Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday, cried out over plans to disrupt the February 3 re-run and bye-elections in parts of the country.
Yakubu spoke in Abuja at the first quarterly meeting of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
According to him, “From experience, the conduct of isolated elections such as bye-elections and re-run elections can be very challenging. We must pay attention to the potentials for disruptive behaviour by some candidates and their supporters.
“A re-run election conducted in one Polling Unit (PU) or a handful of Polling Units (PUs) can be severely disrupted by acts of thuggery knowing full well that these few locations will determine the outcome of the election.
“Arising from the reports we received from the states, concerns have been raised about the impact of the prevailing insecurity in some states on the conduct of the elections, made worse by incendiary statements by some political actors.”
The INEC boss challenged the security agencies to make the environment conducive for the conduct of the elections.
He said, “There are two categories of elections. First are the bye-elections arising from the death or resignation of members of the National and State legislative houses affecting two Senatorial Districts, four Federal and three State Assembly Constituencies. The second category is the re-run elections by order of Election Petition Appeal Tribunals.
“In my remarks at the Commission’s extraordinary meeting with leaders of political parties last month, I reported that the elections affect 35 national and state constituencies. Since then, four additional orders of the Court of appeal have been served on the commission in respect of Yabo/Shagari Federal Constituency of Sokoto State, Madara/Chinade State Constituency of Bauchi State as well as Kudan and Kauru/Chawai State Constituencies of Kaduna State.
“This brings the total number of affected constituencies to 39 which translates to 2.6% of the 1,491 constituencies for which elections were conducted nationwide in the 2023 General Election.”
Yakubu said the nine bye-elections were fresh elections covering the entire constituencies, but that with the exception of three constituencies (Plateau North Senatorial District and Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency in Plateau State and Kachia/Kagarko Federal Constituency in Kaduna State), the re-run elections would hold in a few Polling Units.
He said that in some cases, only one PU is affected in an entire Federal or state constituency.
Yakubu said that as security agencies, it is their responsibility to secure the environment to enable the commission deploy personnel and materials, the protection of observers, the media as well as the polling and collation agents representing the political parties and candidates. Without a secure and peaceful environment, the conduct of credible elections is imperilled.
He also said that what many people do not realize is that there is no election season in Nigeria any longer.
“Elections are held throughout the year between one general election and another. This adds to the enormous pressure on both INEC and the security agencies.
“For instance, in addition to the bye-elections and re-run elections holding next week, the Commission has also released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the two off-cycle Governorship elections in Edo State scheduled for 21 September 2024 and Ondo State holding on 16th November 2024. As required by the Electoral Act 2022, party primaries and nomination of candidates shall be done not later than 180 days before the date fixed for the elections.
“Accordingly, party primaries for Edo State will commence next week and end three weeks later (i.e. 1st- 24th February 2024). For Ondo State, primaries will be held between 6th and 27th April 2024.
“Our collective experience as election managers and security agencies shows that party primaries can sometimes be more acrimonious than general elections. Therefore, as we prepare for the bye-elections and re-run elections, we should equally be prepared for the two major elections later in this year in Edo and Ondo States.”