of Nigeria are fully committed to democracy. We will do whatever it takes to ensure that we protect our nascent democracy and for it to thrive and to also extend the same to the sub-region because we know we have the capacity and we are happy.”
Police to deploy 40, 000 men for Bayelsa gov’ship poll
The police have resolved to deploy 40,000 personnel for the November 11 governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Tolani Alausa, disclosed this yesterday when some women in the state submitted their letter in protest against electoral violence in the state.
He said the police had initially planned to deploy 27,000 personnel during the election but now increased to about 40,000 including other sister security agencies to ensure people go out and vote peacefully.
He said, “As a leading agency in the security architecture, The police are taking cognisance of your theme, ‘Never Again’, because it’s apt for this purpose. All the political class needs is to play by the rules of the game; never again shall we have people murdered because of an election. In the last election, not only civilians were killed but some police officers were also killed.
“We are going to do everything within our constitutional rights to ensure that we defend the right of every Bayelsan to go out there and cast his/her vote without harassment and molestation.
“Good enough, we are in an off-cycle election, where we are going to have enough security around the state. Like I said before now, we were going to deploy 27,000 policemen but it has increased to about 40,000 men including other sister security personnel to ensure that people go out and vote.”
During a peaceful walk in Yenagoa, the state capital, yesterday, hundreds of women and youths, led by prominent community and civil society leaders, called for justice for the victims of previous election-related violence in the state.
During the walk, participants held banners and placards with different inscriptions such as ‘peaceful elections for Bayelsa,’ ‘Justice for the victims,’ among others.
Head of the Department of Theater and Film Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Faith Aminikpo, who led the women to deliver a powerful speech to the police authorities in the state, expressed the collective voice of the women who said they were tired of witnessing violence during elections.