INEC, Political Parties to Meet over Buhari’s Refusal to Sign Electoral Bill

The leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission will, this week, hold a crucial meeting with the leaders of political parties towards the coming 2019 General Elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to withhold assent to the Electoral Act (Amended) Bill 2018, it was learnt, would top the agenda of the meeting.
It is feared that the National Assembly as currently constituted might not get the required number of members to do so. They have therefore resolved to look beyond the parliament in finding a way out.

The first national spokesperson for the Coalition of United Political Parties, Imo Ugochinyere, confirmed these in an interview with our correspondent on Saturday.

He said, “The leadership of political parties will be meeting with INEC this week and top on the agenda of the meeting is that now that the President has refused to sign, it is now left for the electoral commission.

“There are some powers given to the commission under the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act to ensure free and fair conduct of elections.

“There are some provisions that INEC can amend the election guidelines with or without the President signing the law. Some of them include the use of card readers like the commission did in Ekiti and Osun states. You can see that the number of voters did not skyrocket in those states because INEC did not use incident forms.”

He added, “INEC can also allow agents to have access to electoral materials, verify them and even do video recording of the materials without any law.

“The issue of ensuring that no result is announced without agents of political parties being present at the spot, stopping the police and soldiers from chasing away party agents so that they can doctor the results, the issue of ensuring that results are announced at every polling unit, the issue of collecting electronic results by INEC to compare, issue of serialising ballot papers for each polling unit, all these the INEC can do with or without the President.

“The first thing the INEC chairman must do, or else all political parties will pull out of the election, is that he has to announce to Nigerians that there will be no use of incident forms.”

He claimed the non-use of incident forms was important to avoid a repeat of what allegedly happened in 2015, when “out of the over seven million votes he (Buhari) got from the North-West, over five million came from incident forms.”  He claimed that most of the people that voted for Buhari in the North-West were not accredited.

Ugochinyere added that another area of concern for the opposition parties ahead of the elections was the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.

He said opposition parties were not comfortable with the information that the present administration might extend Idris’ tenure which he said would expire by January.

“Another important aspect is the position of the IG whose tenure is expiring in January. Going by the public service rule, he ought to have proceeded on terminal leave.

“But the two people who have hijacked the President want him re-appointed. Once that happens, what we will be having is no longer an IG but a man who will be willing to deploy security forces to achieve the dastardly act they are planning,” he alleged.

Ugochinyere said one of the steps that would be taken by opposition parties was to mobilise the people to perform the police function of arresting people who had committed electoral offence.

He said such people would be encouraged to resist and disarm political thugs.

That, he said, would be the option left for the opposition.

He said securing two-thirds in the House of Assembly to override the President would be impossible.

“So, we are looking beyond that to engage INEC to make promises and commitments to Nigerians on how the forthcoming elections can be free and fair,” he said.

He said the outcome of the meeting with INEC would go a long way in deciding whether the opposition parties would take part in the elections or not.

The Punch

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