Ahead of the 69 elections the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to conduct this weekend across the country, the Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu yesterday laid bare the true situation of things at the commission.
He declared: “INEC is constrained. We are severally challenged because of the resurgence of violence. And remember that INEC has no security forces and we have no control over security forces. INEC cannot secure the voting environment.”
Among the elections scheduled for this weekend are 68 chairmanship and councillorship elections in Abuja and a House of Representatives rerun in Osun State.
Yakubu who spoke to journalists shortly after making a presentation at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room stakeholders’ meeting held in Abuja, expressed worry over the increasing violence witnessed in recent elections.
He, however, assured that the commission was working with security agencies to identify flashpoints for upcoming elections and arrest the situation before it degenerates.
He said: “We have a responsibility to our staff, ad hoc and regular, as well as the voters. Yes, we are challenged by it and we have been working with the security agencies to see what we can do. But appreciate the constraints. INEC cannot guarantee the security of elections. That responsibility belongs to another agency of government. But if the environment is not secure, there is no way we can guarantee elections.”
On efforts to check violence during elections, he stressed: “The control of violence is the responsibility of security agencies, not of the election management body. Today, we are going to hold a stakeholders meeting involving all the political parties participating in the upcoming elections. All the security agencies will be present. As we speak right now, INEC is holding a meeting with the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security. There, we will discuss security and then election risk management.
“We are going to identify the flashpoints and give the information to the security agencies to deploy accordingly. We don’t expect that there will be any breakdown of law and order. But where it happens, I am sure that with the work that we are doing with the security agencies, they can quickly deploy.”
Meanwhile, INEC, the National Assembly and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami have challenged civil society organizations (CSOs) to come up with proposed amendments to the electoral act for the attention of the executive and the legislative arms.
Asked why all the elections that INEC had conducted since he became the chairman turned out inconclusive, Yakubu explained that the issue was well provided for in the Electoral Act.
“Nobody has said that we have declared any election inconclusive outside the provisions of the law. Section 26 of the Election Act is clear. Where you have threats or natural disaster, INEC has the powers to suspend elections,” he noted.
Also speaking, Malami stressed that rulings of the Supreme Court on some of the election petitions were evidence of gaps in the nation’s electoral laws. He charged CSOs to come up with suggestions and proffer solutions to several challenges posed to the achievement of credible elections in the country.
He announced plans of government to carry out a comprehensive legal reform to address the challenges posed by some of the nation’s electoral laws.
“I have begun consultations with the leadership of the National Assembly and the Judiciary to identify key laws and priority areas for reform. Our priority areas will be clearly outlined in our justice sector reform that we will propose to the National Assembly and align it with their agenda in order to achieve it within the tenure of this administration.”
The Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aisha Dukku, in a presentation urged civil society organisations to hasten action and bring proposed amendments to the electoral law and promised that the National Assembly would give such the desired attention.
Speaking on behalf of CSOs, Executive Director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, tasked INEC to open up discussions within itself about its regulations to accommodate current challenges.
“The attorney general of the federation should develop a legislative agenda for the government,” he charged.
He observed that there may be the need for adequate work in the proposed amendments to the electoral law.