The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, dashed the hope and plans of many people, when it declared it would not register any new political parties, because they would not be able to participate in the 2023 general election by law.
INEC, which claimed that the reason was because the new Electoral Act barred the registration of new political parties to participate in any general election twelve months before, added also that the same new electoral law, allowed for the merger of political parties, only nine months to the general elections.
There are currently 18 registered political parties in the country.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, called on INEC to be truly independent in the conduct of subsequent elections and not allow itself to be manipulated as was the case in 2019, which its National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, claimed the opposition party won but was denied.
The PDP also called on all security agencies not to allow themselves to be used to subvert electoral processes as was done during the Federal Capital Territory and other elections in Imo and Plateau States recently.
At the same time, the European Union (EU) Election Observation Follow-up Mission, led by the Head of EU Observation Mission, Mrs Maria Arena, yesterday, hinted that it has held talks with political parties and other stakeholders ahead of next elections and would give a report of its meetings soon.
Speaking at a town hall meeting organised by the Nigeria Guild of Editors, INEC national commissioner in charge of Publicity and Chairman Voters Education, Festus Okoye, reiterated that, “The Act also provides that new political association must apply for registration not later than 12 months before a general election while applications for merger must be filed not later than 9 months before election.”
While noting that registration and their participation were already time barred, Okoye said, INEC has already released the timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of the 2023 general election, fixing Presidential and National Assembly elections to hold on the 25th of February 2023 and Governorship and State Assembly Elections to hold on the 11th of March 2023.
He said the law provided that the election funds due to the Commission for any general elections were to be released to the Commission not later than one year before the election.
Okoye explained that Nigeria was entering a critical and challenging phase in its electoral process as there were new, creative and progressive provisions and innovations in the new law, adding: “The law has tight timelines that must be carefully managed.
Under the new law, the Commission shall issue the Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the date fixed for the conduct of elections. Political parties must submit the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates not later than 180 days before the election.”
The INEC national commissioner said the new law contained such new provisions relating to ballot boxes and voting devices, accreditation of voters, determination of over-voting, visually impaired and incapacitated voters, post-election procedure and collation of election results.
According to Okoye, “It also contains power of the Commission to review declared results, nomination of candidates, limitation of election expenses and the jurisdiction of courts in pre-election matters among other provisions.”
He called on the media to isolate and analyse these provisions and thereafter treat the entire law as a compound package for the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
Accordingly, he said a good knowledge of the law and its provisions would assist in crafting good editorials and holding the Commission and the Political Parties accountable to their implementation.
He continued, “The 2023 general election will come with challenges and the Commission is determined to surmount these challenges and conduct free, fair, credible and inclusive election. Growing insecurity in several parts of the country and the increasing number of internally displaced persons will pose challenges to the conduct of the 2023 general election.
“So many of the internally displaced persons are in the houses of friends and relatives and have lost their Permanent Voters Cards and it is next to impossibility to recreate their constituencies and polling units.
“This is because section 47(1) of the Electoral Act clearly provides that a person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a Presiding Officer for accreditation at the polling unit in the constituency in which his name is registered.
“Some of these persons are no longer in their constituencies and can no longer access their polling units and so many of them have lost their Permanent Voters Cards. While it is easy to recreate constituencies and polling units in clustered camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP camps), it is next to impossibility to do so for persons staying in scattered locations,” he stated
In view of this, Okoye said, “For the internally displaced, the Commission will print new Permanent Voters Cards for them and recreate their polling units in their camps and they will be eligible to vote in some of the elections depending on their location and their proximity to their State and Federal Constituencies.
“This is in accord with section 24(1) of the Electoral Act, which provides that, ‘In the event of an emergency affecting an election, the Commission shall, as far as practicable, ensure that persons displaced as a result of the emergency are not disenfranchised.
“Based on this, the Commission developed regulations and guidelines on IDP voting and will implement the intendment of the law and the Regulations and Guidelines,” he disclosed
Okoye hinted that the Commission was currently at the terminal phase of its Continuous Voters Registration Exercise (CVR), as there were so many communities that were still inaccessible to INEC registration officers.
His words: “In the next few weeks, the Commission will roll out modalities for the further devolution and rotation of the CVR to our registration areas and the security of our personnel and the registrants are fundamental to the success of the exercise.
“We are determined to register all eligible registrants but will not expose our staff to unnecessary danger. We will roll out and roll back depending on the security situation in different parts of the country.”
He stated said that it was important for the media to continue to highlight and analyse the causes and possible solutions to the security challenges in the country and continue to hold government accountable.
He equally explained that the various security agencies must try as much as possible to degrade if not neutralise the security threats and challenges in different parts of the country, adding that voting and the exercise of democratic mandate might not be the priority of persons enveloped in a climate and atmosphere of fear and anxiety.
On the innovations in the Commission, he said. “As some of you are aware, the Commission has introduced new and creative changes in the enumeration of voters, the party nomination processes and the conduct of elections. The Commission is currently conducting the Continuous Voters Registration Exercise (CVR) both physically and online using the new INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED).
“The Commission has introduced an online nomination portal through which Political Parties upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates. The Commission has also introduced an online portal through which international and domestic observers and the media apply for accreditation.
“The Commission has also introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation and authentication. The Commission introduced the INEC Result Viewing Portal (iRev) through which polling unit level results are uploaded to a result-viewing portal in real time.
“The Commission is firmly of the view that greater use of technology in the electoral process will, to a large extent, reduce human interference in the voting, counting and collation process.”
However, Okoye said the Commission was conscious of the fact that technology did not operate itself and that the human element is ever present, but added, that the Commission would continue to learn from issues and challenges that arise from the deployment of technology as well as innovate and improve on them.
Meanwhile, Ayu, who spoke yesterday when the EU Observation Mission visited, maintained that the party had evidence that security agencies were used to subvert the electoral processes in the recent bye-election in some states, while charging its members to henceforth rise up and defend their votes.
Speaking at the PDP national secretariat, Ayu charged INEC to be genuinely independent to enable democracy to thrive in Nigeria.
According to him, the PDP was not making flimsy excuses of the security agencies being used to subvert the electoral processes, adding, “We have the hard core evidence and we have submitted same to INEC.”
He said the PDP would mobilise and sensitise the voters as well as asked them to defend their votes when the need arises
“We have seen a decline in those things, which were promoted as a political party, including the establishments or creating of certain institutions that will strengthen democracy in this country. And, therefore, we are very worried that those, instead of strengthening the democratic process, which will see democracy sustained, we see a sustained decline in those democratic practices,” he said.
He identified such things like the conduct of elections, use of security services to attack judges, to attack citizens, instead of protecting them to survive the electoral process.
“We have evidence; I will stand by our position. We are happy that these are not just empty pronouncements, even you. You have shown to me in 2019 report, which you have read – shows clearly some of those problems that we’re complaining – we’ll keep complaining as long as these practices are sustained,” Ayu stated .
The PDP National Chairman explained that the party had evidence that it won the 2019 general election, and lamented that justice was not done.
According to him, it would not be good to allow such injustice to continue as was the case in the last FCT elections, where it was awarded three local governments of Abuja Municipal Area, Kuje and Bwari area councils, whereas it won 44 councillors and the APC won only 18 councillors.
He insisted that the electoral processes were subverted, because Abaji, Kwali and Gwagwalada area councils were in the rural areas of the FCT
The Head, EU Observation Mission, Arena, said the mission had been in the country meeting political parties, stakeholders and media in the last five days and would make its findings known to the public soon.
Culled from THISDAY