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Off-cycle polls: Call your supporters to order, INEC urges political parties

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(Photo: INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu exchanging pleasantries with party leaders during a meeting with the political leaders on the review of 2023 general election)

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has appealed to political leaders to call their supporters to order to ensure violence-free campaigns and peaceful governorship elections in the Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi off-cycle governorship election.

Yakubu made the call during the commission’s quarterly consultative meeting with political parties on the review of the 2023 general elections.

He said that the 2023 general election was being reviewed and there is need to focus attention on the forthcoming by-elections and the off-cycle governorship elections in the three states.

Yakubu said that while INEC would focus on improving its performance in the elections, party leaders should have similar introspection on the conduct of their candidates and their supporters.

“The use of thugs during elections to harass election officials, intimidate voters and disrupt processes, sometimes resulting in the destruction of election materials or even worse, must be addressed.

“Campaign in public by parties and candidates in the three states commenced on July 14 as provided in the timetable and schedule of activities for the governorship elections.

“Sadly, there are already disturbing reports of clashes between opposing parties with claims and counter claims of innocence or culpability. These claims help no one. Call your supporters to order,’’ yakubu said.

The INEC boss also warned against the use of power of incumbency to deny opposition parties access to state facilities or media for campaign, saying it was against the law.

“I must also acknowledge the perennial complaints from some political parties that the power of incumbency is used in some states to restrain some parties and candidates from access to public facilities for media campaigns and outdoor advertising through exorbitant fees or outright denial.

“This often leads to the mutual destruction of advertising materials such as billboards, resulting in altercation and violence involving supporters of opposing political parties,’’ he said.

Yakubu, who said that the matter would be discussed at the next meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) on Friday, urged party leaders to join in discouraging such lawlessness.

He also urged political leaders to challenge such actions in the court.

“I think the denial of access to state facilities by political parties is a violation of the law that shouldn’t be tolerated. There shouldn’t be reward for bad behaviour.

“Political parties that are here, some of the states where you denied political citizens access are controlled by you, so please also join through IPAC in speaking to the leadership of your state where such situations arise,’’ he said.

Yakubu commended political parties for the leading roles they played in the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

He said that political parties supported the expansion of voter access to polling units and many innovations introduced by INEC.

These, he said, included the online pre-registration of voters, nomination of candidates and the accreditation of party agents.

He said that they also supported INEC’s effort to deepen the use of technology in voter accreditation and result management, as well as the provision of assistive devices in aid of persons with disability during elections.

“The Commission appreciates the role of political parties through the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in voter education within the limits of available resources both during off-cycle and the general election.

“Your robust engagement with the National Assembly contributed a lot to the 4th and 5th alterations to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022,’’ he said.

The INEC boss said that following the conclusion of the election, seven political parties won senatorial seats: eight parties in the House of Representatives and nine in the State Houses of Assembly.

Yakubu said that the commission was working on the electronic register of election results as provided by Section 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

He added that a comprehensive list of elected candidates for the 1,491 constituencies distributed by name, constituency, political party and gender would be uploaded to INEC’s website in the afternoon for public information.

 

Yakubu, however, said that INEC was aware that while there are many positive developments from the general election, there were challenges encountered which must be addressed.

“The Commission is aware that many aspects of the electoral process are currently being litigated at the various election petition tribunals.

“Nevertheless, we must review them broadly without touching on the merits of the cases in court.

“Our hope is that at the end of the review process, a comprehensive report will be prepared.

“The report will serve as a basis for further engagement with stakeholders focusing on specific actions necessary for the improvement of future elections and electoral activities.’’

In his remarks, IPAC National Chairman, Sani Yabagi lauded INEC’s continuous engagements and discussions with political party leaders on ways to improve Nigeria’s electoral system and deepening its democracy.

Yabagi noted that the 2023 general elections might had come and gone, but there was obvious need for stakeholders continued sincere discussions on strategies to make the electoral process more transparent, credible and inclusive.

He said that IPAC’s position was that INEC deserved commendation for the incremental use of technology in its operations.

“Undoubtedly, some of the outcomes in the election attest to the benefits of increased usage and efficient deployment of technology in the conduct of our elections,’’ he said.

The IPAC Chairman commended the political parties who challenged the outcome of the 2023 general election, and urged the courts not to base their decisions on some perverse public policy rationale or technicalities.

He said that the decision should rather be based on reasoned and reasonable interpretation of substantive and procedural law, adding that, “What Nigeria needs now is fairness, equity and justice.’’

On the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU/EOM) report no the 2023 General Election, Yabagi said that IPAC carried out a dispassionate review of the report, as well as listened to stakeholders reviews on it.

“IPAC has since referred them to the IPAC 2023 Elections Review Committee set up to unearth all immediate and remote causes surrounding the conduct and the outcome of the election.

“The findings and recommendations of the IPAC 2023 Review Committee will assist in engendering dialogue amongst all stakeholders on electoral, legal and administrative reforms necessary to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria,’’ he said.

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Justice Abimbola Awogboro of a Federal High Court in Lagos, on Friday, sentenced popular cross-dresser, Idris Okuneye, popularly known as Bobrisky, to six months in custody over Naira abuse.

 

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Emefiele was admitted to bail with two sureties in like sum by Justice Rahmon Oshodi on Friday.

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