The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for 2019 general elections early to enable it plan well and set a new template in line with international best practices, officials said yesterday.
Two National Commissioners, Dr. Mustafa Lecky (South-South) and Solomon Soyebi told The Nation in separate interviews in Abuja that the timetable will not disrupt or slow down governance.
INEC released the timetable for the 2019 general elections on Thursday with the Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled for Saturday, February 16, 2019 followed by the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections on Saturday March 2.
The early release of the time table sparked immediate response especially from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Former acting National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus said the INEC action was the first indication that it had commenced the rigging process for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said Nigerians needed no further proof to establish that the electoral body has been designed to do the ruling APC bidding all the way.
He claimed that the commission as INEC is currently composed, lacks the wherewithal to conduct an unbiased election, and demanded the dissolution of the organization.
However, INEC National Commissioner, Dr. Lecky said given the delay in releasing budgetary allocations to INEC, it was necessary for the commission to work ahead.
He said: “The point is that if you look at the requirements for elections, the financial outlay is much. Our budget cycle is not normalized, we need to really prepare ahead.
“We are yet to get any allocation from 2017 budget. Clearly, we are not going to have a budget for that election because we are conducting it in February 2019. We will not have a budget.
“We have only next year to prepare for the poll. So, we should be partly looking at supplementary budget and 2018 budget to conduct the poll. We cannot be talking of the preparation for the poll without having a date in view.
“We are already costing how much is required to conduct the elections. We shall soon be going to the National Assembly with the budget.
Asked if political officers would not be distracted by the new timetable, he said: “INEC has nothing to do with distraction of governance. Instead, the timetable will enhance good governance and delivery of dividends of democracy.
“Elected public officers should know the day of accountability is near, the day of judgment is now known.
“We need to be taking steps to be maturing the electoral process. It is good for every stakeholder to prepare.”
On his part, the National Commissioner (in charge of South West), Solomon Soyebi, said the release of the timeline was to set a template in line with international best practices.
He said: “It is just an example of what we want the election year to look like; is just like a standard practice as the case in the United States, Ghana, Switzerland, Mexico and others.
“We have decided to fix the date for the National Elections for the third Saturday in February of the election year, followed by State elections two weeks later.
“It is not about this year, it is about all future elections in Nigeria. The same template will apply to 2023, 2027, 2031 and subsequent elections. It is a principle to hold the elections around 100 days to the end of term.
On the effect of the timetable on governance, Soyebi also added: “There is no politician that does not know his or her terminal days, it is a template we are institutionalizing.”