2023: CSOs urge INEC to maintain election timetable



By Chimezie Godfrey

In order to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process leading to the 2023 general election, Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, have urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to maintain its timetable which was released on February 26, 2022.

The CSOs warned that alteration of the election timetable portends danger for the integrity of the electoral process.

The CSOs in a statement on Thursday, recalled that on the 26th of February 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the interest of all and considering the strict timeline stipulations for the implementation of electoral activities in the new Electoral Act 2022, issued the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the General Election in which all political parties were advised to conduct their party primaries and submit the names of nominated candidates between 9 am, June 10 –  6 pm July 17, 2022.

The CSOs commended INEC for the proactive and transparent way it has engaged all stakeholders, especially political parties, on plans for the 2023 elections and for ensuring all stakeholders, especially political parties have the required information in a timely and unambiguous way. 

According to them, the timetable for political party primaries i.e., April 4 – June 3, 2022, has been known since February 2022 (3 months ago), and parties have subsequently sent their own timetable to INEC and shared it with the public.

They further noted that the public has been awash with different aspirants on different political parties’ platforms’ declarations of intentions supported by the purchase of forms to back their declarations.

They stressed that in essence, the process of party primaries has commenced, adding that some parties are at top gear in their candidate selection with the Labour Party already producing its presidential candidate on May 11, 2023. 

The CSOs therefore stressed that it would be unfair and inconsiderate of these efforts by parties if the EMB at this stage changed the timetable, part of the rules of the electoral process that ensure certainty and safeguard the integrity of the process. 

“So, we currently watch with dismay at the various attempts by Political Parties to pressurize the electoral umpire to suit their ends, and by so doing alter the time stipulations of INEC.

“We are also dismayed at the backhand attempt by the National Assembly to intrude in this process with their last-minute amendment to the new Electoral Act 2022, which just became operational as of February 25, 2022. the implementation of which only just started.  

“We categorically state that any attempt to alter the present timeline is tantamount to indirectly shifting the General Election forward and away from 25 February and 11 March earlier fixed by INEC, a move which Nigerians will vehemently resist. 

“We are therefore demanding that in the interest of transparency, accountability, and integrity of the election, INEC, as an impartial umpire should maintain its timetable which was released on February 26, 2022, for the following reasons:

1.     Parties have already commenced the process and it is unfair to extend the period; 

2.     there are interrelated dependencies that INEC is working with to ensure transparent, well-conducted elections in February and March 2023, to push back on the timelines is to affect the election preparations; 

“3.     Governance has taken a back seat to politics despite the existential threats of insecurity and the hardship Nigerians face due to the rise in fuel and food – we need those in office to focus on their responsibilities for governance and this will only happen after the primaries. 

“4.     The longer the period within which the leading parties have to engage in the primaries, the more unstable the political, economic, and social sectors will be. 

“5.     Any review, change, or alteration of the timeline for one activity will penultimately affect other activities and put unnecessary constraints on the Commission. This will ultimately result in more complications than what the alteration seeks to achieve. 

“Therefore, the current timeline, as conceived by INEC, is best left as it is; as it will help the electorates and candidates alike to rigorously debate critical National issues.  Furthermore, it is not in the place of any Political Party to dictate its own whims to INEC,” the CSOs stated.

The CSOs equally urged INEC to continue in its impartial duty and resist all attempts aimed at pressurizing it to alter its timeline.

They also urged all political parties to respect the rules of INEC as the election management body.  

The CSOs that signed the statement include; The Electoral Hub, Ayisha Osori, Adopt A Goal Initiative, Abuja School for Social and Political Thought, Emma Ezeazu Centre for Accountability and Good Governance – EECentre, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, Yiaga Africa, Partners West Africa, Nigeria (PWAN), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center (WARDC), Gender Development Initiative, and Sesor Empowerment Foundation.

Others include, Speak Out Africa Initiative, Gender Strategy Advancement Initiative, Centre for Transparency and Accountability,
Women in Politics Forum, and Feminist Womanifesto Group (a group of over 300 women organisations).