Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has fixed June 2 to 27 and July 2 to 25 for Edo and Ondo states gubernatorial primary elections respectively. It therefore warned the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other political parties to avoid conducting acrimonious party primaries for the two governorship elections.
Chairman of the Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, gave the warning during a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), in Abuja on Friday.
He further revealed that the Commission has received correspondence from the President of the Senate declaring the seats for Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts vacant, noting that the Commission will soon fix a date for the bye-elections.
“As stated earlier, the end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo are holding later in the year. Given recent experience with some governorship elections, political parties need to do more to avoid the conduct of acrimonious primaries or failure to observe due diligence in the screening of their candidates, resulting in protracted litigations and eventual determination of the outcome of elections by orders of court.
“I wish to draw the attention of political parties to two critical dates in the timetable released by the Commission a few weeks ago. Party primaries for the democratic election and nomination of candidates for the governorship election in Edo State must be held from June 2 to 27, 2020. The date for Ondo State is July 2 to 25, 2020.
“The Commission will not extend the dates. We will also rigorously monitor the primaries and where necessary, apply sanctions as provided by law.
“At the same time, the personal particulars of all the candidates nominated by political parties for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, including their academic qualifications, will be displayed in our offices in the two States as required by law.
“This will enable citizens to scrutinise them and take legal action against any candidate who provides false information to the Commission. The personal particulars of candidates will be displayed on July 6, 2020 in Edo State and on August 4, 2020 in Ondo State.
“I wish to appeal to citizens to note the dates and to seize the opportunity to scrutinise the information provided on oath by the candidates in the interest of our democracy and good governance,” he emphasised.
Commenting on declaring the seats of the newly sworn-in governor and Deputy Governor of Bayelsa vacant at the senate, the INEC boss said: “In compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court, the Commission has presented Certificates of Return in respect of the governorship elections in Imo and Bayelsa States.
“In the case of Bayelsa State, both the Governor and Deputy Governor were serving Senators. Consequently, the Commission on Thursday February 20, 2020 received two communications from the Senate President declaring the seats for Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts vacant. The Commission will soon meet to determine the dates for bye-elections in the two Senatorial Districts.”
Yakubu also commented on the conduct of elections in Nigeria, noting: “For our part, the Commission has been studying the judgements of courts arising from the conduct of recent elections. We have also been reviewing the reports from accredited observers as well as internal reports from our state offices.
“We will continue to keep an eye on the conduct of our officials and apply appropriate sanctions on erring staff, both regular and ad-hoc.
“Ahead of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, critical changes will be introduced to strengthen our processes and procedures. Similarly, the Commission, jointly with the security agencies, is reviewing deployment during elections.
“Already, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) has set up a Committee in this respect. The inaugural meeting of the Committee is holding on Wednesday next week.
“As I welcome RECs to this meeting, I wish to draw your attention to what you already know. Our major responsibility is the conduct of elections which must be free, fair and credible.
“The reality in Nigeria today is that elections have become an all-year round activity for the Commission. This year alone, the Commission has conducted elections into 28 constituencies by court order.
“Four bye-elections will be held in the next three weeks and, as I said earlier, vacancies were declared in two Senatorial Districts yesterday. We are also awaiting declarations of vacancies for two more Senatorial Districts.
“While we are conducting these elections, we must also continue to proactively and progressively work for the improvement of the electoral process.”