Political Parties Are Empowered To Conduct Primaries, Says INEC

Mr Festus Okoye was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said political parties are backed by law to conduct primary elections.

INEC Chairman, Information and Voter Committee, Festus Okoye, stated this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday.

“The conduct of primaries is within the domestic realm of the various political parties,” he said while making reference to Section 87 of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

“But the only thing Section 87 makes clear is that in conducting their party primaries, the various political parties must be democratic and also conform to internal democratic principles within their own framework”.

Okoye also reacted to the recent passage of the electronic transmission of election results by the Senate chamber of the National Assembly.

While noting that the issue was in view, the INEC official said the Conference Committee would have to meet before sending the bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.

READ ALSO: Senate Bows To Pressure, Gives INEC Sole Power On Transmission Of Results

He explained that once the bill has been signed, it becomes binding on the electoral umpire for implementation in future elections.

“When you have direct primaries and you say the commission must monitor all the direct primaries of the political parties, the implication is that if the political parties are organising their primaries in every ward, the commission must deploy to over 8,809 registration areas to go and monitor the primaries of these political parties.

“That is huge resources in terms of the personnel that will be deployed and also in terms of cost involved. But the moment the law is passed, the commission will not have challenges in obeying the law,” Okoye added.

His remarks come a day after the Senate bowed to pressure and gave INEC the sole power to determine the mode of transmission of results.

This followed the reversal of the Senate’s earlier decision that INEC may consider the electronic transmission of results “provided national [network] coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure” by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.

Under a new amendment of Clause 52 (2) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate resolved that “voting at an election and transmission of results under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting.”

Electronic Transmission Of Results Will Reduce Electoral Fraud, Says Wike

A file photo of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

 

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike on Tuesday said the electronic transmission of results if adopted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will reduce electoral fraud.

Speaking during an interview in Port Harcourt, the state capital, Wike commended the National Assembly for empowering INEC to determine the mode of transmission of results.

While describing the parliament’s move as a welcome development, he said the process would be a trust in the nation’s electoral system that would also reduce election litigations.

READ ALSO: Senate Bows To Pressure, Gives INEC Sole Power On Transmission Of Results

He however urged the National Assembly not to not to decide for political parties, the method to be adopted in the conduct of their primary election as been recommended in some clauses in the Electoral Act Repeal and Re-Enactment bill.

“Now that the result will be transmitted electronically, no way for rigging,” he said. “Only those who support rigging are against results to be transmitted electronically.

“If any politician believes that he or she has done well for the people, you will know that that politician will not be afraid and will say ‘whichever way you want to transmit the result, I am available for it but I want it to be transparent.

“I want people to have confidence in the electoral system to help INEC so that nobody goes to attack INEC officials.”

According to him, parties could adopt a procedure in electing who represents them at various levels and not for the National Assembly to say whether it is direct or indirect primary.

While noting that Nigeria practices democracy, the governor said the mode of primary should be at the discretion of political parties.

The National Assembly decision followed the reversal of the Senate’s earlier decision that INEC may consider the electronic transmission of results “provided national [network] coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure” by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.

Under a new amendment of Clause 52 (2) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate resolved that “voting at an election and transmission of results under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting”.

Senate Bows To Pressure, Gives INEC Sole Power On Transmission Of Results

 

Amid increased calls that election results should be transmitted electronically, the Senate on Tuesday bowed to pressure and gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the sole power to determine the mode of transmission of results.

This followed the reversal of the Senate’s earlier decision that INEC may consider the electronic transmission of results “provided national [network] coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure” by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.

Under a new amendment of Clause 52 (2) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate resolved that “voting at an election and transmission of results under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission, which may include electronic voting”.

READ ALSO: Chidinma Pleads Not Guilty To Murder Of Super TV CEO Usifo Ataga

The move was part of decisions taken by the Senate when it passed a bill to re-commit some clauses in the Electoral Act Repeal and Re-Enactment bill which was earlier passed separately by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Presenting a motion for the changes before the Senate, Majority Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, said after a critical examination of the Bill by the Senate Committee on INEC, some fundamental issues were observed which required fresh legislative action. He listed the clauses that required action as 43,52,62,87.

