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Parties warm-up for INEC showdown

*Over candidates’ disqualification
*Commission deploys resources against electoral fraud
*Nigerians in last minute rush to register

By Ben Agande
The various political parties are preparing for a showdown with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over possible rejection or disqualification of candidates nominated by them for the April elections.

The commission is currently looking at the list of candidates submitted to it by the parties with a view to assessing the candidates’ eligibility for the various offices.

It is expected to publish the personal particulars of such candidate immediately. Supporters of the ruling PDP in such states as Ogun, Oyo, Kogi and Nasarawa are anxiously awaiting INEC’s decisions as they affect their own candidates.

But the PDP is insisting that the commission is not in a position to “decide candidates” for any party.

“I want to trust that INEC is conscious of the provisions of Section 31 of the Electoral Act which forbids it from rejecting or turning down any nomination submitted to it by political parties,” the party’s National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke told Saturday Vanguard.

“But if it does those affected directly, the candidates, would go to court and the court will make a pronouncement on the power of INEC to refuse or whether the circumstances for rejection are justifiable enough.”

When the EFCC came up with a list of 40 politicians to be banned over corruption recently, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke in a letter (Ref No. HAGF/EFCC/2010/Vol. 1/10) dated October 24, 2010 and addressed to Mrs. Farida Waziri, declared that only the courts have the constitutional power to disqualify candidates in line with the provisions set out in the Electoral Act 2010.

Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) reads:” Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Bill, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms, the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections, provided that the Commission shall not reject or disqualify candidates for any reason whatsoever.”

On its part, INEC says it will not accept the name of any candidate who emerged from a process that was not monitored by it.

“Any list not emanating from a congress monitored by INEC will not be acceptable to us. January 15th deadline is irrevocable. But again like I keep saying, we are not infallible. We can make mistakes but when we make mistakes, they are legitimate mistakes and I believe if the court disagrees with us, we will comply. But for now, based on our interpretations of the law, the extant rules and regulations, we will not accept any list outside the January 15th deadline,” Mr. Phillip Umeadi, INEC’s Commissioner in charge of legal matters said.

The commissioner spoke of the need to instill discipline in  and respect for regulations amongst the political class, noting that ‘If we are able to instill discipline, the electoral process would be the best for everybody. We must observe the extant rules and regulations governing the process. We should all be guided by the law’.

Reinforcing the views of the INEC’s national Commissioner, the Director of Public Affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mr Emmanuel Umenger, said ‘as a law abiding body, INEC will obey all lawful court order and is guided in its conduct by the laws setting it up. We operate strictly according to the law and nothing will make us deviate from this’.

*Moves to check multiple registration

Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral commission, yesterday, began the test run of computer software to check multiple registration in the course of the voters registration which ends today. The test run of the software is to enable the commission plug possible loopholes that may be experienced while collating the statistics from the registration exercise into a central database.  The collation of the data commences tomorrow (Sunday).

An official of the commission told Saturday Vanguard that the test run was to avoid a situation where by the collation would run into any hitch as witnessed in the first few days of the registration of votes.

The official who spoke on condition of anonymity said ‘the commission’s technical staff as well as engineers from the manufacturing companies that supplied the equipment are jointly involved in the test run.

The chairman gave a firm instruction that no effort should be spared in ensuring that the collation is fool proof’.

At the commission headquarters yesterday, Saturday Vanguard saw some expatriate staff of the manufacturing companies working with IT staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission on the software test run.

*Nigerians in last minute rush to beat deadline

Reports from across the nation last night spoke of last minute rush by Nigerians to register in the voters registration ending today.

Our reporters noted long queues in many places.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Kaduna State, Alhaji Haliru Tambuwal, said  more than 3.2 million voters had been registered in the state.

The state has an estimated population of 6.1 million.

“The commission has registered more than 3.2 million voters as at Thursday in the state and we are optimistic that the figure will rise by the end of the exercise on Saturday,” Tambuwal told  the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

He said that 2,176,671 voters had been registered as at Jan. 26 in the 5,102 registration centres across the 23 local government areas in the state.

The Enugu State REC, Dr. Josiah Uwazuruonye said over one million voters were registered and

that despite shortage of registration materials experienced at the inception of the exercise, the commission did its best to ensure that the people of voting age in the state were duly registered, adding that all complaints received from various local government areas were addressed.


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