By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, has faulted the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC for the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Area Council elections.
The Acting National President of IPAC, Chief Ralph Okey Nwosu, and the National legal adviser, Bar Peter Iyiola oyewole in a statement in Abuja yesterday, described the timetable as impromptu.
The duo in the statement called on INEC to abide by recognised protocol and standard practice for the FCT Council elections.
They argued that the INEC FCT schedule ran contrary to the practice that had been in place since 22 years of democratic dispensation, adding that continuing with the election as scheduled would complicate the already notion that INEC was incapable of handling credible and transparent elections.
The statement reads”We note with concern the sudden fixtures of Party Primaries as in “TIme table and schedule of Area councils Election” announced by your office on the 31st of March 2021.
“We register our strong reservation and wonder how an election regimen that is well known to produce winners who are to be sworn in not before May 29th 2022 should begin with an impromptu emergency primary nomination exercise.
“The commission fails to understand that the process of getting quality candidates is more important than the election itself. We make the following observations and hereby call on the institution to abide by recognized protocols, just and ethical practices for more efficient electoral system for FCT and the Country.
“That this is the first time since the emergence of the 4th Republic that INEC will not give political parties ample time to plan and host credible, free, and fair primary election that will impact positively on the internal Democratic processes of political parties.
“The Electoral Act 2010 provides for not later than 150 days and not earlier than 90 for the announcement of the election but the elections, which will hold on 19th February 2022, was announced on 31st March 2021(which is almost one year gap).
“We smell rat on the raison d’etre for INEC’s directives for on-the-spot conduct of party primaries in April.
“How can we conduct primary election between 1st and 24th April, 2021, and parties and candidates will have to wait till November to commence campaigns in the public?
” The party primaries for Anambra State governorship election which comes up in November will be held in June even the announcement was made 3 months ago by the same commission.
“How come this impromptu announcement and schedule of primaries in April for Elections that will hold in February 2022?
“It was observed that political parties were not given adequate notice of the timetable for the FCT Area Council Elections.
“How can the commission announce the Elections on 31st March, 2021, and order that primaries commence immediately and conclude within the month just to have the elected candidates seat without campaigning till November 14, 2021.
” It is a known fact that a major Christian festival of Easter took place from 1st April to 6th April, 2021 and the Federal Government declared public holidays on 2nd and 5th April.
“All political parties complied with the public holidays to enable their staff who are Christians to celebrate Good Friday and Easter festivities.
“Also, the Ramadan month, a major Islamic calendar event started around 12th April. It’s unimaginable forcing aspirants to campaign and political parties to conduct primaries during the month of Ramadan. What is the hurry or national emergency?”
The statement further said, “Ordering parties to conduct primaries during this period of Christian and Islamic religious observances when the election is still one year away is a glaring case of insensitivity on the part of the Commission.
“The current FCT schedule runs contrary to election guides that have been in place for the 22 years of this democratic dispensation.
“Expecting young contestants to run for primaries within just 3 weeks without prior notices for an election that will take place almost in about one year time is unwieldy and it exposes the contestants, the parties, and INEC to more spending which affects election expenses that Nigerians feel that is currently bloated.
“We call on INEC to be transparent and be above board so Nigerians will have confidence in the commission and the nation’s Electoral system as this will privilege all stakeholders and the country.
” It is crucial to give sufficient time for aspirants to market themselves to get the candidacy of any of the Parties.
“Also, time for the constituencies to identify and select their preferred candidates to contest in any Party of their choice. People should not be made to spend all their fortunes trying to buy through any party
“We appeal you follow a credible protocol so as not to make elections too expensive for quality young candidates, the political parties, even INEC and the Government.
” Adoption of the credible protocol in this FCT election regimen will reduce election violence, pre, and post-election court cases and allow for quality governance outcome for our democracy.
“Proceeding with the FCT Council election guideline as it is presently, will only continue to complicate the perception of INEC before Nigerians and international public as incapable of conducting credible election”.