The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has reacted to the impasse between the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari, over the president’s refusal to assent on the electoral act amendment bill, describing the move by some lawmakers to veto the president as an exercise in futility.
Although the bill was transmitted to the president on November 19, 2021, Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on December 21 over the direct primaries clause.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday in Abuja, IPAC Chairman, Yabagi Sani appealed to members of the National Assembly to dialogue with the executive arm of government and address those areas of disagreement.
The council also maintained its position against the proposal for direct primaries for political parties, while applauding electronic transmission of results as contained in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
“Against the backdrop of Mr President’s decisive aversion to this particular provision of the electoral bill, the use of the veto by the legislature may merely result in a fruitless exercise if at the end of the day, its implementation is not supported by the required funding by the Executive,” he said.
“In summary, if we must call a spade by its name, we in the IPAC are inclined to the opinions that regard the National Assembly’s position on indirect primaries as amounting to an attempt to use up the constitutional rights of parties as to the method of choice of flagbearers.
“The way out of the logjam in our view is for the shifting of grounds by the legislature and executive arms of governments for a compromise and amicable resolution resulting in a win-win scenario. This should not be a given task given that the two arms are incidentally controlled by the same political party, the APC.”
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday met with the chairmen and secretaries of political parties in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
While the electoral body proposes the creation of more polling units, Professor Yakubu, said that the last time polling units were created was 25 years ago.
According to the INEC Chairman, the meeting which held at the INEC headquarters is the first engagement with party leaders aimed at enhancing voters’ access to polling units.
He is of the opinion that the inadequate number of polling units in the last 25 years have contributed to voter apathy and a dwindling voter turnout.
Nigeria has continued to maintain 119,973 polling units since 1996, when the country had about fifty million registered voters. The figure has remained the same even when the numbers of registered voters have risen to over 88 million.
“Unfortunately, the last time polling units were established was 25 years ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). There were 120,000 polling units to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters,” he said.
“Today, the number of registered voters is 84,004,084 and is set to rise after we resume Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ahead of the 2023 General Election. Yet, the number of polling units remains static. In fact, the biggest category of registered voters on our data base (aged 18 to 25 years) were not even born when the current polling units were established a quarter of a century ago.
“Certainly, the Commission tried unsuccessfully to expand voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and before the 2019 General Election. However, these attempts were handled administratively. They also came too close to General Elections. Consequently, the Commission’s intention was not properly communicated and therefore misunderstood and politicised.
“Learning from previous experience, the Commission has now decided to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely. We have worked hard in the last two months and produced a Discussion Paper entitled “The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria”, prepared satellite imageries of the location of polling units across the country as well as pictures and videos to demonstrate the difficulties faced by voters on Election Day.
“The hard and soft copies of the Discussion Paper is being widely shared and will be uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms latest by Monday 8th February 2021.”
The INEC boss explained that efforts to have more units created in 2007, 2011 and 2019 were misunderstood.
He stated that the number of voters have grown, thus making it imperative for the commission to create more polling units.
On his part, the chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Leonard Nzenwa, who responded on behalf of the parties commended INEC for the proposal.
He however wished that the process had commenced earlier than now.
READ INEC CHAIRMAN’S FULL SPEECH BELOW:
REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE FIRST CONSULTATIVE MEETING WITH POLITICAL PARTIES FOR THE YEAR 2021 HELD AT THE CONFERENCE ROOM, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC) HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA, FRIDAY 5TH FEBRUARY 2021.
Chairmen of Political Parties
Honourable National Commissioners
Resident Electoral Commissioners
Senior Officials of INEC
Members of the INEC Press Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. It is my pleasure to welcome party leaders to our first meeting for the year 2021. On behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I wish the Chairmen and leaders of political parties a happy New Year. At the same time, but on a sad note, we lost the Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, a trade unionist, a democrat, a frontline politician, and an active promoter of multi-party democracy in Nigeria. He never missed the Commission’s meetings with political parties, including the last one held about three months ago on Tuesday 10th November 2020. May God grant him paradise.
2. You may recall that at the last meeting, many party leaders expressed concern about low voter turnout in elections in Nigeria. After reviewing the situation, it was agreed that political parties, INEC, and all stakeholders need to do more in the areas of voter and civic education, voter mobilisation and inclusivity. After the meeting, the Commission critically appraised the situation. In addition to other factors highlighted by political parties and other stakeholders, the Commission is of the firm belief that expanding voter access to polling units in Nigeria is crucial to voter turnout in elections. Experience has shown that enhanced voter access to polling units increases turnout in elections. Not surprisingly, many countries expand access to polling units with every fresh registration of voters while others do so routinely or before every general election. Increase in voter population, emergence of new settlements, urbanisation, distance to existing polling units, difficult terrain and other factors require constant review to give the voter a pleasant experience on Election Day. Above all, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to decongest polling units to minimise overcrowding and reduce the long distances voters travel often in overcrowded means of transport to vote during elections.
