INEC Moves Against Power Of Incumbency In Elections By Governors, Others

Prof. Yakubu
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By Akombo Aondona, Abuja

Following unending complaints by political parties that state governors and others use it to skew the conduct of elections in their favour, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has resolved to work with the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to conceptualise strategies that the electoral commission and other stakeholders could devise to neutralise the power of incumbency in Nigerian elections.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this on Tuesday 25 July 2023 at a meeting with political parties to review the 2023 General Election held at the INEC Conference Room in Abuja.

Already, INEC has scheduled a meeting with the ICCES for Friday, 28 July 2023, to kick-start the moves against the power of incumbency in elections.

  Reviewing the just-concluded General Elections, the INEC chairman observed: “For the 2023 General Election, political parties played a leading role in the election and the electoral process. Collectively, they sponsored 36 presidential candidates and their running mates; 837 governorship candidates and their running mates; 1,100 senatorial candidates; 3,127 candidates for federal constituencies (i.e. House of Representatives) and 10,231 candidates for state assembly constituencies. The Commission also printed identity cards for 1,642,385 polling and collation agents nominated by political parties to represent them at polling units and collation centres.

 “Following the conclusion of the election, seven political parties won senatorial seats, eight parties in the House of Representatives and nine parties in the State Houses of Assembly. While the Commission is working on the electronic register of election results as provided by Section 62(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, a comprehensive list of elected candidates for the 1,491 constituencies distributed by name, constituency, political party and gender will be uploaded to the Commission’s website this afternoon for public information.

“The Commission appreciates the role of political parties through the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in voter education within the limits of available resources both during off-cycle and the general election. Your robust engagement with the National Assembly contributed a lot to the 4th and 5th alterations to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022. 

“Working in partnership with us, political parties also supported the expansion of voter access to polling units and many innovations introduced by the Commission, including the online pre-registration of voters, nomination of candidates and the accreditation of party agents. You also supported the Commission’s effort to deepen the use of technology in voter accreditation and result management as well as the provision of assistive devices in aid of persons with disability during elections.”

Prof. Yakubu stated: “However, the Commission is aware that while there were many positive developments from the 2023 General Election, there were challenges encountered which must be addressed. The Commission is aware that many aspects of the electoral process are currently being litigated at the various election petition tribunals. Nevertheless, we must review them broadly without touching on the merits of the cases in court. Our hope is that at the end of the review process, a comprehensive report will be prepared that will serve as a basis for further engagement with stakeholders focusing on specific actions necessary for the improvement of future elections and electoral activities.

“As we review the general election, we also need to focus our attention on the forthcoming bye-elections and the three off-cycle Governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States. For the Commission, we are looking at some of the lessons learnt from the general election to improve our performance in the forthcoming elections. We are focusing, among other issues, on election technology, recruitment and training of ad hoc staff, the conduct of some of our regular and ad hoc officials, security issue, logistics in particular and our relationship with other service providers in general.

“I also appeal to party leaders for similar introspection on the conduct of your candidates and their supporters. The use of thugs during elections to harass election officials, intimidate voters and disrupt processes, sometimes resulting in the destruction of election materials or even worse must be addressed. Campaign in public by parties and candidates in the three states commenced on 14th July 2023 as provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Governorship elections. Sadly, there are already disturbing reports of clashes between opposing parties with claims and counter claims of innocence or culpability. These claims help no one. Call your supporters to order.”

On the vexed issue of power of incumbency, Prof. Yakubu said: “At the same time, I must also acknowledge the perennial complaints from some political parties that the power of incumbency is used in some States to restrain some parties and candidates from access to public facilities for media campaigns and outdoor advertising through exorbitant fees or outright denial. This often leads to the mutual destruction of advertising materials such as billboards, resulting in altercation and violence involving supporters of opposing political parties. This matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) scheduled for Friday this week.”

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