By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the ninth National Assembly to commence and conclude in earnest the amendment to the Electoral Act ahead of the 2023 general election.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this Thursday in Abuja while presenting the Certificate of Return to the elected members of the National Assembly.
Yakubu noted that as a matter of urgency, the commission would begin work on post 2019 elections review and road mark to 2023 general election.
He stated: “There is a lot of work but very little time available. As a process governed by law, the success of election in Nigeria depends to a large extent on the electoral legal framework and most importantly in ensuring adherence to the law.
“I want to assure you that we will continue to work with the National Assembly to review and strengthen our electoral law.
“But, I want to appeal to the senators-elect to please start work early and conclude work on electoral framework in a good time well ahead of the 2023 general election.
“The tendency to delay electoral reform particularly the review of electoral framework until it is too close to the elections leave the commission with little time to develop processes including regulations and guidelines, make required consultation with stakeholders, embark on effective voter education including sensitisation, train staff and organised deployment for the elections.”
Yakubu said he was glad that among the senators-elect are senators that the commission have worked very closely with, adding that some of them have taken the initiative or even sponsoring private member bills to advance the cause of electoral reform.
He stressed: “We look forward to working very closely with you in the next Senate. However, all these are matters to be considered. I hope we will do so in earnest, but today is your day I congratulate you and I wish you well in the service of our dear nation.”
Meanwhile, the electoral body has maintained grave silence five days after it suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State.
The commission had on Sunday suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State after the invasion of the state collation centre by soldiers, which later prompted the setting up of a Fact-Finding Committee to assess the situation in the state.
The commission subsequently gave the committee 48 hours to submit its report before taking any further decision.
However, five days after, the commission has refused to make known the findings of the committee.
The electoral body had said that the initial assessment revealed widespread disruption of the electoral process and the harassment and intimidation of various categories of permanent and ad hoc staff of the commission.
It stated: “The commission will take a stand when the Fact-Finding Committee submits its report. We urge the people of Rivers State to continue to maintain the peace and await the decision of the Commission on the way forward.
“The Fact-Finding Committee will enable the commission to understand the dynamics of the situation in Rivers State. The commission will take a rational and informed decision that agrees with the constitution, the law and its regulations and guidelines. The commission is determined to protect the sovereign right of the people of Rivers State to determine those that will preside over their affairs.”
Meanwhile, a source in INEC told THISDAY Thursday that the commission is yet to take a decision on Imo West Senatorial district, whose seat the Governor of the State, Rochas Okorocha contested.
Okorocha’s name was conspicuously missing when the list of senators-elect were published on the commission’s website released Thursday, last week.
Okorocha, who contested the seat on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared winner by the Returning Officer, Innocent Ibeawuchi, but later claimed that he was forced to announce Okorocha as winner under duress.
This prompted the commission to say that declaration would not be made if any politician held its staff hostage or force any of its staff to make declaration under duress.
Asked if INEC will conduct fresh election in Imo West senatorial district, the source said: “INEC is yet to take any decision, but maybe the commission will take a decision after the supplementary election.”