INEC rules out election postponement, assures that it will be free, fair, credible

WorldStage Newsonline– Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)  has ruled out possible  postponement of  any of the elections as a result of court orders coming close to election schedules.

The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said  at a National Stakeholders’ Forum for 2019 General Elections, organised by the Commission on Thursday in Abuja  that the Commission had been receiving court orders in which some had been conflicting or contradicting.

He said that the Commission had been operating on the principle of latest order.

“If two courts make a pronouncement on a matter, we go by the latest in time.

“In the case of one of the judgments, the two judgements came on the same day; the Commission has to take a decision.

“My assurance to stakeholders and Nigerians is that INEC will always obey court order.

“ The next question we are going to ask is that what if the court order comes close to election, will INEC postpone elections?

“No. INEC does not intend to postpone any election.

“We will operate based on the order that we received but the Commission has also made contingency plan in case some of the orders come close to the elections.

“We should be able to recover and conduct elections as scheduled.’’

Yakubu said that party congresses and primaries for the 2019 general elections had been the most contentious since the return to democracy in 1999 as court 640 cases had arisen from them.

INEC has been dragged to court 640 times on the conduct of parties primaries.

“We have received 540 requests for certified true copies of documents and some of these will end up in court.

“In addition, we received 186 protests and petitions for the conduct of congresses and party primaries.

n logistics deployment, Yakubu said that the Commission was committed to ensuring that election materials and electoral officers would be the ones to wait for voters on election day.

He said that the Commission was working closely with the security agencies to ensure security during the elections.

He said provision had been made to ensure that internally displaced persons and physically challenged persons, such as albinos and the visually impaired, participated in the elections by providing them necessary aids for voting.

Yakubu called for citizen collaboration to make the elections credible and peaceful as “INEC cannot do it alone.’’

The Project Coordinator, European Centre for Electoral Support, , Mr Rudolf Elbling, urged all stakeholders to support the growth of Nigeria’s democratic system.

“Use your offices and institutions to support INEC and participate fully in every aspect of the electoral process,’’ he said.

In a similar development, the INEC has assured members of the Administrative Board of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria on the Commission’s resolve to conduct free, fair and credible general elections.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu was qouted as giving the assurance while speaking at an interactive meeting with the Catholic Bishops in Abuja.

A statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi said that the meeting was part of the nationwide consultation with stakeholders on the Commission’s readiness for the general elections,

Yakubu said that the Commission was determined to improve on the gains recorded in the 2015 general elections, just as he affirmed that only the votes cast by citizens would determine the eventual winners at the polls.

Responding to questions, he debunked some media reports making the rounds about the alleged centralisation of the recruitment of Collation and Returning Officers for the elections.

He said there was no basis for the allegation in the first place, since Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) had never handled the recruitment of such officers.

He said that INEC took a decision in 2011 not to recruit Collation and Returning Officers from among its staff, but from senior lecturers and professorial cadre, in order to protect the sanctity of the electoral process.

“This is what the Commission has done consistently. The Chairman of the Commission handles this responsibility. He liaises with Vice-Chancellors under specific criteria.

“The Vice-Chancellors submit names directly to the INEC Chairman, the submitted names are further vetted, before we finally engage and post them to the states.

” It is after we have finished with the process of engagement that we liaise with the RECs, who then assign the Collation and Returning Officers to local government areas and constituencies where they are going to work.

“There was a reason why the Commission took that decision. There was a time in the past when, particularly in the recruitment of Collation Officers and most especially the Returning Officers, some people pandered to the wishes of politicians.

“The Commission then decided to centralise it and involve not only the universities, but also the Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU).”

He explained that since 2015, INEC had conducted elections into 195 constituencies and not on one occasion did the headquarters ask the RECs to recruit Collation or Returning Officers.

According to him, this is what the Commission has been doing since 2011. I was surprised when I read the report.

On another allegation that the National Register of Voters contains names of under-age or ineligible persons, Yakubu said that while the current Register was, indeed, not perfect, “it is the largest and most current database of Nigerians with photographs and full biometrics.”

The INEC Chairman observed that each of the registered political parties got a copy of the Voters’ Register since 2011 and none of them had ever complained of the prevalence of under-age voters in the Register.

He also argued that the responsibility of cleaning the Voters’ Register was not that of INEC’s alone.

He said while the law requires the Commission to paste the Register at each polling unit nationwide before the general election for claims and objections, Nigerians and political parties also owe it a duty to draw the Commission’s attention to the names of ineligible persons for rectification.

On the National Collation Centre, Yakubu explained there is difference between the actual collation of the 2019 general elections results and the ad hoc committee established to put the Collation Centre in place.

He likened the Centre to an ordinary Event Centre that would house the Situation Room among others, for which the constituted ad hoc committee had been saddled with the responsibility to putting all the structures and amenities it needed to function effectively in place.

“Since the perception is that we might be up to something, which is why (according to the narratives), the Commission is unwilling to open up the place, we have decided to open up the situation room. We will give visitation rights.

“The Chairman of INEC is the Chief Returning Officer for the Presidential Election and I am not going to share that responsibility with anyone,” he said.

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