By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA – The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has denied reports saying it planned to postpone next year’s general elections on the grounds of violence.
It said the report (not published in Vanguard) did not correctly reflect what its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said at the lnter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security lCCES meeting that took place at the Commission’s headquarters on Tuesday.
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi in a statement Wednesday in Abuja it was common knowledge that while the Osun State governorship election would hold on Saturday 22nd September, the 2019 General Elections are only 156 days away.
“The ICCES meeting, which takes place on a regular quarterly basis, provides an opportunity for lNEC and security agencies to evaluate and discuss the country’s security situation with the aim of putting the necessary measures in place to enable the Commission carry out its mandate.
“In his remarks at the meeting, the lNEC Chairman told the security chiefs that with the 2019 general elections drawing close, the Committee would need to meet more frequently to constantly assess the security situation across the country and take proactive actions to forestall any unpleasant event before, during and immediately after the elections.
“He underscored the fact that elections cannot be conducted under a rancorous atmosphere. He referred to Section 26 of the Electoral Act which, among others, gives the Commission the power to postpone an election “if there is reason to believe that a serious breach of peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on (the fixed date)”, or as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies”, he recalled.
Oyekanmi said the INEC Chairman made this reference to the Electoral Act only to underscore the importance of having peace and order in place before, during and after elections and to emphasize the significance of the synergy between the Commission and security agencies.
“He also noted that the most important assignment before the Commission was the Osun governorship election. Besides, he spoke on the rising phenomenon of vote buying and selling and harped on the need for collaborative efforts to decisively tackle the menace and prevent it during the Osun governorship election. He said a Code of Conduct for security agents would be enforced during the elections and warned that any activity outside the confines of legality/ legitimacy will be viewed seriously.
“The INEC Chairman also seized the opportunity to draw the Committee’s attention to a video clip making the rounds. in which some political actors were seen making inciteful statements that could lead to serious security breaches before, during and after the 2019 general elections. He called on the relevant security agencies to be vigilant just as he urged them to take immediate action on the development.
“It is thus clear that at no point during his remarks did the INEC Chairman allude to the notion that the Commission ‘may shift 2019 polls over threat of violence’ as reported by the national newspaper.
“To be sure, INEC has no plan to postpone the 2019 General Elections”, he concluded.