Section 87 deals with the method of primaries to be adopted by political parties.

The Senate had earlier adopted during the amendment of the electoral act that parties should adopt either direct or indirect primaries.

However, based on the observation by its INEC Committee, the lawmakers supported direct primaries while some others did not.

Senator Adamu AlIero supported direct primaries arguing that it will strengthen and deepen democracy and will make the electoral process transparent. He said it will elongate a system where money bags will hijack the process.

However, based on the observation by its INEC Committee, the Senate opted for a repeal of the section to select a specific method of primaries. Some lawmakers support direct primaries while some others do not.

Senator Adamu AlIero argued in favour of direct primaries, saying that it will strengthen and deepen democracy and will make the electoral process transparent.

However, Senator Smart Adeyemi disagreed, throwing his support for indirect primaries.

According to Senator Adeyemi, indirect primaries is better for the country because the majority of party members are illiterate and they will need enlightenment if they are going to be asked to come out and vote. He added that indirect primaries are cheaper to conduct.

After the debate, the majority of lawmakers voted in favour of direct primaries and it was adopted by the Senate.

Over 2.5 Million Registered Voters Eligible For Anambra Election, Says INEC

A file photo of INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday said over 2.5 million registered voters are eligible to participate in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.

INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this during an emergency meeting of political parties at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

According to him, a total of 138,802 citizens registered to vote during the first quarter of the agency’s Continuous Voter Registration exercise which commenced in June.

However, it was discovered that 62,698 people who are already registered voters, had applied again.

READ ALSO: INEC Releases Final List Of Candidates For Anambra Election

“The number of valid registrants in Anambra State at the end of the First Quarter of the CVR exercise on 5th September 2021 is 77,475,” Professor Yakubu said.

“This figure has been added to the existing register of 2,447,996 eligible voters used for the 2019 General Election. Accordingly, the number of registered voters in Anambra State now stands at 2,525,471. We shall provide a detailed breakdown of the figure for public information in the days ahead.”

While noting that the commission will provide further details to Nigerians on the situation in other States of the Federation and action to be taken on the matter, the INEC Chairman cautioned Nigerians against double registration.

While lamenting the spate of attacks in Anambra State, the commission said security remains a major challenge to its preparations.

“For the political parties, these heinous attacks have truncated campaigns, making voter mobilization and sensitization impossible. Consequently, Anambra State is not in the usual election mood. It is in the light of the security situation in the State that the Commission held an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) last Tuesday.

“The meeting was frank and productive. We are assured of the determination of the security agencies to protect voters, election staff, election observers, the media, transport providers and candidates during the election. Already, security around INEC facilities in the State has been ramped up.

“We are also confident that the heightened deployment of security officials, which is expected in the coming weeks, will further give citizens the confidence to turn up and vote on Election Day. We shall continue to work with the security agencies to ensure that the election is successful and violence-free,” Yakubu added.

The INEC Chairman also appealed to all political parties and candidates not to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity in Anambra State through unguarded utterances and actions.

He warned that doing so could compound the security situation and make the Commission’s work even more difficult.

Anambra Election: INEC, NSA Meet Over Worsening Insecurity

 

Ahead of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday met with the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.

The meeting, which was held at the INEC conference room in Abuja, had in attendance the Chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, heads of various security agencies, Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) as well as senior electoral officials.

Mr Monguno was represented by an NSA official, Sanusi Galadima.

In his remarks, Yakubu decried the worsening insecurity in Anambra, warning that the rate of attacks in the state may affect the commission’s plan for the poll if not properly tackled.

He said the commission is particularly concerned about the safety of staff and Adhoc staff who will help in the conduct of the election, adding that they need strong assurances of their safety during and after the election.

READ ALSO: Gunmen Invade, Set Ablaze Joe Igbokwe’s House In Anambra

According to the INEC boss, information at his disposal indicated that the attackers who have unleashed mayhem in the south-eastern state do not want the governorship election to hold next month.

While recalling the last meeting held on September 9 where the commission reviewed its preparedness for the exercise, Yakubu lamented that the attacks had increased since then.

He also decried a situation whereby many innocent lives have been lost in the region with several properties destroyed.

