396 days to 2023: INEC ties election timetable to yet-to-be signed Electoral Bill

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Tuesday said as soon as the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill 2021 is signed into law, it would quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based on the new law.

The commission also said it was encouraged by Senate President Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan’s assurance that lawmakers would give priority attention to the Bill as the National Assembly reconvened Tuesday, even as it assured of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to assent to the Bill as soon as the grey areas were cleared.

This is coming as the National Assembly said throwing away the baby with the bath water won’t be good after the efforts put into the making of that Bill.

President Buhari had December last year, refused assent to the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment ) Bill 2021 passed by both Chambers of the National Assembly on account of mandatory provision of Direct Primaries for political parties in selection of candidates for general election as contained in section 87(2) of the rejected bill.

 In the letter dated December 13, 2021, the president  said the provision was undemocratic and serious infraction on Constitution of the various political parties which has different options of Direct , Indirect and Consensus arrangement for such elections. 

INEC assures

Speaking at a meeting with leaders of political parties in Abuja, INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu said the commission looked forward to a speedy passage of the proposed piece of legislation, which he said was crucial to its preparations for future elections.

He said: “On the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly, the Commission is encouraged by the Senate President’s assurance to give priority attention to the bill when the National Assembly reconvenes from its recess today, and the commitment by the President to assent to the Bill as soon as the issue of mode of primaries by political parties is resolved. 

“We look forward to a speedy passage of the bill, which is crucial to our preparations for future elections. As soon as it is signed into law, the commission will quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election based on the new law.”

On the need to firm up the commission’s activities this year, Yakubu said: “Undoubtedly, the year 2022 is going to be a very busy year for the Commission and the political parties. The 2023 general election is just 396 days away. All the critical preparations must be concluded this year.”

Osun, Ekiti guber

Speaking on the Ekiti and Osun offseason governorship elections, the INEC boss said, “party primaries for the Ekiti state governorship election are scheduled for 4th – 29th January 2022. For the Osun State Governorship election, primaries will hold from 16th February to 12th March 2022. 

“In the case of Ekiti state, all the 18 political parties have served the mandatory notices for the primaries.” 

INEC urges hitch-free primaries

He emphasised the need for transparent and rancour-free primaries, urging the parties to also respect their chosen dates for the primaries based on the commission’s timetable and schedule of activities. 

“Already, many parties have rescheduled their primaries several times. While the Commission has earmarked a period of three weeks and 4 days (i.e. 25 days) for the conduct of the Ekiti state governorship primaries, virtually all political parties have decided to hold their primaries in the last 4 days i.e. 26th – 29th January 2022. 

“In fact, seven political parties have chosen the last day for their primaries. Similarly, no party has so far submitted its list of aspirants, the composition of its electoral panel, or the register of members or list of delegates depending on the chosen mode for electing its candidates. As at yesterday, only one party has indicated the venue for its primaries. 

“I urge you all to do so immediately to enable us to work out the detailed plans for monitoring the primaries. All primaries for electing candidates must take place in the constituency where election will hold as required by law. 

“In the cases of Ekiti and Osun state governorship elections, any primaries conducted outside the two states will not be monitored by the Commission and their outcomes will not be accepted. This also applies to primaries for bye-elections conducted outside the constituencies,” he said.

25 days to Area Council elections  

On the forthcoming area council polls in the FCT, INEC boss said: “It is now 25 days to the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory. Major activities have already been carried out, including the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties. Only last week, the Commission presented the register of voters to political parties while the PVCs for new registrants, requests for transfers and replacement of cards have been printed and delivered several weeks ago to our FCT office for collection by voters. 

“In the next few weeks, the Commission will intensify stakeholder engagements, the monitoring of campaigns by political parties and preparations for Election Day activities.” 

 Yakubu also said the commission would be deploying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the FCT area council elections.   

Senate assures on Electoral Bill

And making its position known on the controversial Electoral Bill, Senate Tuesday ruled out the possibility of  overriding President Buhari’s veto, assuring however of its readiness to expeditiously look into issues raised by the president.

Indication to this effect emerged after about two hours’ closed door session held before plenary Tuesday.

Senate President Lawan revealed this in his speech after the closed door session.

He said: “The Senate postponed discussions on the consideration of the response of Mr President on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill to enable us consult with our counter parts in the House of Representatives and also consult with our Constituents.

“Like we all know, the Senate and indeed the National Assembly worked so hard on the Bill. Having consulted, the Senate will expeditiously look into the issues raised.”

Reps to go with Buhari
Similarly, Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila  also hinted that the parliament may opt for Buhari’s suggestions on the Electoral Act amendment Bill, as the House commenced the process of effecting corrections today.



Gbajabiamila dropped the hint while welcoming his colleagues back from the yuletide break.

While underscoring the efforts put into the Bill, Gbajabiamila said: “Unfortunately, that Bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form. Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the Bill.”