Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi polls: INEC frets over judgements, court orders



 Ahead of the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has for the umpteenth time charged political parties in the country to maintain peace and shun violence in the course of their campaigns.

INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu gave this charge at the quarterly consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja.

He said the Commission was concerned about the spate of violence in the three states involving parties and candidates.

Yakubu also expressed concern over the spate of recent judgements and orders of court in respect of the nomination, substitution or disqualification of candidates after all the sensitive materials had been printed.

Yakubu said 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 is very challenging. 

He said: “On the issue of candidature, the Commission is concerned about the spate of recent judgements and orders of court in respect of the nomination, substitution or disqualification of candidates after all the sensitive materials have been printed. 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 is 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. 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. 

“After all, 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 have an obligation to impress on your members, candidates and supporters to maintain peace during the campaign rallies and procession. I urge you to also appeal to them to maintain the same disposition on Election Day and beyond.”

The INEC boss also explained the commission’s level of preparedness for the off-cycle elections in the three states, saying the commission was at concluding stages of preparation for three off-cycle polls.

“You may recall that at our last meeting, we reviewed the conduct of the 2023 General Election as part of the wider consultation with stakeholders. I am glad to report that we are finalising the review report as well as the main report of the General Election. As soon as they are finalised, we will, as usual, share the reports with you, other stakeholders and the public.

“Today, the subject matter of our meeting is the ongoing preparations for the three off-cycle Governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States scheduled to hold on Saturday 11th November 2023. With just a little over two weeks to the election, 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).

“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 the 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.

“At the same time, 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 Commissions (RECs) last week, a total of 137,934 agents made up of 130,093 polling and 7,841 collation agents have already been uploaded to the portal. 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. I urge you to consider the submission of names of agents as important as the nomination of candidates for election.

“I am glad to report that the printing of agents’ identity cards will be completed this weekend. This will allow political parties ample time to distribute the cards to their agents. All the identity cards are QR Code-readable to ensure maximum security and to avoid impersonation by unaccredited persons,” Yakubu said. 

…We’re monitoring – UK government 

Also, the United Kingdom government said it’s keenly monitoring processes leading to November 11 governorship elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states. 

 British High Commissioner to Nigeria Richard Montgomery said this Tuesday in Abuja during a courtesy visit to the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and the National Working Committee (NWC).

During the meeting, the envoy commended Nigerian politicians for employing legal means to resolve elections disagreements in the country.

The High Commissioner said: “As I explained in our private meeting earlier, I as British High Commissioner have a role to understand the politics of this great country and to engage with the political parties to understand both the priorities and the challenges and opportunities of the political process in Nigeria so that I can understand your great country better and explain it to my ministers back in London and so it’s been a great pleasure to come and call on you and also to understand your perspectives on a number of issues. 

“Obviously, there are topical concerns that we have touched on like the gubernatorial elections, the runoff elections in Imo Bayelsa, and in Kogi states. That we wish to understand and are watching carefully to see the process and the way it is carried out. 

“We’ve discussed a number of the legal issues present in the political domain at federal and state level. And it’s important for us as a diplomatic mission to understand how those processes are playing out. And we are very admiring of the way that Nigeria is using the courts to settle disputes of elections at every level when they occur. And we appreciate that process.”

…Ganduje speaks

Responding, National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who thanked the British Government for its sustained interest in development in Nigeria, said being a former colony of the British, Nigeria has a lot to learn from the former in terms of management of the democratic process.

“We are so pleased to have you especially because the relationship between Britain and Nigeria has a long history. You are our colonial masters. We got our independence from you,  you know our country.  Even though things are dynamic, things are changing. But all along since before independence during independence up to this moment, we always have a representative for the UK in Nigeria. So I will not take much time to tell you who we are because you know who we are. 

“Let us know that we started with a political system similar to your own because we borrowed from you and you assist us. After having independence, you assisted us to form political parties. And to conduct elections during that time.

“We thank you for coming and we are looking forward to having stronger ties. And we’re looking forward to learning more from you because you have older political institutions than our own country. You have seen it all but our own is an evolutionary one, which we want to take our institution to a much higher level to a strong level, anything you do without having a strong institution then it collapses after some time, but we have to have a high degree of sustainability of our institution.”

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