By Chimezie Godfrey
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged stakeholders to update their service delivery plans and ensure effective implementation of public enlightenment in the home stretch towards the Anambra State Governorship election.
The National Commissioner and Chairman Information, Voter Education and Publicity Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, said this at the Implementation Meeting of the Voter Education and Publicity Department for the 6th November 2021 Governorship Election in Anambra State, held Tuesday in Awka, Anambra.
Okoye who noted that it is exactly 95 days to the 6th November 2021 Governorship Election in Anambra State, stressed that for INEC, 95 days to the conduct of any election is a race against time and that preparations must be in top gear.
He emphasized that the Commission places utmost importance in planning and keeping to time lines for the conduct of elections, adding that on the basis of this the Commission pre-delivered over 50% of the non-sensitive materials for the conduct of the election well ahead of time.
According to him, the Commission was deeply saddened therefore, when the premises of its Anambra State Head Office went up in flames not too long ago, destroying buildings, equipment and utility vehicles.
He however, assured that they have substantially recovered from the inferno as the Commission is not permitted to wallow in self-pity in the face of a Governorship election whose timeline is constitutionally circumscribed and cast in stone.
Okoye who stressed that the Commission is resolute in its commitment to the delivery of good elections, assured that it is determined to ensure that not even the recent ugly incident will undermine the smooth process and delivery of a good governorship election in Anambra State come 6th November 2021.
He therefore enjoined all the stakeholders to work closely with the Commission in a productive partnership.
He said,”The Implementation Meeting that has brought us to Awka today is a crucial engagement in the count down to the governorship election of 6th November 2021.
“The essence of this Meeting is for a section of key implementors of the scheme for the governorship election in Anambra State, especially those involved with public enlightenment and field dissemination of information to update their service delivery plans and ensure effective implementation of public enlightenment in the home stretch towards the election.
“The Commission considers it very important that stakeholders are availed of all relevant information on the processes, regulations and expectations from all concerned citizens before, during and after the election.
“This meeting will also assist us to update our knowledge of recent developments in the electoral process, with particular reference to the crucial election in Anambra State taking place on the 6th November 2021 election.
“As you all know, the Commission places high premium on the deployment of technology in the conduct of elections. This very practice which has become a part and parcel of the operations and activities of the Commission have impacted tremendously on the quality of elections in the country.
“It is important that you update your knowledge on some of these technology- driven processes and procedures of the Commission. There is no doubt that the deployment of technology in the delivery of over 26 bye elections since the 2019 general elections remarkably reduced the impact of human interferences in the outcome of the elections.”
The INEC Commissioner disclosed that the Commission was able to show a clear capacity to deliver credible election, ensuring more especially that the results from the polling units were not tampered with and that they reflect the will of the voters.
He urged stakeholders to be mindful of the messages relayed to the Communities which he encouraged them to be in the same page with the Commission in preparing for the election.
He added that they should ensure that the processes are tightened in such a way that there should be no loop holes in the preparations for the conduct of the election in Anambra State.
On the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), Okoye said the Commission is paying special attention to the CVR in Anambra State to ensure that all those who are eligible to register do so in preparation for the 6th November 2021 election.
He said the Commission will deploy additional staff and materials to Anambra State in the next few weeks to accelerate the registration exercise.
He also said that in the next few weeks, the Commission will decide when to suspend the CVR in Anambra State to enable it print the Permanent Voters Card of new registrants and integrate the supplementary voters register with the existing register of voters, adding that thereafter the CVR will resume in Anambra State after the election.
“As some of you are aware, the new polling units created by the Commission will come into force during the 6th November 2021 Anambra State Governorship election.
“The people of Anambra State will vote from polling units that are closer and accessible. Our young men and women who have turned 18 and those that have never registered before will have the opportunity of exercising their democratic franchise.
“Voter’s registration is at the heart of the democratic process. Those that have done their pre-registration online should try and complete the in person biometric capture as the online reservation lapses after 14 days,”he said.
On political party primaries, Okoye complained at the frequency and consistency with which courts of coordinate jurisdiction from different jurisdictions all over Nigeria assumed jurisdiction and delivered judgements and issued orders with far reaching implications on the conduct of the Anambra State Governorship election.
“Some of the Orders have the tendency of eroding the powers of the Commission and compromising its independence, powers and timelines for the conduct of the upcoming election.
“In our Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of Elections as well as the Timetable and Schedule of Activities, the Commission issues access code to the National Chairman of Political Parties with which they upload the Personal Particulars and List of their candidates electronically.
“This obviated the demonstrations, fights and violence normally witnessed in the premises of the Commission by different factions of Political Parties and the National and State Branches of Political Parties.
“Unfortunately, some of the judgements and Orders given especially on the primary elections in Anambra State have bypassed our portal and sought to restore the manual submission of the List and Personal Particulars of candidates.
“It is also becoming increasingly difficult for the Commission to obey Court Orders and judgements that are the latest in time or the first in time as some of the Political Parties and the candidates have perfected the art of shopping for the first in time or the latest in time.
The planning and preparation for election requires certainty and adherence to timelines. The leadership of the Bar Association and the Leadership of the Judiciary must wade into this descent to forum shopping and the multiplicity of Orders and judgements from courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
“This is urgent, it is imperative and cannot be carried over to the 2023 general election.
Okoye therefore maintained that political parties must obey and conform to their Constitutions and Guidelines for the conduct of Party Primaries as well as the provisions of section 87 of the Electoral Act.
He stressed that political parties must extricate themselves from the web and crisis of endless litigation arising from the conduct of primaries, own their rules and also comply with the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 [as amended] in all their activities.
Furthermore, Okoye disclosed that political parties will commence campaigns on the 8th of August 2021.
He stressed that it is important for parties to bear in mind that the country is still within the web of a global health emergency.
According to him, political parties and candidates are required to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocol contained in the statement released by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 on Friday 30th July 2021.
“The use of facemasks, observance of hand hygiene and the restriction of any enclosed venues to 50% of its installed capacity (while observing the two metres distance) are mandatory.
“Parties must also be guided by the INEC policy on the conduct of political events and the Code of Conduct for Voters and Political Parties within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Political parties must conduct their campaigns with civility and the best tradition of democratic ethos.
“Political campaigns or slogans shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or section feelings.
“Abusive, intemperate, slanderous, or base language or insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns,” he said.
He reminded political parties that places designated for religious workshop, police stations, and public offices shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions.
Okoye reiterated the Commission’s commitment to the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections and the deepening of the use of technology in elections.