“From the reports we have received, the stated goal of many of the attackers is that the Governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021 must not hold,” Yakubu said.

“This is worrisome for the Commission. We are deeply concerned that specific electoral facilities and materials could once more become targets of attack.”

“Recall that in May this year, our State Office at Awka was attacked and all the non-sensitive materials assembled for the election at the time were destroyed.

“In addition, our store, collation center and the main office building were either totally or substantially damaged. The Commission also lost several vehicles to be used for the election.”

Despite the attacks, the INEC Chairman vowed that the electoral body would proceed with the election that is barely a month from now.

He however said INEC’s commitment would not be to the detriment of the security of about 26,000 of its officials, including National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members and university students who will be deployed for the election.

On his part, the National Security Adviser said the upsurge of attacks in the state was carried out to stop the democratic process.

Speaking through Sanusi Galadima, the NSA said his office has initiated steps in collaboration with security agencies in the country to stop the separationists’ attempts in the region ahead of the poll.

The South-East region has witnessed a high rate of criminality including killings and kidnappings in the last few months.

Dozens of police officers have been killed in such attacks in the region and public facilities including vehicles and buildings destroyed.

If Politicians Trust INEC, They Won’t Challenge Election Results In Court – Jonathan

 

Former President Goodluck Jonathan says the reason politicians run to the courts after elections is because they have no confidence in the electoral management body.

He said this after delivering the inaugural lecture of the National Defence College in Abuja on Wednesday.

Dr Jonathan told newsmen that politicians will only accept election results when they have confidence that the electoral umpire is fair to all.

He, however, noted that “where there is no confidence in the electoral management body (in our case – INEC), people will reject the results even before they are announced”.

To curb fear and instill confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission, the former president said it is imperative that the National Assembly come up with laws that will ensure the nation applies electronic methods in its electioneering process.

“There is the need for those involved in the ongoing electoral reforms to review their efforts and ask themselves some tough questions. That way, they will be able to determine whether they are advancing the course of democracy by working to enhance and protect the constitutionally guaranteed duties of INEC or seeking to encumber the body with unnecessary posturing, capable of negatively affecting the exercise of its independence, in the conduct of elections.

“I have always made the case that electronic voting is the way to go, if we truly desire to secure the credibility and integrity of our elections. It is difficult, therefore, to understand why the argument against the possibility of electronic transmission of election results continues to subsist, despite all the advancement made in information and communication technology, over the years.

“If we truly desire to deepen the roots of democracy in our land, we should not seek to reverse the progress already recorded by INEC in the application of modern tools in the conduct of elections but aim to improve the processes in the light of new technology,” Dr Jonathan stated.

He, however, stressed that the independence of the electoral management body is the key plank upon which a thriving democracy rests.

INEC Office Set Ablaze In Enugu

INEC says attacks on its offices may hamper preparations for the 2023 polls. Photo: INEC.

 

The office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State has been set ablaze by yet-to-be identified persons. 

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, confirmed this via a statement on Sunday.

The attack, which took place in the early hours of the day, resulted in extensive damage to the stores section where election materials are kept.

He said that all movable election materials had been evacuated following recent attacks on the commission’s offices in the state, adding that there were no casualties in the incident.

Security operatives inspect the Enugu INEC office that was gutted by fire on September 19, 2021. Credit: INEC

 

“The identity or motives of attackers are unknown while the incident has been reported to the Nigeria Police Force for investigation,” the statement added. “This unfortunate incident is the first since the last attack on our facilities four months ago in May 2021.”

READ ALSO: Buhari Swears In Three INEC National Commissioners As FEC Commences

Okoye commended the prompt response of the security agencies comprising the police, the Army, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps as well the Enugu State Fire Service and the Awgu Local Government Neighbourhood Watch.

INEC offices have been attacked in recent times in some parts of the country. Photo: INEC.

 

Sunday’s incident is the latest in a series of attacks on INEC offices especially in the South-East and South-South regions.

In May, the commission’s headquarters in Enugu was burnt down, three days after another office in Obollo-Afor, Udenu LGA of the state, was razed.

INEC had earlier warned that repeated attacks on its offices will affect its preparations for the 2023 general election.

