The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is ready to conduct the 2019 general elections, except for the delay in the passage of the election budget by the National Assembly.
INEC National Commissioner of Publicity, Solomon Soyebi, stated this on Sunday during his appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
“On our part, we are ready (for the conduct of the 2019 elections). Don’t forget that we gave the notice last year,” he said.
With the elections barely 159 days away, Soyebi explained that the delay in the budget passage is affecting the procurement of some electoral materials.
He said, “The major bottleneck that we will come across in terms of finances, we have tried to abridge them. About 90 per cent of the problems we have with finances will come from this procurement.”
His comments come nearly two months after President Muhammadu Buhari revealed that next year’s polls would gulp about 242.4 billion Naira.
The President said this in a letter sent to the National Assembly in July seeking that the funds be drawn from the 2018 and 2019 budgets.
In the letter, he explained that implementing a budget of 9.12 trillion Naira for 2018 will be extremely challenging adding that he did not consider it expedient to increase it, to accommodate the funds needed for the 2019 general elections.
The budget is, however, yet to be approved since the National Assembly is currently on recess.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained why it is ending the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) today, August 31.
INEC National Commissioner, Solomon Soyebi, told Channels Television that the commission needed ample time to effectively make some preparations ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“We don’t have the time. This registration has been going on now for the past 16 months now and we have given lots of efforts to ensure that a lot of people come on board,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
According to Soyebi, the commission has 150 days stipulated by the law to embark on post-registration activities ahead of next year’s polls.
“We need nothing less than 150 days to do the duplication, production of the cards, the integration and signing of the register before the elections in 2019.
“We listened to the public outcry and extended by two weeks. You recall that we extended it on August 17 this year, that was even the time when we embarked on the 2019 elections by giving out a notice for the process.”
Soyebi’s comments come two weeks after INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced the extension of the voters’ registration.
On August 14, Yakubu explained the move was necessary to enable Nigerians who had yet to be registered to do so.
16 days after, Soyebi noted that the exercise has to come to an end. He faulted people who had yet to avail themselves of the extension period, stating that the commission already has about 14 million registered Nigerians.
The Senate had on Wednesday adopted the conference committee report on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill, which alters the sequence in which elections are conducted in the country.
Presidential and National Assembly elections have always held (on the same day) before other polls, while the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections follow.
But the lawmakers have amended the sequence such that the National Assembly polls would be conducted first, followed by the state lawmakers, and the governors while the presidential election should take place last.
Asked if the amendment can be implemented by INEC in the 2019 general elections, Soyebi said: “Unfortunately, yes, if the amendment becomes a law now.
“If it’s assented to by the President, it becomes a law. We have no basis to disobey the law; we have to work within the law as it is.”
A Day For Elections
The INEC National Commissioner also reacted to speculations that the electoral body intends to file a legal suit to challenge the adoption by the Senate, saying “there is no iota of truth in that.”
He said the commission operates within the ambit of the law, noting that it would be difficult for the electoral body to challenge the law when it is bounded by it.
“Everybody has a role to play in the governance of Nigeria, ours is just to conduct elections and we have nothing to do with the making of the law. So, if the law is made today, we are just there to obey it,” he said.
Soyebi, however, said in some cases, INEC can challenge any frivolous court order if it feels unsatisfied with it, but not the law.
He further recommended that all elections should be conducted the same day, as it is in some developed countries, stressing that it can also be achieved in Nigeria.
According to him, INEC has realised that the elections at the state level gather more interests and generate more violence, pointing out the polls in Rivers and Bayelsa states as examples.
The National Commissioner said it would be the first time the electoral body is conducting a three-layer election since 1999, as it has always been a two-tier election – the national and state elections.
The Senate was divided on Wednesday after Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North) presented the conference committee report on the Upper House.
Some lawmakers rose against the amendment of section 25(c) of the Electoral Act, saying it was partisan and pre-determined by members of a political party who feel threatened by President Buhari.
In a swift response, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Solomon Soyebi, told Channels Television in Kaduna that the election was not flawed with irregularities as alleged.
He debunked claims by the PDP that the commission deliberately delayed result of the election from the 18 local government councils in Edo State in order to favour the ruling APC in the state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says the Edo State governorship election was free and fair, dismissing allegations of bias and compromise by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But INEC said the election was conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Electoral Act.
INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Solomon Soyebi, told Channels Television’s correspondent in Kaduna on Wednesday that the election was not fraught with irregularities, as being alleged by the PDP and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
He also debunked claims by the PDP that the commission deliberately delayed result of the election from the 18 Local Government Councils in Edo state in order to favour the ruling APC in the state.
“Checkmated Any Form Of Rigging”
He further explained that INEC deployed an electronic device during the election that tracked the collation of results from the polling units up to the last collation centre.
“These devices checkmated any form of rigging,” he stated.
Mr Soyebi further highlighted that with the peaceful conduct of the Edo election, the commission was determined to improve on the success during the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State.
INEC has come under criticism by some aggrieved persons since last week Thursday when it announced the results of the election that produced the APC candidate, Godwin Obaseki as governor-elect in Edo State.
Another opposition party in the election APGA had before the announcement of the result called for total cancellation of the election, citing irregularities.
Mr Osaro Onaiwu alleged that financial inducement and intimidation of party loyalists occurred during the poll.
“The election is going to be inconclusive because there is a lot of damage already. There was no election in Ologbo and Oluku and whatever result they are bringing out from these two places, it is not going to be accepted by us,” Mr Onaiwu said.
He is the first candidate in the election that has called for the cancellation of the election that had 19 contestants.
The election is said to have been peaceful, but with cases of ballot snatching reported.
Earlier, a member of the party monitoring the process at a polling unit, Stephen Edema, told Channels Television that the process had been smooth.
The Independent Electoral Commission had said the election was smooth and had progressed as expected.