By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA: The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has asked the 15 political parties participating in the September 19 Governorship Election in Edo state to ensure that their primary elections are conducted within the next 10 days as earlier indicated in their letters to the Commission.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu gave the charge Wednesday in Abuja during the second virtual meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security ICCES.
He charged the parties to get their acts together, declaring that the commission would not extend the timetable for any party that misses out on the deadline.
Yakubu said; “Turning to the Edo Governorship election, all political parties interested in fielding candidates for the election are reminded that they must conclude their primaries for the nomination of candidates in the next 10 days. The deadline is Saturday 27th June 2020. I must stress that the date is firm and fixed. There will be no extension of the deadline. While the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates will be the sole responsibility of political parties, our officials will monitor the primaries as required by law. Already, the Commission has published the date and mode of primaries for each of the 15 political parties that indicated their intention to participate in the election.
“Similarly, there will be no extension of time for political parties that fail to submit the names and other details of the candidates that emerge from their primaries using the dedicated portal created by the Commission. For emphasis, the deadline is 6:00pm on Monday 29th June 2020. Arising from our experience in managing the nomination of candidates for the last two Governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, it is important to draw the attention of political parties to the four mandatory requirements for eligibility of candidates for Governorship elections enshrined in Section 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“A candidate nominated by a political party must be a Nigerian citizen by birth; must have attained the age of thirty-five (35) years; must be a member of, and sponsored by, a political party; and must be educated up to at least School Certificate level or equivalent. Adherence to these clear constitutional provisions is compulsory in order to avoid the unnecessary litigations that follow the nomination of candidates, some of which are still pending before the Courts. In fact, one of such cases involving the attempt to substitute an ineligible candidate by one of the political parties was determined only yesterday by the Supreme Court in favour of INEC”, he added.
He said as ICCES works towards the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, it should equally prepare for six Senatorial and five State Assembly bye-elections across nine states of the Federation.
“As we approach the Governorship elections, the Commission and security agencies will play a critical role. We should remain proactive during the party primaries, electioneering campaigns, voting and eventual declaration of results. We must safeguard the process and protect all those involved as voters, INEC officials, observers, the media and even some of the unarmed security personnel deployed to the polling units. Doing so requires our professionalism and neutrality.
“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should also ensure compliance with the protective measures contained in the recently published Commission’s policy as well as the advisory by health authorities. In the context of the current global health emergency, we have the additional responsibility to ensure the conduct of free, fair, credible and safe elections”, the INEC Chairman stated.