3. Unfortunately, the last time polling units were established was 25 years ago in 1996 by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON). There were 120,000 polling units to serve a projected population of about 50 million voters. Today, the number of registered voters is 84,004,084 and is set to rise after we resume Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ahead of the 2023 General Election. Yet, the number of polling units remains static. In fact, the biggest category of registered voters on our data base (aged 18 to 25 years) were not even born when the current polling units were established a quarter of a century ago.
4. Certainly, the Commission tried unsuccessfully to expand voter access to polling units in 2007, 2014 and before the 2019 General Election. However, these attempts were handled administratively. They also came too close to General Elections. Consequently, the Commission’s intention was not properly communicated and therefore misunderstood and politicised.
5. Learning from previous experience, the Commission has now decided to engage with Nigerians by consulting widely. We have worked hard in the last two months and produced a Discussion Paper entitled “The State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria”, prepared satellite imageries of the location of polling units across the country as well as pictures and videos to demonstrate the difficulties faced by voters on Election Day. The hard and soft copies of the Discussion Paper is being widely shared and will be uploaded on the Commission’s website and social media platforms latest by Monday 8th February 2021.
6. It is significant that we are commencing the series of engagements today with leaders of political parties. At each engagement, there will be a presentation followed by discussion. We hope that by doing so, we will communicate the Commission’s intention to Nigerians and invite input from citizens across the board on how we can tackle the problem of voter access to polling units in our country and hopefully establish the framework for subsequent seamless adjustments as the need arises. This is how it is done in virtually all democracies around the world. I am confident that by working together we will make history by finally solving this 25-year-old problem of enhancing access to polling units in Nigeria. The Nigerian voter and our democracy in general will be the biggest beneficiaries of increased access to polling units.
7. Once again, I welcome party leaders to this meeting and look forward to your contributions.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has congratulated Professor Manhood Yakubu on his swearing-in for a second tenure as Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Ambassador Agbo Major stated it is symbolic that his swearing-in came on a day that the Electoral Act amendment public hearing was conducted by the National Assembly.
“It is a wake-up call for him to pay greater attention to electoral reform particularly the deepening of technology in the electoral process as well as ensuring that every vote counts in Nigerian elections”.
He made remarkable progress in his first tenure and should endeavour to surpass that feat.
Amb. Major urged the INEC chairman to improve on that bearing in mind that the political destiny of the nation depends on the conduct of free, fair, credible, transparent, acceptable, and peaceful elections as power resides in the people.
“IPAC wishes him a successful second tenure in office”.
Ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order.
IPAC National Chairman, Leonard Nzenwa made this call during a news conference on Friday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Nzenwa insisted that the council will not sit idly and allow the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scuttle the election to the detriment of 12 other political parties whose candidates are fully prepared.
“The Inter-Party Advisory Council strongly condemns the unfolding political upheavals and rascality in Edo State.
It is a dangerous misstep that can throw the entire country into a major crisis. The council urges our colleagues to restrain themselves and play by the rules and electoral guidelines.
“The nation cannot afford the political crisis in a state defected by insecurity and dear economic hardship visited on the people in an unending circle of lockdown.
“The council calls on all stakeholders to ensure that all hands will be on deck for the Edo and Ondo polls to hold successfully in the scheduled dates as this nation cannot afford postponement or suspension on account of incivility or political actors in the state,” he said.
IPAC’s reaction comes shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it will suspend the Edo and Ondo governorship elections if there is a continuous breakdown of law and order.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, made this known in a statement issued today.
Okoye said the commission had observed with deep concern, the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties and their supporters ahead of the elections.
An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Binta Mohammed has declared the continued stay of the Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr Peter Ameh as illegal.
The court, in its judgement on Tuesday, said, Mr Ameh can no longer continue to remain in office as IPAC chairman, since his party, the Peoples Progressive Alliance has been de-registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Shortly after INEC de-registered 74 political parties, the remaining 18 parties met and passed a resolution to appoint an interim management chairman to run the affairs of the council.
