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INEC frowns at frequency of bye-elections, says it hinders electoral reforms

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has decried the frequency of bye-elections in Nigeria and said it is hindering electoral reforms.

INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, at the first virtual consultative meeting with leaders of political parties said frequency of bye-election is diverting the commission’s attention away from reform, innovation, peer learning and planning for the consolidation of the electoral process.

He noted that “there is no election season in Nigeria any longer. The commission is busy conducting elections all-year round between one general election and another.”

Professor Yakubu added that in May 2020 alone, five members of state Houses of Assembly had died.

“Since December 2019, a period of six months, 12 members of the National and State Houses of Assembly have similarly passed on. This is in addition to the resignation of two senators from Bayelsa who have since been sworn-in as governor and deputy governor of the State.

“The cost of conducting these bye-elections to the commission, the security agencies, political parties and candidates, election observers, the media, litigations (both pre-election and post-election) and disruption of activities as a result of the restriction of movement on election day is enormous,” he added.

Professor Yakubu disclosed that INEC would open a discussion with stakeholders and the National Assembly for necessary reforms towards more cost-effective and democratic options.

Meanwhile, INEC has officially issued notice of activities for the conduct of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State in accordance with Section 30 of the Electoral Act.

Professor Yakubu advised political parties wishing to field candidates in the election to adhere strictly to the timetable issued earlier for the election, and warned that any political party that operates outside timetable would only have itself to blame.

According to him, conduct of party primaries for nomination of candidates would hold between June 2 and 27.

“This time around, the submission of nomination forms will be done online for which a dedicated portal has been set up. The portal will automatically shut down on the scheduled date and at the fixed hour,” he explained. 

Professor Yakubu advised the parties to conduct rancour-free primaries, and said the commission would pay attention to compliance with the law.

He warned that there might be sanctions for unruly behaviour by some party supporters so that such was not “carried forward to the main election.”

Professor Yakubu appealed to political parties wishing to conduct direct primaries to make available “the register of members to be used for the election from ward to local government and state levels,” for the effective monitoring responsibilities under the law. Those that opt for indirect primaries should similarly make available to the commission the list of delegates for the election.

“Doing otherwise will amount to going into an election without the voters’ register. The commission makes available to each political party the complete register of voters before every major election. We expect political parties to reciprocate for their primaries,” he added.

Acting Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Dr. Leonard Nzenwa, welcomed the planned introduction of electronic voting machine from 2021, on a pilot scheme.

“The body of political parties have long canvassed for full introduction of electronic voting in all elections and restate that it is a welcome development,” Nzenwa stated.

He pledged the contribution of the 18 registered political parties to the development of the electoral process.

The acting chairman commended INEC for producing a policy on conducting elections in the context of COVID-19 pandemic but called for review of some aspects of the document where stakeholders expressed misgivings.

Chairmen and Secretaries of the 18 registered political parties attended the teleconference meeting.

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