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2019: INEC Reads Riot Act To Parties Over Illegal Campaigns

By CHRIS EKEKE

Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday warned political parties and politicians to desist from engaging in campaigns, stressing that it is illegal.

The commission further told parties or aspirants to wait for the release of the timetable for the elections.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu who issued the warning at a quarterly consultative meeting with the media held at the commission’s
secretariat, also disclosed that while 6200 Smart Card Readers will be deployed for the November 18 Anambra State governorship election,
e-tracking will also be used.

Noting that the commission has commenced work on the budget for the 2019 general elections, Yakubu said, “The release of timetable does
not translate to beginning of political campaigns.

“I want to use this opportunity through the media to draw the attention of political parties and candidates that are going round the country campaigning that INEC is  the only agency responsible for the release of timetable for campaigns and has not done so. That anything
anybody does is illegal. Wait for the time table for the election”, he said.

While the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose had last Thursday declared his intention to vie for the nation’s presidency in 2019, the minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, had earlier endorsed a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, for the 2019 presidential election.

However Section 99 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), states that, “For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day”. Whoever violets this law is liable upon conviction to a maximum fine of N500, 000.

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It would be recalled that the commission had in March announced that the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on
Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections will hold on Saturday 2nd March 2019.

On the budget for the 2019 general elections, Yakubu said though the commission could not immediately place a figure on the budget, it was
already working on it.

“As you are aware, we have concluded the strategic plan. We are now working on the Election Project Plan. Once we conclude the Election
Project Plan, a number of things would follow among which is the election budget for the 2019 general elections which would be released
next week. We are unable to give you a figure for now”, he said.

On the November 18 Anambra State governorship election, Prof. Yakubu said the commission would be deploying a total of 6, 200 smart card
reader (SCR) machines for the conduct of the election.

“We have so far tested 5, 200 of the machines on their functionality, and we are satisfied with them. The remaining 1000 will be configured
and tested in the next few weeks.

“I want to add that the credibility of an election depends on the credibility of the voter’s register,” Prof. Yakubu said, disclosing further that the commission has decentralised the ongoing continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise in Anambra State to the ward level.

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He assured that all registered voters in the state would collect their permanent voter’s card (PVC) before the end of October.

“We will ensure that the governorship election in Anambra State is free and fair. The Anambra people will determine who will be their governor on 18th November, and we will ensure that the election is concluded in the first ballot,” he said.

He expressed the firm conviction that the election would not be inconclusive. Yakubu appealed for calm, assuring that “elections in Anambra will be free and fair. There is no way it can be anything than free and fair. This is the irreducible minimum. This should be taken for granted on the part of the commission.

“For a very long time, Anambra election has not been concluded on first ballot but we are determined to conclude Anambra election on
first ballot”.

He noted his delight at the peaceful nature of campaigns in the state. He also said that while the state has produced a record number of 37
contestants, the commission has not had to deal with court cases arising from two candidates of a party emerging for the election.

The chief electoral officer, also disclosed that the commission would deploy e-collection as a pilot programme in next month’s governorship
election in Anambra State “but Ekiti and Osun will be test grounds before 2019.”

Yakubu who lamented what he described as low turnout of voters at elections since the 2015 general elections, noted that only 6,000 out
of 183, 000 registered voters were accredited for last week’s bye-election in Lagos, which he said, was about 3. 42 per cent of the registered voters.

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He noted that though it rained that day it cannot be the reason for the low voter turnout.

“INEC is responsible for voter education but voter mobilisation is the duty of political parties and the CSOs,” he added.

On discipline of staff, the INEC chairman said his commission is the first that “in one full swoop disciplined 255 of its staff who were involved in electoral malpractices.” He said under INEC’s  terms and condition of service, erring staffers were indicted and placed on half salary until their innocence or so is established”.

He further said: “Only last week, I learnt they have started prosecuting them. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of everybody and recruiting afresh. We are committed to doing so.”

He however said that among the commission’s staff there are some dedicated personnel saying that he is “very proud of them.”

He noted that the commission has instituted a reprobation and reward system whereby dedicated staffers are rewarded.

“Among staff of the commission, there are dedicated staff of INEC, Imagine the amount of money that exchanged hands, only few hundreds
were involved. That is why we have instituted some form of reward and reprobation to reward dedicated staff.”

The INEC boss stated that report of those prosecuted will be made available as soon as the commission  concludes with the rest of the 21
states.

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