INEC Refuses Parties’ Request to Extend Deadline for Primaries By 37 Days

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Chuks Okocha

The Independent National Electoral Commission has rejected a request by the 18 registered political parties, through the Inter-Party Advisory Council, for an extension of the deadline for the conduct of party primaries

The parties requested the extension yesterday at INEC’s second quarterly consultative meeting with political parties in 2022. The INEC Chairman stood firm on the timetable of activities insisting there will be no shift.

INEC had reviewed its schedules for the 2023 general election in February after President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the electoral Act, 2022.

In compliance with the new legislation, the commission earmarked April 4 to June 3 for the conduct of party primaries.

Last week, the commission had maintained that the deadline for the conduct of primaries remains “firm and fixed”.

While the umbrella body of political parties, the Inter Parties Advisory Council (IPAC), appealed to INEC to tamper with the time tables and schedules of activities, the commission insisted on strict adherence to the time tables for the presidential and other elections, because tampering with the timetable could create complications.

All the political parties have up till June 3, 2022, to conclude all their presidential primaries and other primary elections.

At its quarterly meeting with all registered political parties, the INEC chairman,  Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said, “Twice in the last two weeks, the Commission had cause to remind political parties of the necessity for strict compliance with the timelines for party primaries. I, hereby, reiterate the position of the commission that, there will be no review of the timelines. There are so many inter-related activities that are associated with the timelines, which must be carried out.

“Any review to extend the timeline for one activity will affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the Commission. This will ultimately result in more complications than what the extension seeks to achieve.

“Therefore, the Commission will not review the timelines. Working together, we should ensure fidelity to the timelines in conducting transparent and democratic primaries for the purpose of electing candidates for the 1,491 constituencies for which elections will be held on 25th February and 11th March 2023”.

Earlier,  the chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Yusuf Sani, had requested for a 37-day extension to enable the political parties meet up with the INEC timetable and schedules of activities.

Justifying why there should be an extension for 37 days, he said, “Some of the issues considered by the IPAC General Assembly, which necessitated the call for extension in the timeframe of the present INEC timetable and schedule of activities were based on certain circumstances and developments that have hampered timely and strict compliance by the political parties to the timetable. Some of the constraining developments which, we believe were not considered and therefore, not factored by the NEC while drawing up its schedule of activities include the following:

“The Christian Lenten season and the Muslim fasting in the month of Ramadan respectively followed by the celebrations of Easter and Eid El Fitr, (Sallah), in which the vast majority of party members were involved. The developments inevitably, therefore, greatly disrupted planned activities and programmes of the political parties, leading to the loss of about two weeks out of the allotted time of the timetable. It is also, noteworthy that, the scenario was the first time that the two major events in the Christian and Muslim calendars would be occurring around the period of general election.

“The forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States within the timeline of the INEC for the conduct of party primaries were additional remarkable distractions and constraints that obviously affected the political parties, because most of them are, understandably, preoccupied with preparations for the conduct of the elections.

“Very pertinently, the IPAC General Assembly regards the time allotted by INEC for the conduct of party primaries as too short in view of the efforts required by the political parties for effective and scrupulous screening and selection of qualified and quality flag bearers. The significance of a tidy selection of party candidates in the elections comes, in the country in the long run, with the benefits of minimizing conflicts with all the likelihood of slowing down the electoral process.

“Relatedly, while the unprecedented large number of aspirants jostling to emerge as candidates of their various political parties in the coming general elections, have made the task of screening very cumbersome and demanding, the political parties, have also had to be cautious and painstaking in the screening and selection procedures as a safeguard against creating rooms for disruptive incidents of litigation by aggrieved aspirants

“In making the request for extension in the INEC stipulated timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election, we in the Inter-Party Advisory Council, are not unmindful of the visions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act with respect to timelines in the electoral process. We are, however, of the considered view that our request will not, in any way, tantamount to an infringement or, a breach of any extant laws and provisions. This is because, the alterations that we are demanding, will not affect the statutory dates already fixed for the conduct of the 2023 general election.”