Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes on the recent meeting between the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the newly constituted Senator Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya-led Senate Committee on INEC on preparations for the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, scheduled for November 16

The elections are in the category of end-of-tenure off-season elections conducted by the commission. From this year until very close to the next general elections, there will be governorship elections every year in Nigeria. In 2019, we have Kogi and Bayelsa; the next year 2020, we have Edo and Ondo governorship elections. Thereafter in 2021, we have the Anambra governorship elections and in 2022, we have Ekiti and Osun governorship elections. So, this is the first in the major off-season governorship elections that the commission is going to conduct.

Electoral Data for Bayelsa and Kogi States

What are the specific details of the electoral data for these two states? In terms of the number of local governments, Bayelsa has eight local government areas. Kogi has 21. Bayelsa has 105 electoral wards, Kogi has 239. For the Polling Units including the Voting Points, Bayelsa has 2,244 polling units and voting points while Kogi has 3508. In terms of the registered voters, Bayelsa has 923,182 registered voters, whereas Kogi has 1,646,350 registered voters. Since 2015, it has been the practice that where citizens have no PVCs (permanent Voters’ Cards) they can’t vote. What is the rate of collection of PVCs in the two states?

Permanent Voters’ Cards

In Bayelsa, 889,308 PVCs have been collected, representing 96.3 per cent of the total number of registered voters. In Kogi, 1, 485,828 PVCs have been collected representing 90.2 per cent. What about the uncollected PVCs? In Bayelsa, it is 33, 874, representing 3.7 per cent of the total number of registered voters. Whereas in Kogi it is 160, 522, representing 9.8 per cent of the total number of registered voters.

Ad-Hoc Staff

INEC requires a lot of ad-hoc staff to conduct the elections in the two states. In Bayelsa, the requirement is 9,945 ad-hoc staff. While Kogi will accommodate 15,868 ad-hoc staff. In all, for the two states, the commission will require about 26,000 ad-hoc staff to conduct the elections. But in addition to the governorship elections, there are other elections, essentially bye-elections. Since the 2019 general elections, INEC has conducted one bye-election into the Pengana State Constituency in Plateau State, caused by the death of the member representing that constituency. In addition, the commission has another bye-election pending in Katsina, in the Sabwa State constituency. The Speaker of the (Katsina) State Assembly has already declared a vacancy. Preparations are now in top gear.

In addition to the governorship election in Bayelsa state, there is also the pending supplementary election into the Brass II State Constituency in six Polling Units. The commission was planned and prepared to conduct the election shortly after the general elections, but for the protracted legal battle that went up to the Supreme Court. It is only recently that the Supreme Court determined the case. INEC is now going back to conduct that election in six Polling Units and make a declaration for the Brass II State Constituency. This will be combined with the Governorship election.

Party primaries and nomination of candidates.

Nigeria has 92 political parties. There are 91 political parties going into the 2019 general elections but since the general elections, the courts have ordered the commission to register another political party. Some of the (existing) parties were actually registered by court order. The constitutional provision for registration of parties is very clear. But in addition, the Electoral Act 2010 says that if an association doesn’t hear from INEC within one month, it is deemed to be registered. INEC has a record of obeying court orders.

For the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, parties conducted their primaries and these were monitored by INEC. But only 52 parties nominated candidates for the Bayelsa governorship election, while 49 did in Kogi, making a total of 101 parties for the two elections. However, out of the 101 parties, only 46 in Bayelsa and 41 in Kogi, making a total of 87 made valid nominations. In other words, the nominations complied with the constitutional requirements for qualification for election into the office of governor. These requirements include: The candidate has to be a Nigerian citizen by birth; he or she has to be 35 years of age minimal; he or she must be sponsored by a political party,; and then the candidate must be educated to school certificate level.




They completed the Form 001 and prima facie, on the documents that they submitted on oath that some of them did not meet the constitutional requirements for contesting for election into the office of governor. Some were 30 years, 31, 34 and in one exceptional case, even a 27-year-old was nominated by one of the political parties. Therefore, INEC declared the nominations invalid. The commission did not reject or disqualify (any candidate) because there is nothing to reject or disqualify. Once the constitutional requirement is not met, the individual can not contest.

