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Direct primaries: INEC demands membership register from parties

Poltical parties who wish to adopt the Direct Primary mode to elect their candidates for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections have been directed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to submit their membership register to the Commission.

The commission said the submission of membership register will give room for effective monitoring of the party primaries.

The electoral body also demanded for the list of delegates by the political parties that opted for the Indirect Primary mode.

This request was made by the INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu during a virtual meeting with political party leaders.

INEC Boss charged the parties to ensure rancour-free primaries, adding that party primaries form the foundation for the secondary election conducted by the Commission.

According to him: “Based on experience, it is also important to draw your attention to the necessity for rancour-free primaries. Party primaries form the foundation for the secondary election conducted by the Commission. You must therefore avoid acts of thuggery, brigandage, vote-buying and other sundry violations of the Electoral Act.

“As we monitor the conduct of party primaries, we will pay particular attention to your compliance with the law and to consider sanctions so that the unruly behaviour of some party supporters is not carried forward to the main election.

“I wish to appeal to political parties that opt for direct primaries to avail us with the register of members to be used for the election from Ward to Local Government and State levels for the effective discharge of our monitoring responsibilities under the law.

“Those that opt for indirect primaries should similarly make available to the Commission the list of delegates for the election. Doing otherwise will amount to going into an election without the voters’ register. The Commission makes available to each political party the complete register of voters before every major election. We expect political parties to reciprocate for their primaries”.

He also restated the preparedness of the Commission to conduct the governorship and bye-elections within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his words: “It is obvious that at the moment, the COVID-19 pandemic is the dominant issue of discussion globally. The democratic process is not unaffected. In Nigeria, the national response to the pandemic is coordinated by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) which has issued clear guidelines anchored on the advisory from health authorities.

“Drawing from the guidelines, the Commission has released a policy on how electoral activities can proceed while mitigating risks to all involved in the process. The policy will be a major issue of discussion at this meeting. I am glad to note that a number of political parties have also issued guidelines to their members for the safe conduct of party primaries for the forthcoming Edo and Ondo Governorship elections drawing from the advisory by health authorities.

“You will recall that on 6th February 2020, the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections. Today, it is exactly 110 days to the Edo Governorship election scheduled for 19th September 2020 and 131 days to the Ondo Governorship election holding on 10th October 2020.

“The Timetables for the two elections contain 14 activities drawn from the Constitution, the Electoral Act as well as the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines. The first activity is the official publication of Notice as enshrined in Section 30 of the Electoral Act. The date for this activity for the Edo Governorship election is today Monday 1st June 2020. I am glad to say that this activity has been carried out. The Notice for the Election (Form EC60A) has been pasted in our Edo State office. In addition, and for the first time, the Commission has also published the same notice on our website and social media platforms. With this development, the process leading to the Edo Governorship election on 19th September 2020 has commenced in earnest”.

He continued that, “party primaries for the nomination of candidates for the Edo Governorship election begin tomorrow. Already, some political parties have invited the Commission to monitor their primaries which must be conducted from 2nd to 27th June 2020. This time around, the submission of nomination forms will be done online for which a dedicated portal has been set up.

“Let me therefore warn political parties that intend to field candidates for the election to strictly adhere to these dates as well as the new online procedure for filing of nominations. Any party that operates outside these dates will only have itself to blame. The portal will automatically shut down on the scheduled date and at the fixed hour. The Legal Department and ICT will brief this meeting on the new procedure.

“In addition to the Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, the Commission is also making preparations to conduct nine (9) bye-elections. The details have already been made public. However, as we were preparing for this meeting, our office in Zamfara State informed us that a Member of the State House of Assembly for Bakura Constituency passed on yesterday. As we await the declaration of vacancy from the Speaker of the State Assembly, the number of bye-elections has increased.

“At the same time, there is need for a national conversation around the frequency of bye-elections in Nigeria. In the month of May 2020 alone, five members of State Houses of Assembly passed on. Since December 2019, a period of six months, twelve members of the National and State Houses of Assembly have similarly passed on. This is in addition to the resignation of two Senators from Bayelsa who have since been sworn-in as Governor and Deputy Governor of the State.

“The cost of conducting these bye-elections to the Commission, the security agencies, political parties and candidates, election observers, the media, litigations (both pre-election and post-election) and disruption of activities as a result of the restriction of movement on Election Day is enormous. There is no election season in Nigeria any longer.

“The Commission is busy conducting elections all-year round between one General Election and another. This often diverts our attention away from reform, innovation, peer learning and planning for the consolidation of our electoral process. The Commission is going to open a discussion with stakeholders and the National Assembly for necessary reforms towards more cost-effective and democratic options.

“Turning to the subject matter of today’s meeting, the Commission has released the policy for conducting elections under the COVID-19 pandemic. We welcome the input of party leaders to the new policy, particularly in the areas of implementation such as the management of party primaries and nomination of candidates, the submission of the names of polling agents, the security of the electoral process, polling unit management and the collation of results.”

 
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