The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it might be forced to cancel preparations for the conduct of Edo and Ondo governorship elections, due to electoral violence.
National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, in a statement at the end of the Commission’s meeting, accused the parties of engaging in violent actions and incendiary statements.
Okoye who is Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, said the political parties and their supporters engaged in the destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language.
He reminded the political parties that there are extant laws and regulations they must adhere to during campaigns, adding that INEC will not shirk its responsibility to enforce the rules of the game.
“Consequently, parties and candidates must on no account underestimate the resolve of the commission to enforce the rules and regulations and apply appropriate sanctions against those who choose to break them. The commission remains determined to conduct peaceful elections in the two states and in the outstanding National and State Assembly bye-elections.
“Political parties must realise that Edo and Ondo governorship elections are taking place at a time of a global pandemic and the commission is working assiduously to observe and comply with all health and safety protocols issued by the commission and health authorities. With the pandemic taking its toll on the citizenry, the people of Edo and Ondo States must be saved from the added burden of violent and raucous elections.
“Political parties must remember that Edo and Ondo governorship elections have strict constitutional and statutory timelines and threats of violence or actual violence can disrupt those timelines and create a constitutional crisis,” Okoye warned.
He however, promised that INEC will continue to engage stakeholders in the two states on the need for free, fair, safe and peaceful elections, noting that the commission has committed enormous public resources in preparing for the elections.
“Therefore, the commission will view gravely any disruptive actions by political actors,” he added.
The National Commissioner assured that INEC will continue to work with and collaborate with the security agencies to contain all incidents or threats of violence before and during the elections.
He called on regulatory agencies that have roles in the elections, especially those dealing with insecurity, hate speech and abuse of mass media, to step up their activities and ensure that all those that break the law are held to account.
Okoye assured the people of Edo and Ondo States of INEC’s “determination to conduct credible and safe elections in the two states.
“The commission shall not hesitate to discontinue the process should the actions of political actors lead to cogent and verifiable threat and/or breakdown of law and order before or during the elections.”
Meanwhile, INEC has approved the introduction of a new technology, INEC Result Viewing (IReV) to strengthen the credibility of the electoral process.
The technology, which was announced at the end of its management meeting, according Okoye, is to enable Nigerians to view polling unit results at the end of voting on Election Day.
He said it is a new step to further strengthen election management process and enhance transparency of the system.
Okoye said the commission was aware that result management has remained a major source of mistrust in the nation’s electoral process, noting that electorate have often expressed concern that results were not always consistent with votes cast.
“INEC is determined to address any source of this concern through enhancing the level of transparency in the conduct of elections, more so in the process of releasing results of elections. It is a fundamental principle of democracy that in elections, votes are not only correctly counted, but that they also count,” he added.
Okoye however, stressed that this does not constitute electronic collation of results.
“The collation of election results shall remain as provided for by law, a manual process of completion of relevant result sheets and their upwards collation until the final results are determined.”