- The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) explains factors that stopped it from cancelling Kogi, Bayelsa elections
-INEC’s commissioner, Festus Okoye, says apart from the law, the courts have not been of good help to the electoral umpire
- Okoye gives details of the frustrations so far recorded by the commission in the discharge of its duties
Days after the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa which were reportedly marred by violence, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it could not cancel the exercise.
INEC pointed at the Nigerian law as hindering it from taking such an action.
It said it was not empowered by any Nigerian law to carry out such cancellation as demanded by some Nigerians and election observers.
The electoral body made the position known at an interactive session with the Nigeria civil society situation room in Abuja, where it argued that it was only mandated by section 26 of the electoral act to postpone a forthcoming election.
“I believe that the intentions of the lawmakers can be deduced from the clear wording of section 26 of the Electoral Act. It gives the commission the power to postpone, not cancel an election before the election starts.
“There is no provision of the law that gives the commission the power to cancel," Festus Okoye, its national commissioner in charge of information and voter education, insisted, arguing that INEC only has a mandate to postpone where possible.
Vanguard quoted Okoye as also noting the helplessness of the electoral umpire in that regard, especially in relation to protests about the outcome of the elections.
He added that matters were recently made worse with some courts, including the highest in the land, had recently ruled that INEC has no powers to cancel results that are made by a returning officer during any election.
“Unless the elites in this country believe in our democracy and the democratic system, even if we amend our laws 100 times it will not solve our problem.
“The second issue is that those of us who are in INEC and CSOs have a responsibility to understand the processes and procedures of the commission and how it functions and some of the powers donated to the commission, the limitations of those powers,” he said.
Okoye lamented how the commission had attempted to withhold the certificate of returns of the federal constituency elections in Benue, Niger and Akwa Ibom because the ‘returning officers’ declared results in controversial circumstances, but that the decisions of INEC were thrown out by the court.
He recalled how some parties submitted under-aged candidates and that one even endorsed a Chinese and that immediately INEC dropped them, the decision of the electoral umpire was upturned by the court.
He confessed that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and another party did not have their names printed on the result sheets. According to him, presiding officers were asked to write them with pens.
“But both political parties were in the ballot which we printed two weeks to the election. A week to the election the Federal High Court said we should restore the ADP on the ballot.
“We discarded the ballot that had been printed and printed a fresh set of ballot papers and moved them to Kogi state; two days to the election, another FHC said we should put APM in the ballot.
“We rushed back to the printers, discarded the ones we had already printed and then printed fresh ones. These are tax-payers money,” he said urging for a review of the electoral laws.
Legit.ng reported how Natasha Akpoti, candidate of the SDP in the Kogi election, made some allegations against INEC, the police and Governor Yahaya Bello.
She claimed that the trio connived to frustrate her right from the campaign period all through to the election.
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