The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced new dates for the 2023 General Elections.
The commission had earlier announced February 18, 2023, for the presidential election. However, on Saturday, the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, told journalists that new dates have been fixed for the elections.
According to him, Presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on February 25, 2023,, while governorship and state assembly elections will now be held on March 11, 2023.
The development comes on the heels of the signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, after uncertainties and confusion.
Yakubu said, “The Commission has decided to adjust the dates of the 2023 General Election to ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law. Accordingly, the Presidential and National Assembly elections will now be held on Saturday 25th February 2023 while the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections will be held two weeks later on Saturday 11th March 2023.”
He added that the change was necessary as the 360-day timeline for the publication of Notice of Election had lapsed.
He said with the adjustment, the 2023 General Elections were now 363 days away.
Yakubu stated that the decision was based on the commission’s determination to create certainty in the electoral calendar and to enable all stakeholders in the electoral process (the electoral commission, political parties and candidates, security agencies, observers, the media etc.) to prepare adequately for elections.
He said, “By that decision, Presidential and National Assembly elections shall hold on the third Saturday of the month of February of each General Election year, while Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections shall follow two weeks later.
“Consequently, the 2023 General Election was scheduled to commence on 18th February 2023 with the Presidential and National Assembly elections, followed by the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections on the 4th of March 2023.
“However, the commission could not release the detailed timetable and Schedule of Activities for the General Election, as it normally would, because of the pending enactment of the Electoral Act 2022. The Bill has now been signed into law.”
The INEC boss added that the Electoral Act 2022, together with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), form the legal basis for conducting all elections in Nigeria.
He said that in particular, the Electoral Act provides strict timelines for the implementation of electoral activities based on the date of the General Election.
… Commencement of campaigns
According to Yakubu, campaign by political parties for the Presidential and National Assembly elections would commence on Wednesday 28th September 2022 while that of governorship and state assembly elections is Wednesday 12th October 2022.
He added that the last day of the campaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly elections was fixed for midnight on Thursday 23rd February 2023 and Thursday 9th March 2023 for governorship and state assembly elections.
Yakubu said, “In addition, the Notice of Election will be published in our offices in all the States of the Federation as required by law on Monday 28th February 2022.
“With the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022, the commission will work assiduously to conclude and publish new Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections that are consistent with the Act.
“These regulations and guidelines, as well as manuals issued by the commission, are all part of the legal regulatory framework for elections. Their timely publication will enable all stakeholders in the electoral process to become conversant with their provisions as they prepare for the 2023 General Election.”
Yakubu urged stakeholders, especially the political parties, of their responsibility to adhere strictly to the timelines in this Timetable and Schedule of Activities, as well as all other timelines established by the commission.
He said it was necessary for all political parties to comply with the extant legal framework, ensure proper organisation and management of party primaries and nominate qualified candidates in order to prevent unnecessary litigations and rancour.