INEC rejects request for extension of time for party primaries

Yakubu

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Prof. Mahmood Yakubu as reiterated that the June 3 deadline for political parties’ primaries and other timelines for the 2023 election remains sacrosanct.

Yakubu spoke at INEC quarterly consultative meeting with leaders of 18 registered political parties on Tuesday in Abuja, the first since the Electoral Act 2022 was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, Feb. 25.

The INEC boss spoke as the IPAC National Chairman, Mr Yabagi Sani appealed to the Commission to extend the June 3 deadline for political parties primaries for the 2023 general election, by two months.

But while dismissing such calls, Yakubu said any extension in the timeline for an activity would affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the commission.

Yakubu added that such action would ultimately result in more complications than what the extension sought to achieve.

“This is also our first meeting since the Commission released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election over two months ago on Saturday, Feb. 26.

“Already, all 18 political parties have forwarded the schedules of their primaries to the Commission, and some have commenced the process of choosing their candidates by conducting ward and local government congresses.

“The period earmarked for the conduct of primaries by political parties commenced on 4th April 2022 and will end 24 days from today i.e. June 3,” he said.

He added: “Twice in the last two weeks, the commission had cause to remind political parties of the necessity for strict compliance with the timelines for party primaries.

“I hereby reiterate the position of the commission that there will be no review of the timelines. There are so many inter-related activities that are associated with the timelines which must be carried out.

“Any review to extend the timeline for one activity will affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the commission.”

Yakubu added that such action would ultimately result in more complications than what the extension sought to achieve.

“Therefore, the commission will not review the timelines.

“Working together, we should ensure fidelity to the timelines in conducting transparent and democratic primaries for the purpose of electing candidates for the 1,491 constituencies for which elections will be held on Feb. 25 and March 11 2023,” he said.

Yakubu said that the INEC has prepared a calendar for party primaries for presidential, governorship, national and state houses of assembly based on the proposals submitted by political parties as at Friday, May 6 presented to party leaders at the meeting.

He reminded political parties of their commitment to promoting inclusivity for women and persons with disabilities in the electoral process, as they conduct their primaries and nominate candidates for 2023 general elections.

“To assure citizens that you are not paying lip service to this commitment, political parties should encourage greater involvement of all under-represented segments of the society as candidates for elections.

“This is the only way we can change the reality of increasingly low level of representation of these critical segments of the society in legislative assemblies in particular and the governance of our country in general,” he said.

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Speaking on Ekiti and Osun governorship election slated for June 18 and July 16, Yakubu said that Section 42 of the Electoral Act 2022 required the commission to invite political parties to inspect samples of materials for the election not later than 20 days before the date fixed for an election.

“In compliance with this provision, we have invited all political parties fielding candidates for the Ekiti state governorship election to inspect samples of the materials on Wednesday May 18 at the commission’s conference room in Abuja at 11 am.

He assured parties leaders that the commission would remain firm in applying the law, saying “we will continue to work with political parties as critical stakeholders in the best interest of our country.”

But IPAC National Chairman, Sani said that the demand for the adjustment of the timetable and schedule of activities for 2023 general elections was adopted unanimous by the 18 political parties at the IPAC general assembly meeting.

“In summary, the general assembly of IPAC, after an exhaustive examination of the INEC timetable and related issues, arrived at a unanimous decision to request for an extension of two months to the deadline of the time frame for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of conflicts arising from the primaries:

“By implication, the IPAC leadership is appealing to the INEC to extend the deadline for the conduct of party primaries and resolution of ensuing conflicts from the present INEC given date of June 3 to Aug. 4.

“Some of the issues considered by the IPAC general assembly which necessitated the call for extension in the time frame of the present INEC timetable and schedule of activities are based on certain circumstances and developments that have hampered timely and strict compliance by the political parties to the timetable,” Sani said.

He listed some of the developments that were not considered by NEC while drawing up the schedule of activities to include Ramadan fast, as well as the Eld-el-fitr and Easter celebrations within the period.

Sani said that others included the governorship election in Ekiti and Osun, adding that IPAC also considered the time allotted by INEC for the conduct of party primaries as too short in view of the efforts required by the political parties for effective and scrupulous screening and selection of their flag bearers.

He also said the unprecedented large number of aspirants jostling to emerge as candidates of their various political parties in the coming general elections has made the task of screening very cumbersome and demanding.

Sani said that political parties also have to be cautious and painstaking in the screening and selection procedures as safeguard against creating rooms for disruptive incidents of litigation by aggrieved aspirants.

“In making the request for extension in the INEC stipulated timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections, we in the Inter-Party Advisory Council, are not unmindful of the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act with respect to timelines in the electoral process.

“We are however, of the considered view that our request will not, in any way, tantamount to an infringement or, a breach of any extant laws and provisions.

“This is because, the alterations that we are demanding, will not affect the statutory dates already fixed for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

“We are praying for the slight changes in the timetable for the conduct of party primaries in full consciousness of our position as key stakeholders in the nation’s democratic process and who, at the bottom of it all, constitute not only the greatest beneficiaries but, as the platform of all the registered political parties, we are in fact, the fulcrum around which the entire system and processes revolve.

“We should therefore, be seen as a body of responsible and patriotic interest bloc with a very high sense of responsibility and commitment to the success of every crucial stage and aspects in the electoral chain,” he said.

Sani urged INEC to consider IPAC request as a decision that was in the best interest of the nation’s democracy and specifically, the smooth conduct of the 2023 general election.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting was attended by new seven political party chairmen and secretaries or their representatives for the first time.

They included those of the Action Alliance (AA), All Progressives Congress (APC), Action Peoples Party (APP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Social Democratic Party (PDP).(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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