2019: INEC begins prosecution of electoral offenders

The Independent National Electoral Commission may shift November 2, 2019 governorship election in Bayelsa state to a new date.

INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said this Tuesday in Abuja following a passionate appeal by a high-powered delegation that visited the commission’s headquarters.

The delegation complained that the date coincided with the state’s Thanksgiving Day.

Responding, Yakubu said: “The state government has appealed to the commission to reconsider the date for this reason. The speaker of the state assembly, religious leaders and other stakeholders made a similar appeal to the commission. Today, all the stakeholders are here to further reiterate their appeal. We have listened to you. At the next meeting of the commission, your appeal will be examined and the commission’s decision will be announced by Friday this week.”

The INEC boss also said the commission would soon begin the prosecution of alleged electoral offenders during the recently concluded 2019 polls.

He said:  “Arising from the arrests made by the security agencies in the 2019 general elections, the commission will soon commence the prosecution of offenders whose case files have been prepared by the Nigeria Police.”

“Pre-election litigations through the regular courts (the high courts, courts of appeal and the Supreme Court) have resulted in a number of judgements in favour of petitioners. 

“So far, primary elections conducted by political parties in 22 constituencies across the federation have been upturned by the regular courts of law on account of improper party primaries. 

“May I also appeal to all political parties to ensure the conduct of transparent, credible and rancour-free primaries for the nomination of candidates,” Yakubu further stated.

The INEC boss also said:  “From the 2019 general elections, we have seen how acrimonious party primaries have been, resulting in numerous litigations and making our preparations for elections difficult. We are still grappling with issues arising from the conduct of party primaries. 

“In all cases, we (INEC) have obeyed the orders of court and issued certificates of return to candidates declared winners by the courts. More of such judgements have been received and are currently under consideration by the commission.”

 Yakubu appealed to “all stakeholders in Bayelsa and Kogi states to ensure the forthcoming governorship elections are devoid of hate speech, intimidation of voters and INEC officials, vote buying, violence including bombing and arson that led to the destruction of election materials and INEC facilities in the last governorship elections in the two states and other sundry violations of the law.” 

He said leaders of the political parties in the two states should appeal to their supporters “to ensure the creeks and waterways, the hills and forests, urban and rural areas, the polling units and collation centres are free of thugs who unleash mayhem that turn a simple democratic process into needless bloodletting.

 “I want to assure you that on our part, the commission is committed to a free, fair and credible process. We will deploy early, adhere to our guidelines and regulations and ensure a transparent and prompt collation and declaration of results.” 

The plea by Byelsans

Earlier, the Bayelsa delegation made up of government officials, traditional rulers and clergymen from the state had complained that November 2 was dedicated as the state’s Thanksgiving Day. 

Led by the Deputy Governor, Rear Admiral Gboribiogha John-Jonah (retd), the delegation said the date was set aside to remember the creation in 1996 and thank God for all the people had achieved since its creation.

John-Jonah said the state had equally enacted a law at the state House of Assembly to give it legal backing, saying, a 15,000-seater ecumenical centre had been built for use as venue for the state’s Thanksgiving Day.

The deputy governor said it would not be out of place for INEC to reconsider the date because of its significance and relevance to the state 

“Now, the INEC announced the date of the guber elections in Bayelsa for 2nd of Nov and when that date was announced, various interest groups raised an issue about the relevance of the day to Bayelsa state. 

“Bayelsa was created on October 1, 1996. Shortly after the celebration, the clergy gathered and dedicated the state to God on 2nd of November, 1996. 

“That day was subsequently not celebrated. Later when this government came, the issue of thanking God for all that he has done for the state came up again when the governor asked the clergy to suggest to him what he wants done. 

“The clergy prayed and remembered and some of them that are here that were part of the initial dedication of the state to God on November 2nd, 1996. 

“Reflecting, the governor said Bayelsa needs to thank God on a yearly basis. The most significant day is November 2nd which he has already marked before. 

“This date was accepted to be a thanksgiving day. An executive bill was sent to the House of Assembly to subsequently pass into law. For the past seven years, we have been having our thanksgiving day on the 2nd of November every year. 

“When the commission said elections would be held on that day, the clergy met again and went to governor. Yes, INEC has a mandate of fixing a date but it won’t be out of place for the state to plead with INEC to reconsider the date because of the relevance of that date to the state. 

“Because of that, the requirement for the state to be thanking God, the governor went as far as building a 15,000-seater ecumenical centre where we do our thanksgiving every year, and we don’t limit it to Bayelsa state; every year, prominent Christian leaders all over the world meet there . This has been the practice for the past seven years,” the deputy governor said.

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