By Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again reminded political parties to furnish the Commission with their election expenses and contribution reports in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The Commission noted that only seven out of 14 political parties that participated in the Edo State governorship election had complied, while only eight out of seventeen that participated in Ondo State governorship met the demand.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, gave the reminder in his remarks during the quarterly meeting between the Commission and political parties.
According to him, “may I also draw your attention to your obligation under Sections 92 (3) and 93(4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which require political parties to submit to the Commission their election expenses reports within six months and election contribution report within three months after the declarations of result of an election.
“We have reminded political parties of these obligations in respect of the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections held last year. However, only seven out of 14 political parties have responded in the case of Edo State and 7 out of seventeen for Ondo State. We wish to remind political parties of the consequences of the failure to do so as enshrined in the Electoral Act. We therefore expect all defaulting parties to comply in earnest as you prepare for forthcoming elections.”
INEC also frowned at the inability of the parties to conduct rancour free primaries to elect their candidates for elections, adding that the Commission is pained that party candidates are now determined by judgment of Courts after winners of elections have been announced.
“The Commission is not happy that candidates for elections are now being determined through litigation long after elections have been concluded and winners declared by INEC. The problem lies squarely with the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates by some political parties. We urge you to hold yourselves to the same high standard of free, fair, and credible elections that you hold INEC in all elections,” Yakubu said.
According to him, “at our last meeting held on 5th February 2021, the main subject matter was our proposal to address the crisis of voter access to Polling Units in Nigeria. The Commission proposed to do so by converting the well-known and well-established voting points and voting point settlements to polling units and consolidating them with the existing polling units.
“We decided to consult widely with stakeholders. Considering your central role in our democracy, the Commission began the series of consultations with leaders of political parties. After extensive interactions with other stakeholders and fieldwork by officials of the Commission, the number of polling units and consequently voter access to them has been substantially enhanced. Nigeria now has 176,846 polling units. Only Wednesday 16th June 2021, the Commission presented the new polling units to Nigerians and their distribution nationwide. The list is already uploaded on our website and social media platforms.
“On behalf of the Commission, I would like to express our appreciation once again to leaders of political parties for your support. I want to reassure you that the Commission will continue to consult you on matters critical to the consolidation of our electoral process. Infographics containing the summary of the new distribution of polling units in Nigeria is contained in your folders for this meeting. We believe that political parties will use the information in planning for future elections, including the nomination of your polling agents for elections.”
He continued that, “closely tied to the expansion of voter access to polling units is the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), including the creation of a portal that will enable Nigerians to commence their registration online before concluding the process physically at designated centres. The Commission has fixed Monday 28th June 2021 for the exercise to commence nationwide. The CVR will be a major issue for discussion at this meeting. The Commission will demonstrate to you how the proposed online registration will proceed, including a presentation of the new INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED).
“As you are aware, a number of bye-elections and major end of tenure elections are scheduled to hold before the 2023 General Election. This weekend, two bye-elections are holding in Kaduna State for the Sabon Gari State Constituency in which five political parties are fielding candidates and in Jigawa State for the Gwaram Federal Constituency where ten political parties are participating.
“We have concluded all arrangements for these bye-elections, including the sensitive materials that will arrive today in the two constituencies. So far, the processes have been rancour-free. We urge you to appeal to your candidates and supporters to maintain the current peaceful atmosphere. For the outstanding bye-elections, I want to assure you that as soon as vacancies are declared by the Hon. Speaker of the House of Representatives, we will release the timetable for the Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency of Plateau State and the Lere Federal Constituency of Kaduna State.
“Again, as you are aware, the Commission has already released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Ekiti State Governorship elections holding on 18th June 2022 and that of Osun State holding on 16th July 2022. Copies of the timetable have been sent to your various offices officially, but we have also included the infographics in your folders for this meeting.
“There purpose of the advanced notice for the two elections is to provide you and other stakeholders ample time to prepare for the elections as we have done in similar situations in the past, the latest being the Anambra Governorship election and the Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“In respect of the Anambra State Governorship election, all the 18 political parties have expressed interest to participate and have scheduled their primaries for the election in line with the dates provided for in the Timetable released by the Commission.
“In the case of the FCT Area Council elections, political parties have concluded their primaries for the 68 constituencies made up of 6 Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors. A total of 14 out of 18 political parties have nominated 110 candidates for Chairmanship/Deputy Chairmanship positions and 362 candidates for Councillorships. Altogether, 14 political parties have nominated 472 candidates to vie for 68 elective positions in the FCT. An infographic distribution of the nominations by Area Councils is included in your folders for this meeting.
“On this note, I would like to remind political parties about the recent letters written to you by the Commission on the imperative of complying with the provisions of the law as well as our regulations governing the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates.
“The Commission is not happy that candidates for elections are now being determined through litigation long after elections have been concluded and winners declared by INEC. The problem lies squarely with the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates by some political parties. We urge you to hold yourselves to the same high standard of free, fair, and credible elections that you hold INEC in all elections.
“You must ensure strict compliance with your party Constitutions, the law and the Commission’s regulations and guidelines on party primaries in particular and the management of party affairs in general. After all, Nigerians only exercise their democratic right to elect leaders from the candidates presented by political parties. Electing good leaders begins with the quality of primaries conducted by political parties. We will do our part to ensure that our elections continue to improve.
“May I also draw your attention to your obligation under Sections 92 (3) and 93(4) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which require political parties to submit to the Commission their election expenses reports within six months and election contribution report within three months after the declarations of result of an election. We have reminded political parties of these obligations in respect of the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections held last year. However, only seven out of 14 political parties have responded in the case of Edo State and 8 out of seventeen for Ondo State.
“We wish to remind political parties of the consequences of the failure to do so as enshrined in the Electoral Act. We therefore expect all defaulting parties to comply in earnest as you prepare for forthcoming elections.”
In his address, Chairman Inter-Party Advisory Council, Dr. Leonard Nzenwa, said the parties are aware of the concerns raised by the Commission.
According to him, “as party mangers, we have not swept these concerns under the carpet as we are convinced that why this have continued to thrive is partly on account of dearth of credible, quality, patriotic and selfless individuals with impeccable democratic credentials to drive the push for organic and representative democracy in the country.
“To this end, the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, which I am privileged to lead is in advanced partnership discussion stage with the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria to help strengthen capacity of political parties to conduct proper and professional due diligence on aspirants seeking to contest for various positions under the platforms of the various parties in the country before and after elections.
“We are hopeful that this effort will yield positive result as deep professional background checks exercised on aspirants to ascertain their integrity, credibility and electoral worth before and after polls with further scrutiny by security agencies and other stakeholders will help the polity. This will support the parties to have rancor free party primary.”