Dissatisfied with the resolution, the National Unity Party (NUP) approached the court to challenge the decision of the 18 political parties as they asked the court to declare that the interim management committee put in place by the 18 political parties, was not validly elected, therefore, cannot run the affairs of IPAC.
After listening to the submissions of counsel on the matter, Justice Mohammed, in her judgment, said, the 74 political parties, having been de-registered by INEC cannot continue to be members of the inter-party advisory council.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council has warned political parties in Kogi and Bayelsa against misinformation, hate speech, and all forms of deliberate dissemination ahead of the November 16 governorship election in the states.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, the national president of IPAC, Peter Ameh explains that hate speech, deliberate misinformation, and dissemination of fake news were some of the factors which affect the fairness of the electioneering process.
Mr. Ameh enjoins the political parties, candidates, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society groups, election observer groups, the media, and the electorate to ensure that there is a level playing ground for all parties involved in the exercise.
He also called for the autonomy of the local government system in the country.
Read Full Statement Below:
Rising from the second Executive Meeting of the the 9th National Executive Committee of the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), we recognize a strong need to intervene and educate the polity on the need to avoid misinformation, hate speech, and all forms of deliberate dissemination of fake news to prosecute the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
The political parties, candidates, INEC, civil society groups, election observer groups, the media, the electorate and other stakeholders directly involved in the elections scheduled to hold on 16th November, 2019 are advised of their responsibility to ensure that all participants from all political parties are given a level playing ground to exercise their franchise. Each group is reminded of their responsibility to disseminate the correct information at all times.
IPAC through its recently reviewed code of conduct requires political parties to comply with all electoral laws, rules, and regulations as well as INEC guidelines on electioneering processes in Nigeria to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
HATE SPEECH DELIBERATE MISINFORMATION AND DISSEMINATION OF FAKE NEWS are some of the factors which affect the fairness of our electioneering processes in Nigeria.
IPAC condemns in strong terms all forms of hate speech and dissemination of fake information during and after campaigns, and even after the elections are held. It is expedient to note that the damage caused by hate speech affects our political system and our National unity adversely affecting our continued peaceful co-existence in our country.
IPAC, has always been on the frontline of campaign against hate speech in all elections in Nigeria, recall that in the last election, we did rallies and campaign across the 6 geopolitical zones establishing to Nigerians and stakeholders that hate speech and disinformation does not add any positive value to our electoral and political systems or to our existence as a united people.
We will continue to work closely with INEC, the media agencies, civil society groups, all political parties and stakeholders in the coming elections. We will foster adequate compliance of political parties, candidates and their supporters to ensure that campaign statements that can cause violence, disintegration and electoral disinformation are not made while campaigning.
We are working with the media to make sure that our campaign and re-orientation programmes against hate speech and disinformation reach as many people of Kogi and Bayelsa states respectively. We believe that the more committed we are to the cause of seeing our democracy devoid of hate speech and disinformation, the more peaceful, free and fair and credible election will have in Nigeria.
We shall not rest until we have succeeded in making sure that Nigerians in every state of the federation see elections as not a do or die affair but the only platform to produce managers of state resources through good governance.
It will be better for all of us to focus on the messages of the commitment of political parties and their candidates through the commitment of political parties and their manifestos. Nigerians need to understand the political dynamics through truthful information and not false information that can lead to provocations and ends in violence.
Hate speech isn’t free speech, hate speech attacks a person or a group on the basis of protected attributes such as religion, ethnic group, sex, gender identity or disability.
It involves hostility, it rips people to shreds and destroys society lets everybody come together in the interest of the state and peacefully continues our lives within the context of the economy of the states and be expectant of good governance that will make the lives of all in Kogi and Bayelsa better.
IPAC says NO to hate speech, disinformation and all forms of social and electoral vices in Kogi state and Bayelsa state as all stakeholders prepare for the governorship election.
High Chief Peter Ameh President Inter- Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC)
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has rejected a Federal High Court Judgment on the disputed Anambra Central Senatorial re-run.
IPAC comprises of twenty-one registered political parties in the state with chairmen heading the various parties.
They described the claim of having accepted the court verdict as being frivolous and totally in bad taste.
Justice John Tsoho of the Abuja High Court had declared Mr. Obiora Okonkwo winner of the election.
He ruled that ruled that Okonkwo was the validly nominated candidate of the party in the 2015 general election and should be sworn in as the senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial district immediately.
But addressing journalists in Awka, the state capital, the political parties’ chairmen accused their state Chairman of creating confusion.
They, however, insisted that they hadn’t met; neither had a meeting being after the verdict of the court in that respect.
