By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
With just 51 days to the February 16, 2019 elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that pre-election matters would not prevent it from conducting the 2019 polls.
The electoral umpire gave the assurance despite court cases arising from acrimonious primaries conducted by political parties ahead of the 2019 elections, which are still pending before various courts.
The Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which the commission has insisted does not expect to field any candidate for the 2019 elections as well as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) crisis in Ogun State, which is yet be decided by the court, among others, present ready examples.
However, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, told THISDAY that the electoral body does not have the constitutional right or authority to postpone the conduct of the 2019 elections as the date and period for the conduct of the polls had been constitutionally circumscribed.
He stressed that the commission is only allowed or permitted to fix the conduct of the 2019 elections within the constitutionally-circumscribed period and no more.
According to him, “Section 132(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) prescribes that an election to the office of the president shall be held on a date appointed by INEC while Section 132(2) of the same constitution provides that an election to the said office shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 130 days before the expiration of the term of the last holder of that office.”
Okoye stated categorically that any form of manoeuvering outside the constitutionally-prescribed period would lead to uncertainty and constitutional confusion, noting that it will continue to act and operate within its constitutional mandate.
He explained that the electoral umpire released its timetable and schedule of activities in January 2018 and is determined to keep to the intendment and schedule of its activities.
Okoye stated: “The Commission is therefore proceeding with its activities without let or hindrance. The training of its state training officers is proceeding well. The Commission has finalised its regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 election.
“The procurement of sensitive and non-sensitive materials forms part of the core activities of the commission and the commission is following its schedule in the procurement of these items.
“No court decision will obstruct or prevent the commission from printing ballot papers. Ballot papers bear the name and logo of political parties and not the name of candidates. It is therefore not correct to assume or insinuate or imagine that any of the pre-election matters will prevent the commission from carrying out its constitutional and statutory duties.
“The commission will therefore organise, undertake and supervise the two strands of election on the 16th day of February 2019 and the 2nd day of March 2019.”
The national commissioner also revealed that INEC has set up the National Situation Room/Collation Centre for the forthcoming 2019 general election, while the commission has also constituted an advisory committee on logistics for the 2019 general election.
The commission therefore assured Nigerians that nothing has happened to necessitate any form of shift or adjustment of the electoral calendar and the dates released by the commission remains the dates for the conduct of the election.
It also urged those that registered and are yet to collect their permanent voters cards (PVC) to do so as all the cards of those that registered during the Continuous Voters Registration are available for collection.