•Says only duly nominated candidates by parties or court orders will be recognised
By Chuks Okocha
Ahead of the December 5 National and State Houses of Assembly bye-elections in some states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said it did not have any powers to determine candidates for the elections.
The commission, however, said it would only allow names of candidates on the ballot papers based on the political parties primary elections or the directives of a competent court of law.
INEC made the statement in reference to some contentious senatorial districts in Bayelsa, Imo, Cross River and other states, where there are crises in the nomination of the candidates of some political parties.
Acting chairman of INEC, AVM Ahmed Muazu declared the position of INEC, when the commission met with stakeholders over Imo’s North senatorial election.
According to him, “It is also worth reiterating that the Commission does not have adjudicatory powers. Section 285 of the Constitution vests in the Courts and Tribunals the power to determine pre and post-election disputes.
“By section 285(14) of the Constitution, an aspirant, who complains that any of the provisions of the Electoral Act or any Act of the National Assembly regulating the conduct of primaries of political parties and the provisions of the guidelines of a political party for conduct of party primaries has not been complied with by a political party in respect of the selection or nomination of candidates and participation in election is free to approach the Federal High Court, the State High Courts or the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja to ventilate his or her grievances.
“The Commission is under a constitutional and statutory obligation to comply with any judgment given or order made by any of these Courts. Parties dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of first instance have 14 days to appeal to the Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal has 60 days to deliver judgment in respect of the Appeal.
“The Commission is also under a constitutional and statutory obligation to comply with and give life to the judgment of the Court of Appeal”, the INEC acting chairman declared.
He further explained that the “Commission receives the names and list of candidates validly nominated and in case of disputes, the Courts are given the power to resolve them. The Courts determine the validity of the conduct of party primaries and the Commission is bound to comply with whatever the Court determines.
“We urge aspirants, candidates and political parties to have faith in the Courts and Tribunals and resolve their issues constitutionally and legally but more importantly, within the adjudicatory mechanisms of the political parties”, he stated.
He also appealed to the security agencies to act professionally and ethically in securing the materials, election staff and the electoral environment, saying, “In other words, we expect robust synergy between the security agencies and the electoral management body.
“We propose that the various security agencies will maintain their operational commands in their jurisdictions while the Commission will activate a Joint Situation Room in INEC State office with all representatives of all the security agencies, the National Youth Service Corp and the National Orientation agency.
“The Joint Situation Room will coordinate security deployment and operations before, during and immediately after the election”, AVM Muazu said, adding that the Imo North Senatorial District election will take place in six (6) Local Government Areas spanning 64 registration areas and a registered voter population of 389, 245.
He equally said young men and women would be deployed to these areas as Registration Area Technical Assistants, Monitors, Supervisory Presiding Officers, Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers and urged the security agencies to provide adequate protection for these classes of Nigerians that would be on national assignment.
“We also expect professionalism and good ethical conduct from these election staff. They must, on no account, depart from their oath of neutrality and code of conduct as the abridgement of same or departure from it poses danger to the electoral process and danger to their safety.”
He said the Commission would deploy the Smart Card Readers to every polling unit and resistance to the deployment and use of the Smart Card Reader would earn zero votes for the polling unit, explaining also that INEC would deploy the z-pad for uploading of polling units’ result in real time.
He, however, assured the voters that their votes would count and that the Commission would conduct a good election, while assuring stakeholders that the electoral environment would be made conducive for the exercise of their right to vote.
Meanwhile, about 151 candidates will contest in the bye-elections in 11 states on December 5, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said.
A breakdown of the candidates in the pending bye-elections indicated that while Bayelsa Central Senatorial District has 11 candidates, Bayelsa West Senatorial District has 13. Others are Nganzai and Bayo constituencies in Borno State (14); Dass State Constituency in Bauchi (10) and Cross River North Senatorial District (9); Obudu Constituency in Cross River (6) and Isu-Uzo State Constituency in Enugu (9).
Others are Imo North Senatorial District (14); Bakori State Constituency in Katsina State (13); Ibaji State Constituency in Kogi State (8); Lagos East Senatorial District (12); Kosofe II Constituency in Lagos State (8); Plateau South Senatorial District (10) and Bakura State Constituency in Zamfara State (14).