The commission had said sensitive and non-sensitive materials, including generators and card readers, were lost to the attacks.

 

 

 

 

Buhari Swears In Three INEC National Commissioners As FEC Commences

President Buhari Swears-In National Commissioners of INEC and presides over Federal Executive Council in State House on September 15, 2021.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has sworn in three National Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

They include Dr Baba Bila representing the North-East zone, Professor Sani Adam, representing the North-Central zone and Professor Abdullahi Abdu, representing the North-West zone.

The swearing-in took place on Wednesday just before the commencement of the Federal Executive Council meeting which held at the conference room of the First Lady’s office at the State House.

 

Some of the sworn-in National Commissioners of INEC with other officials of the commission at the State House on September 15, 2021.

 

Speaking after the ceremony the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said: “we want to assure Nigerians that we will continue to do our best and continue to improve the transparency and credibility of elections in Nigeria.

“The new commissioners that have just been sworn in are bringing with them cumulated, intellectual and administrative experience and I’m confident that they will add value to our work”.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha are among those physically in attendance.

Also present are the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; as well as the Minister for Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu.

Others include Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; Works and Housing, Babtunde Fashola and Interior, Rauf Aregbeshola.

 

(L-R) President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Minister of Interior Rauf Aregbesola and others at the FEC meeting on September 15.

 

The Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan and other Ministers are attending virtually from their various offices in Abuja.

 

Virtual attendees of the FEC meeting on September 15, 2021.

PDP’s Evivie Wins Delta Assembly By-Election

 

The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ovuakpoye Evivie, has won the just concluded Delta State House of Assembly by-election in Isoko South Constituency I.

INEC Returning Officer, Professor Christopher Onosemuode, declared Evivie as the winner of the poll on Saturday.

Onosemuode, a lecturer from the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE), said the PDP candidate polled 6,907 votes to beat his closest contender, Ogaga Ifowodo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who polled 1,301 votes, while the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Emumena Micheal got 1,291 votes.

READ ALSO: Court Affirms Uche Secondus’ Suspension As PDP Ward Congress Member

Twelve parties took part in the election.

The exercise was held on Saturday across five wards in the constituency to fill the vacant seat following the death of the former member representing the constituency in the state’s house of assembly, Kenneth Ogba.

One person also died during the election.

This is the first poll the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System.

INEC Recognises Valentine Ozigbo As PDP Candidate For Anambra Election

A file photo of Mr Valentine Ozigbo, the PDP candidate in the Anambra State governorship election.

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has recognised Mr Valentine Ozigbo as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the governorship election in Anambra State.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed this in a statement on Thursday.

He explained that the decision was taken at the meeting of the electoral umpire during which a number of issues were considered, including a court order and the general preparations for the November 6 poll.

Okoye said, “The commission was served with two judgements of the Court of Appeal (Awka Judicial Division) in respect of the candidature of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Anambra Governorship election.

“The court has ordered the commission to recognise and publish the name of Mr Valentine Ozigbo as the governorship candidate. Earlier, the party had substituted its deputy governorship candidate within the deadline provided by law.

“Accordingly, the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the PDP are as follows – (Governorship) Candidate: Valentine Chineto Ozigbo, Age: 50, Gender: Male, PWD: None, Qualification: FSLC, SSCE, WAEC, BSc., MBA. (Deputy Governorship) Candidate: Lilian Azuka Enemo, Age: 64, Gender: Female, PWD: None, Qualification: FSLC, WASC, BSc.”

The INEC spokesman hinted that the final list of candidates would be published on October 7, as provided for in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election.

Last Friday, a three-man panel of justices led by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, declared Ozigbo as the validly elected PDP candidate for the forthcoming election.

The court held that the appeal filed by Ozigbo challenging the judgement of the Awka High Court, which barred him from parading himself as the PDP candidate, had merit.

Unlike the lower court, the appellate court allowed the appeal and set aside the decision of the high court which it held was null and void.

A sum of N10 million was also awarded in favour of Ozigbo while INEC was directed to publish his name and that of his running mate as the duly elected candidates of the PDP.

No Electronic Accreditation, No Voting, Says INEC Boss

File photo of INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu.

