The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has said it is noteworthy that since its inauguration in November 2015, none of the seven off-season governorship elections conducted so far (polls held outside the context of the general elections) has been overturned by the courts.
He declared that the achievement was evident that the Commission has demonstrated the capacity to fine-tune its operations, sustain stakeholder engagements and rapidly respond to field challenges in its continuing efforts to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
Revealing the state of preparedness of INEC for the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, Yakubu told a gathering at the second anniversary colloquium of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) that the Commission has conducted elections in not less than 197 constituencies outside the context of the general elections. They include court-ordered re-run elections, bye-elections and end-of-tenure polls.
The 2019 governorship elections were conducted only in 29 states because similar elections have already been conducted in the seven other states (Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun).
According to the INEC chairman, who was represented at the event by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, “All non-sensitive materials for the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa and Kogi States have been delivered to the two states, while sensitive materials will be delivered one month before the election day.”
He further disclosed that “the Commission has made all uncollected Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) available for collection, and this will continue till September 30. Seven out of the activities have so far been undertaken. The eighth activity, which is the last day for the submission of nomination forms by political parties, will take place on October 2. The official register of voters will be published on October 3 while the final list of nominated candidates will follow on October 17. There will be three other activities until the election day on November 16.”
Informing the gathering that the ninth National Assembly has already referred 12 bills seeking to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2015 to the Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matters for further legislative action after the second reading, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by Hon. Tijani Kayode Ismail, said the major areas of the proposed amendment include:- ‘A bill proposing that a court or tribunal should declare the person with the second highest votes winner of an election if it finds/holds that the winner of the election was not qualified to contest the election ab initio.
‘A bill proposing to mandate all political parties to ensure that women leaders are women or persons of the feminine gender, and that all youth leaders are between the ages of 18 to 45 as at the date of elections into such offices.
‘A bill for an Act to outline a procedure for the use of the Smart Card Reader in elections
‘A bill for an Act to increase maximum election expenses to be incurred by a presidential or gubernatorial candidate, senatorial and House of Representatives seat; state assembly and council area chairmanship elections. It also seeks to increase the amount that an entity or individual can donate to a candidate.”
‘A bill for an Act that seeks to amend section 34 of the Principal Act to enable candidates who observe that their names are missing from the Commission’s list of nominated candidates to notify the Commission in writing not later than 21days to an election. It also seeks to amend section 49 to allow an eligible voter or candidate notifies the presiding officer of an omission of his/her party logo. There is also a new subsection 140 (4) to enable the tribunal call for a bi-election between the winner of a first election and a candidate whose party logo was omitted on the ballot paper in that election.
‘A bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Electoral Offence Commission, which shall examine all electoral offences connected with, or incidental to the commission of an electoral offence. The Commission shall also monitor and keep records of the activities of all registered political parties, examine and investigate all reported cases of electoral offences among others.
‘A bill for an Act to establish the Electoral Offences Tribunal situated in Abuja that shall be a superior court of record with an equal status with the high court. It also provided for the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribunal to try electoral offences and provide for its composition and powers.
‘A bill for an Act to make the electoral process fool-proof by making the Card reader a credible means of voter accreditation and voting, and providing strict compliance to election guidelines and manual so as to enhance transparency and efficiency in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
‘A bill for an Act to amend Sections 33 and 36 of the Electoral Act to provide a framework that will enable a vice-presidential candidate or deputy gubernatorial candidate to conclude the poll where the nominated candidate for a political office of president of governor of a state dies. Other amendments include providing that a political party can conduct fresh elections for any of the legislative houses of the federation, if during the commencement of a poll but before the conclusion of same, a candidate nominated and sponsored by a party dies. The bill also seeks to prohibit substitution of candidates once polls have commenced.
‘A bill for an Act to include Nigerians in Diaspora who are qualified to vote in the list of voters that the Commission should include in its National Register of Voters for presidential elections. Under the provisions of the bill, the commission in collaboration with the Nigerian embassy/liaison office will decide the number of registration and voting centres Nigerians in the Diaspora can vote.
‘A bill for an Act to further amend section 33 of the Principal Act by inserting a provision to enable a party to choose the running mate of a nominated candidate who dies before the conclusion of a gubernatorial election to replace the deceased gubernatorial candidate. However, the party may choose another candidate as replacement in the event the running mate withdraws from the election. The bill also seeks to provide accreditation solely by the electronic card reader. It however provides for cases where the cards reader fails or malfunctions.
‘A bill for an Act to provide a time frame for the submission of list of candidates, disclosure of sources of funds contributed for political parties and to empower the Commission to uphold party primaries where there is a change in the result and for related matters’.
The Colloquium which was chaired by the Dean of the School of Communications, Lagos State University, Prof. Lai Osho, also had in attendance the Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, who was represented by Dr. Adeleke Ipaye; founder of DAME Awards, Mr. Lanre Idowu; Mrs. Yetunde Iwuoha, Mr. Austeen Elewodalu among others.