The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that it will no longer stand and watch party conventions and congresses degenerate to violent crises that threaten lives and destroy property.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, gave the warning in a statement on Monday in Abuja.
Okoye said that INEC would henceforth reconsider its involvement in political parties’ events to ensure that lives of its staff and members of the public are guaranteed.
He threatened that there would be grievous penalties in any situation where party congresses and conventions degenerated into violence.
He said that INEC watched with utmost dismay and profound concern the recurrent acrimony, violence and destruction of property, including the commission’s property and equipment, which had characterised some recent party congresses across Nigeria.
“The level of violence in some of the congresses is making it extremely difficult for the commission to exercise its statutory oversight responsibility enshrined in Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
“In one such congress in Kaduna recently, violence broke out leading to the destruction of the commission’s ballot boxes.
“Political parties are reminded that they have a clear obligation to ensure that their congresses and conventions are orderly, democratic and in accordance with extant legal framework, their own constitutions and guidelines, as well as INEC’s regulations and guidelines,” he said.
He warned that the commission would no longer tolerate situations where party conventions and congresses degenerate into farcical rituals and violent fiascos that threaten lives and destroy property.
“Henceforth, there will be far-reaching consequences in any situation where party congresses and conventions degenerate into violence and destruction of INEC property.
“Apart from replacing such destroyed materials, parties may be blacklisted from the receipt of INEC materials for their activities in the future.
“The Commission may also withdraw its staff from monitoring such violent political party meetings, with the resultant non-recognition of their outcomes,’’ Okoye said.
He reminded political parties of forthcoming primaries to select their candidates for upcoming elections and bye-elections, particularly those for the Anambra State Governorship election and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections.
“Parties must stick to the respective Timetable and Schedule of Activities for these elections as released by the Commission, which have been communicated to them and are available at the INEC website (www.inec.gov.ng).
“Parties must ensure that their primaries are peaceful and orderly. Above all, they must adhere strictly to the Electoral Act, INEC Regulations and Guidelines, as well as party constitutions and rules, which are domiciled with the Commission.
“Finally, in the conduct of their internal processes, political parties must hold themselves to the same standards they hold the Commission during elections namely, openness, fairness, adherence to rules and peaceful conduct.’’
He added that INEC remained deeply concerned about the acrimony and violence within parties such that there were now more suits in various courts of law arising from party congresses and primaries than from elections conducted by the commission.
Okoye gave assurance that INEC would still continue to work with political parties in support of their internal functioning in order to build strong and democratic parties in Nigeria.