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted on electronic accreditation of voters in the country.

INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this during a consultative meeting with civil society groups in Abuja, on Tuesday.

“The new mantra is that no electronic accreditation, no voting,” Professor Yakubu said, adding that the electoral body will commence the use of a new electronic accreditation in the forthcoming elections in Delta and Anambra states.

The new voter accreditation machine called Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) will be used in place of Smart Card Readers which were used in previous elections.

“For sometimes, many stakeholders including civil society organisations have called on the Commission to strengthen the voter accreditation process during elections especially with reference to the use of the incident form while the smart card reader fails to authenticate the fingerprint of voters,” the INEC boss said, explaining the reason behind the change.

“Over the last one year, we have reviewed the situation and we think we have found the appropriate technology to address it. The functionality of the ZPAD has now been integrated into IVED, that is, INEC Voter Enrolment Device currently used for voter registration.

“On election day, the same device will become the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System – BVAS to be used first for fingerprint identification during accreditation and for facial identification.”

The electoral body will be conducting a bye-election for Isoko-South Federal Constituency in Delta State on Saturday, September 11, 2021, and follow that up with the Anambra governorship election in November.

The civil society groups at the meeting applauded the commission for the progress made in the use of technology in conducting elections. They hope that the latest innovation will further improve the voting process.

Again, INEC Raises Concerns About Conflicting Court Orders

A file photo of INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again expressed concerns over the conflicting court orders granted to political parties and their candidates.

INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu raised the concerns at a meeting with political party leaders in Abuja, ahead of the governorship election in Anambra State.

“It appears that in a number of electoral cases in Nigeria today, the settled law is now unsettled and the time-honoured principle of certain decisions doesn’t seem to matter anymore,” Professor Yakubu said.

“The more INEC strives to improve the credibility and transparency of our electoral process, the more obstacles are put in our way through litigation.”

These conflicting court orders, the INEC boss warned, pose major challenges for the electoral process and are capable of hurting the country’s democracy.

“I’m aware that some of the cases are still court and are therefore subjudice,” Professor Yakubu said.

“I must say that some of the decided cases are making our work difficult and we have been crying out loud for a long time.

“In particular, some pre-election litigations relating to the nomination of candidates for elections were not determined until after the elections.”

The INEC chairman’s comments come two weeks after the commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye, expressed similar concerns, and amid debates about the implications of the conflicting judgements. The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammed, has also intervened.

Read Also: Ex Parte Orders: CJN Reads Riot Act As NJC Queries Three Judges

While Mr Okoye called on the judiciary to intervene in the matter to protect the electoral process, his boss Professor Yakubu took it further, advising politicians to avoid actions that hurt the electoral process.

He told the political leaders that even when elections are conducted, some litigations make it impossible for INEC to issue Certificates of Return to winners.

He also warned that “contracted and conflicting litigations” result in situations “where courts rather than votes determine winners of elections”

“This situation is compounded by cases on the leadership of political parties, therefore making the exercise of our regulatory responsibilities difficult,” he added.

“Consequently, in some instances, political parties were declared winners without candidates to immediately receive the Certificates of Return.”

CJN Intervenes

On Monday, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), who is also the Chairman of the National Judicial Council (NJC), held a marathon meeting with the six chief judges invited over the conflicting ex parte orders emanating from different judges across the country.

The spokesperson of the NJC, Soji Oye, disclosed in a statement that the meeting lasted about six hours with the Chief Judge of the High Court of the FCT also in attendance.

He said the CJN first had a one-on-one interaction with the Chief Justice of the FCT, Abuja, and then the Chief Judges of Rivers, Kebbi, Cross River, Jigawa, Anambra, and Imo.

“Three of the judges who granted conflicting ex parte orders have been invited to appear before the NJC to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against them for granting such orders,” the statement read.

The CJN warned the chief judges to desist from the practice of designating newly appointed judicial officers as vacation judges and assigning complex cases to inexperienced judges.

He advised all heads of courts to be current on the developments in the polity and the judgments delivered by courts of various jurisdictions and to urgently issue practice direction to guide judges in their various courts to avoid giving conflicting decisions.