For this category of invalid nominations, six parties were involved in Bayelsa, and eight in Kogi, making a total of 14 parties. Out of 101 parties, 87 have made valid nominations. But 14 parties submitted invalid nominations and they have been informed accordingly. Out of the 87 parties that made valid nominations, one party in Bayelsa withdrew from the election during the period for withdrawal and substitution of candidates and in Kogi, 18 political parties withdrew, making a total of 19 for the two states.

After all the expenditure and monitoring of the party primaries and based on the provisions of the law, they then decided to withdraw from the elections. It’s entirely legitimate for them to withdraw. And they gave quite a number of reasons, ranging from lack of financial capacity to prosecute the election. Some said family advice on the fear of violence; one said ill-health, another said travel arrangements and another said there is a slim chance that his party will win the election.

In all, INEC has 45 parties contesting in Bayelsa and 23 in Kogi, making a total of 68. But three of the 14 parties that made invalid nominations have dragged the commission to court.

Budget

Does the commission have the resources for the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa? Provision was made in the 2019 regular budget for the two governorship elections. Provision was also made for some unforeseen off-season elections, like the Pengana State Constituency election caused by death and the pending bye-election in Katsina, again, caused by death. There is also provision for recall and referendum. Recently, the commission received a letter from one of the states asking for the register of voters to initiate a recall of one of the members of the National Assembly. So, there is already a request for initiating the recall. Provision was made in the regular 2019 budget for this kind of situation.

Implementation of Scheduled Activities

For the two elections, there are 14 activities that the commission has to implement, from the publication of the Notice of Election to the election day proper. So far, INEC has successfully accomplished 10 out of the 14 activities, including the presentation of the register of voters to political parties. The remaining four activities will be accomplished from the 2nd of November.

Logistics

The commission is aware that the two states are difficult in terms of terrain. Arrangements are being concluded with the National Union of Road Transport Workers for land transport based on the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the commission and the NURTW. In Bayelsa, because five out of the eight local governments are riverine, INEC has also made arrangements with boat owners.

All non-sensitive materials for the elections for the two states have been delivered and staff of the commission are batching the materials by local governments, by RAs (Registration Areas) and ultimately down to the level of Polling Units. As always, the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) will be deployed for the election for the purpose of voter accreditation and arrangements have been made for the configuration and deployment of the SCRs. The Manual Register will be printed. One will be posted at the Polling Units, the other one will be held by the Presiding Officer and that is the one that will be ticked off on election day.

INEC has a responsibility to train the 26,000 ad-hoc staff. The process for recruitment of ad-hoc staff and training them – those that are going to perform the tasks at the polling units, mainly drawn from the NYSC has commenced. Already, the master training has been concluded, the train-the-trainer programme for security personnel and the refresher training for electoral officers and assistant electoral officers for the two states have been concluded, as well.

Security Situation

Both Kogi and Bayelsa are politically volatile. INEC has observed the kind of situation that arose during the conduct of primaries by political parties and one or two incidents in Kogi with the commencement of campaigns by political parties. The commission has engaged the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) which is co-chaired by INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu with the National Security Adviser (NSA). The Police are the lead agency but all other security agencies are also involved. The Inspector-General of Police is working on the deployment jointly with the security agencies for the security personnel needed for the two elections.

INEC has conducted its risk assessment for the two states and this information is available to other security agencies that also conduct their own risk assessment on the basis of which the security agencies will be guided in their deployment. INEC is ready to finalise on the deployment plan jointly with the security agencies, including the escort of personnel and materials as well as the protection of the processes throughout the period of the elections. In a place like Bayelsa, the commission not only hires boats, it also works with the security agencies – the Marine Police, the Navy and the Army to have gun-boats to escort the boats carrying personnel and materials for the election.

Stakeholder Engagements

Given the security situation in the two states, INEC realized that it has to be more proactive in its engagements with all the stakeholders at the state level since this is the first major election after the 2019 general elections and learning lessons from what happened in the 2019 general elections. The commission has taken the extraordinary step to start engaging with the stakeholders long before the elections.

QUOTE:

The commission is aware that the two states are difficult in terms of terrain. Arrangements are being concluded with the National Union of Road Transport Workers for land transport based on the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the commission and the NURTW. In Bayelsa, because five out of the eight local governments are riverine, INEC has also made arrangements with boat owners.

Source: Thisday

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