•Warns commission would be strict on Bayelsa, Kogi gov contest timelines
•Polls not over until after S’Court judgment, says PDP
Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has knocked political parties for not submitting details of their financial transactions during the 2019 general election, including material contributions received from individuals and corporate bodies.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said yesterday in Abuja at a meeting with leaders of political parties to review the conduct of the general election that it was regrettable that none of the political parties had submitted its financial records, three months after the announcement of the results of the general election as provided for in Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
He, therefore, directed the parties that participated in the general election to submit immediately their financial records for the election as well as audited accounts of their parties after the election.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, faulted INEC’s position, saying as far as the opposition party is concerned, the election is not over yet as the party is still at the tribunal.
INEC said the submission of the financial records must contain details of financial contributions by individuals and corporate bodies.
The electoral commission also charged the political parties to make early preparations for the Kogi and Bayelsa State governorship elections slated for November 16 to avoid late-minute rush.
Yakubu said: “I wish to remind you that the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, requires each political party to submit two election expenses reports to the commission. First is the disclosure of material contributions received from individuals and corporate bodies three months after the announcement of the results of the general election as provided for in Section 93(4) of the Electoral Act. So far, no political party is in compliance.
“Secondly, parties are required to submit audited returns of their election expenses within six months after an election as provided for in Section 92(3) [a] of the Electoral Act. Although we are still within the timeframe provided by law, so far only one party has filed its returns. Similarly, the commission notes that only one presidential candidate has submitted financial expenses report. We wish to remind leaders of political parties of their obligations under the law.”
Responding to the allegation by INEC that the parties have not submitted their financial records, Ologbondiyan told THISDAY that the election would not be over until after the election tribunals and the Supreme Court must have delivered judgments on various petitions challenging the outcome of the election.
“We are still at the tribunals. The elections are not over. The party will comply with all relevant electoral laws when we finish our petitions at the tribunal – this time the Supreme Court. So, PDP has not breached any electoral law as regards submitting our financial records to INEC,” he stated.
On his part, the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said he was not in a position to confirm immediately why the ruling party had not submitted the records.
“I am not in a position to confirm to you immediately; I can find out soon and I will feed you back later,” he said.
Also at the meeting, Yakubu told political parties’ leaders that the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates for the 2019 general election was acrimonious, resulting in court cases on the participation or otherwise of political parties and candidates in elections in many constituencies.
He said this made the management of electoral logistics and post-election litigations more challenging to the commission.
“At the moment, there are 809 cases challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties in regular courts across the country. This figure is more than the number of petitions challenging the conduct of the main election currently before the election petition tribunals nationwide.
“It is, therefore, imperative for political parties to build their capacities for internal democracy, voter mobilisation and financial procedures. Effective running of the political parties is crucial to our democratic consolidation. I want to reassure you that for our part, the commission will continue to work with IPAC as enshrined in the Code of Conduct for political parties,” he added.
He also told the political parties’ leaders to be fully prepared for the forthcoming elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.
He said: “In the next few months, governorship elections will hold in Bayelsa and Kogi States. The elections will hold simultaneously in the two states on Saturday, November 16, 2019. The commission has already released the timetable and schedule of activities for the elections. Party primaries are scheduled to hold from August 18, to September 5, 2019. The deadline of September 5, 2019 is firm and fixed.”
According to him, the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates must be transparent and democratic in accordance with the provisions of Section 87 of the Electoral Act as well as INEC regulations and guidelines.
The commission also expects strict compliance with all rules and regulations by all parties wishing to nominate candidates for the elections as INEC would not accept any nomination arising from primaries conducted after the deadline.
He said: “So far, three political parties have given us notices indicating the dates for their primaries for both Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. The commission once again reminds party leaders to do the needful. In doing so, you should indicate not only the dates but also venues and time for the primaries.
“I urge you to avoid persistent rescheduling of your primaries or late minute change of venue which sometimes disenfranchise your members and make effective monitoring by the commission difficult. Where political parties opt for direct primaries, there should be proper register of members otherwise it will amount to conducting an election without the voters’ register.”
He also said the meeting was called to enable both INEC as the electoral umpire and parties’ leaders as participants to exchange ideas on how to improve the electoral process and conduct elections whose outcomes would not generate much acrimony.
“I want to assure you that we shall give expeditious consideration to the actionable recommendations from this meeting that fall within the powers of the commission to handle administratively. We shall also work with IPAC to ensure that the required amendments to the legal framework are given speedy consideration by the National Assembly,” he said.
On other activities of INEC, the chairman said: “As we prepare for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, we are also preparing for a bye-election in Plateau State. Late last week, we received the declaration of vacancy from the Speaker of the State House of Assembly in respect of Pengana State Constituency following the death of its elected member shortly after he was declared winner in the State Assembly elections held nationwide on 9th March 2019.
“This will be the first bye-election so soon after the general election and barely a month after the inauguration of the state assembly. A date will be announced by the commission before the end of this week,” he said.