The coordinator of the chairmen, Mr. Samuel Oraegbunam said, “We are gathered as concerned and senior members of IPAC in Anambra state to refute the fact that we never as a group met.
“Since after the governorship election in Anambra state, there has never been any IPAC meeting in Anambra state.
“There’s no resolution whatsoever in the Central Senatorial Zone election that is outstanding of which all of us are eager to see it conducted.
“We now resolve in our meeting to disclaim whatever Bartho Igwedibia, the state Chairman of IPAC, has written and circulated as a press release by IPAC Anambra state.”
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) has advocated the need for amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The National Chairman of IPAC, Mr Mohammed Nalabo, said this on Wednesday while addressing a news conference at the end of the Council’s general assembly meeting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Mr Nalabo noted that an amendment of the act would reduce the spate of inconclusive elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“IPAC is working assiduously with INEC to strengthen the capacity of political parties through voter education, sensitisation of members and the general public, to completely minimise inconclusive elections and promote level playing ground for all political parties.
“We commend INEC in its recent step to discipline erring staff that were allegedly involved in corrupt electoral malpractices.
“IPAC is calling on the constitutional and electoral committee to work assiduously with the National Assembly to ensure effective and prompt amendments of 2010 Electoral Act before the 2019 general elections.
“IPAC urges political parties to imbibe internal democracy in carrying out their activities; we are worried about the increasing leadership disagreement in some political parties.
“We urge leaders of the affected political parties to embrace dialogue and political solution to resolve their differences,” said the IPAC Chairman.
The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Yobe State says seven political parties will participate in the Local Government (LG) election slated for February 11, 2017.
The State Chairman of IPAC, Mr Umar Kukuri, made the disclosure during an interview with reporters in Damaturu, Yobe State’s capital, in northeast Nigeria.
Mr Kukuri said: “The seven political parties have already conducted their various primary elections in which their respective candidates have emerged, submitted to the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) and screened by the electoral commission”.
The seven parties are PDC, SDP, CPP, ACD, APC, NCP and MPPP.
The IPAC Chairman hinted that campaigns had commenced across the state with political parties canvasing for support ahead of the poll.
He asked SIEC to ensure a free and fair election that would be accepted by all the political parties and observers nationally.
Kukuri also appealed to the political parties to conduct themselves according to the rules of the game and avoid issues that could breach peace in the state before, during and after the election.
He praised security operatives in the state for ensuring peace in the previous elections and urged them to maintain the same tempo during the imminent poll.
Hitch Free Election
The chairman further commended the Yobe State government for conducting the election despite the security threat poised by the Boko Haram insurgents.
“The council wishes to appreciate the Yobe State government for promoting democracy throughout the conduct of the local government election.
“It is noteworthy that the Yobe State government had consistently conducted LG elections in spite of security challenges faced by the state. While states without such challenges failed to conduct LG elections, the council elections are being conducted in Yobe.
“As democrats and proud citizens of the state, it is to the credit of the state government that the council elections of 2015 encouraged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the 2015 general elections in the northeast region that was bedevilled by serious security challenges,” he said.
Mr Kukuri assured the people of the state that IPAC would work with all the participating political parties to ensure a hitch-free election.
The last time Yobe State held an LG election was in 2014 at the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Yobe state Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, has reiterate his commitment to hold Local Government elections in the state in February 2017.
During a meeting with the National Leadership of Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC), at the Government House Damaturu, the Governor assured them that his administration would hold election on February 11, in conformity with the tenets of democracy.
The council, is in the state to create awareness on the need to ensure regular conduct of LG elections across the 36 states of the country and Abuja.
According to Gaidam, since he assumed office as the Governor of the state, he had conducted LG elections on two occasions, while the February election would be the third.
With the improved peace, the Governor said he can do more to ensure the growth and development of democracy, adding that it remains the best system of Government known to man.
According to him, the insurgency has never deterred him from developing the state as he continues to construct roads, schools, houses among others.
The National Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council of Nigeria, Mohammed Lawal, then expressed appreciation for the Governor’s efforts in ensuring democracy at the grassroots and urged other governors across the country to emulate him.
He also praised the efforts of the president as well as security operatives for the restoration of peace in the northeast, while calling for its sustenance.
The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Abia state, has called on the State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC), to shift the date of the December 17, 2106 election to a later date to enable the parties prepare well.
The body is made up of stakeholders and representatives of all the political parties in the state, with one agenda to beckon on the chairman of ABSIEC to shift the local government election date, as a result of numerous complaints from all quarters.
