•   Faults INEC on banning of campaigns

By Martins Ifijeh

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to apologise to Nigerians for their deliberate refusal to implement the far-reaching recommendations of the Electoral Reforms Panels headed by retired Justice Mohammed Uwais, Sheik Ahmed Lemu and Dr. Ken Nnamani, which were set up by the Yar’adua, Jonathan and Buhari regimes, respectively.

The senior lawyer has also called on the federal government to revisit the reports of the committees, saying each of the panels had recommended the unbundling of the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC) for effective performance.

Falana has also faulted INEC’s decision to stop political parties from engaging in campaigns, stressing that the electoral body has not paid attention to Section 99 of the Electoral Act, which  provides that the period of campaigning in public by political parties shall end 24 hours before polling day.

The rights activist argued that since elections have been shifted, the period of campaign has also shifted and will end 24 hours to the new polling day.

“Therefore, the limitation of campaign imposed by INEC should be reversed without any delay. Furthermore, INEC should comply with all valid and subsisting court orders with respect to the candidates sponsored by political parties for the general elections.  Otherwise, the courts may annul some of the elections conducted by INEC on grounds of exclusion of qualified candidates,” Falana added.

Falana said in a statement yesterday that the shameful postponement of the 2019 general election would not have occured if the federal government  had unbundled the INEC and ensured the practice of internal democracy in  the political parties.

According to him, it is public knowledge that both APC and PDP have not committed themselves to electoral reforms.

He argued that the two parties have conveniently forgotten that the late President Umaru Yar’adua had admitted that the 2007 general election, which produced his regime was highly flawed.

“Since the system will continue to produce flawed elections all democratic forces should mount sufficient pressure on the federal government to implement the recommendations of the aforesaid electoral reform panels, once the 2019 rescheduled elections are concluded,” he said.

Falana acknowledged that by virtue of section 26 of the Electoral Act, an election may be postponed if a serious breach of peace or violence is likely to occur or on account of natural disaster or other emergencies.

To prevent any abuse of power, he said the reasons for postponement of any election must be cogent and verifiable.

“Furthermore, section 105 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria provides that if the Federation is at war in which the territory of  the country is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections the national assembly may pass a resolution to postpone the election. And such postponement shall not be more than six months at any one time,” he said.

Falana insisted that any postponement of elections on account of logistical or operational reasons cannot be justified under the Electoral Act or the Constitution.

“Since general election had been postponed on two previous occasions due to lack of adequate preparations, the Independent National Electoral Commission ought to have prevented the shifting of the 2019 general election. Even though all the political parties have blamed INEC for the postponement some of them contributed to the national shame and embarrassment. Owing to the decision of political leaders to select and impose candidates on their parties in utter violation of section 87 of the Electoral Act  many aggrieved candidates rushed to court for legal redress. Consequently, not less than 600 pre-election cases were filed and are pending in the various courts while not less 40 orders have directed INEC to accept the names of candidates who won the primaries but were shortchanged.  The resort to litigation due to the impunity of majority of  political parties contributed to the unwarranted delay in the preparations of INEC for the general elections,” Falana explained.