Furthermore, it is expected to call for a round table discussion and harmonize the complaints so as to allow for a peaceful conduct of the election.
At a briefing in Umuahia, on Monday, the Chairman of IPAC, Emeka Okafor, said that the parties did not have enough time to discuss with the State Electoral umpire on the issues of high fees and stringent time table, that are conflicting with the preparation, as it offers limited time for party candidates to campaign.
According to him, the parties should be allowed to have enough time to play their own internal democracy in order to produce a credible candidate for the election.
He therefore urged ABSIEC to do the needful in ensuring a peaceful conduct of local government polls.
“We are gathered here today to let the world know that the body of all political parties in Abia State, known as IPAC, for want of equity and level playing ground for all the political parties and candidates contesting in the December 17, 2016 election, has resolved to ask the ABSIEC chairman to move this election date pending the preparations of the political parties and their candidates.
He stressed that “the reason behind this demand is because of the numerous complaints from the candidates contesting this elections, ranging from high fees as well as inadequate time for parties to prepare.
“This election is a grass root election, an election that involves our old men and women in the village, an election that interprets a lot in our democracy.
“So, if we cannot give our villagers what they want, if we cannot give them the right candidate, it will mess up the entire democracy of the state and the country, that is why we are demanding for more time for the candidates to campaign and hence we are calling for the postponement of the election, Mr Okafor stressed.
These issues are coming barely some weeks after the body, met with the state government to discuss the way forward but apparently the promises made may not have been kept leading to a vote of no confidence on the commission and the fear that Abians may not get a free and fair LG polls.
According to the Chairman, All Progressive Congress Abia State, Donatus Nwankpa, “the issue is that a lot of things have arisen in the course of this preparation and move towards the election.
“ABSIEC on her own has violated all the designated time and dates in their time table and as such we cannot be held responsible that we are the cause of this shift.
“This shift has become necessary in view of their lackadaisity, urseriousness and incompetence as most of their programs are not in tandem with that of the political parties,
“I must tell you that the members of IPAC are interested in this election ,we cannot be against the election at the local government level after all, the ruling party appoints their persons at the local government system it has been operating.
“So I believe this is the chance for all to contest and having looked at all the reasons before us, we cannot be guaranteed of a free and fair election because we want circumstances that would give us justice and give the people and candidates the desired confidence that this election would not be stage managed. that is the issue on ground,” Nwankpa said.
The ruling party in the state has however kicked off their campaign for the local government election, while the decision of the Abia electoral body to yield to the demand of the stakeholders, would be determine in the days ahead.
The Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu has challenged members of the Abia State chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) to join forces with his government to develop the state.
Ikpeazu made request at the Government House, Umuahia, when he received members of the Inter-Party Advisory Council.
The Governor expressed shock that IPAC has not been getting on well with the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC) and promised to engage the chairman of the commission to carry them along in their activities.
Ikpeazu promised to provide subvention to all the parties involved in the December local government polls as well as encourage women to participate in the elections.
He regretted that the desperation of some politicians has adversely affected the ideals of democracy in the state.
“My view on the use of transition committee chairmen in running the local governments is that it is definitely playing a negative role in deepening democracy in the country.
“And Abia State has lost a lot in terms of experience in the last 10 years that elections have not been conducted into the councils. Therefore, the decision to embark on local government election is the right thing to do.
“As stakeholders you have a lot to contribute towards the development of the state, which will lag behind except there is peaceful coexistence.
“I appreciate this delegation for the sentiments towards the development of the state and in my capacity as your governor I promised to assist you. This is because this administration’s policy is to engage strategic and critical stakeholders from time to time,” the Governor said.
Meanwhile, the chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council, Emeka Okafor, pleaded with the Governor to prevail on the chairman of Abia State Electoral Commission to drastically reduce the fees payable by the political party aspirants to enable them participate actively in the December 17, 2016, local government elections.
He said: “We are here to identify with you, our governor on the good works you are doing in the state.
“The duty of the Inter-Party Advisory Council is to work with the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission to enthrone fairness, objectivity in the electoral process.
“We are optimistic that the desire of all Abians to ensure their votes count during the LG Polls would be a reality.”
On his part, state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Donatus Nwankpa, promised the Governor that APC in the state would ensue peace and nonviolent polls.
“Abia State is our own. All we need is credibility on the part of the electoral umpire in the conduct of the local government election.
“We thank you, Governor Ikpeazu, for the promise to urge the ABSIEC Chairman to reduce the fees payable by parties, it would go a long way to resolve a lot of issues,” he said.