Screen your candidates thoroughly, INEC advises parties

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged political parties to ensure that credentials of candidates vying for political offices under their platform were diligently screened before presenting such candidates to the Commission. The electoral umpire said the advice became necessary to avoid the Bayelsa State situation during the upcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the advice in Abuja yesterday at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC).The Supreme Court had recently sacked the former governor-elect of Bayelsa State, David Lyon, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the ground that his Deputy, Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo presented a forged certificate to INEC.

The apex court had held that since Degi-Eremieoyo shared a joint ticket with Lyon, his disqualification invalidated their nomination by the APC.
Yakubu explained that such scenario could be avoided when political parties observe diligence in screening their candidates, saying that would also lead to reduction in protracted litigations and situation where outcomes of elections are determined by court orders.

He insisted that dates selected for primary elections for Edo and Ondo governorship polls were sacrosanct, adding that INEC would rigorously monitor the primaries and apply sanctions where necessary.

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Yakubu said: “The end of tenure governorship elections in Edo and Ondo are holding later in the year. Given recent experience with some governorship elections, political parties need to do more to avoid the conduct of acrimonious primaries or failure to observe due diligence in the screening of their candidates, resulting in protracted litigations and eventual determination of the outcome of elections by orders of court.

“I wish to draw the attention of political parties to two critical dates in the timetable released by the Commission a few weeks ago. Party primaries for the democratic election and nomination of candidates for the governorship election in Edo State must be held from June 2 to 27th, 2020. The date for Ondo State is July 2 to 25, 2020. The Commission will not extend the dates. We will also rigorously monitor the primaries and where necessary, apply sanctions as provided by law.

“At the same time, the personal particulars of all the candidates nominated by political parties for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, including their academic qualifications, will be displayed in our offices in the two states as required by law. This will enable citizens to scrutinise them and take legal action against any candidate who provides false information to the Commission. The personal particulars of candidates will be displayed on July 6, 2020, in Edo State and on August 4, 2020, in Ondo State.”

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The INEC boss appealed to Nigerians to seize the opportunity to scrutinise the information provided on oath by the candidates in the interest of democracy and good governance. He also disclosed that INEC had received communications from the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, declaring the seats for Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West Senatorial Districts vacant, adding that it would determine a date for the bye-elections soon.

He added: “The Commission has been studying the judgments of courts arising from the conduct of recent elections. We have also been reviewing the reports from accredited observers as well as internal reports from our State Offices. We will continue to keep an eye on the conduct of our officials and apply appropriate sanctions on erring staff, both regular and ad-hoc.

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“Ahead of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, critical changes will be introduced to strengthen our processes and procedures.“Similarly, the Commission, jointly with the security agencies, is reviewing deployment during elections. Already, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) has set up a committee in this respect. The inaugural meeting of the Committee is holding on Wednesday next week.

“Our major responsibility is the conduct of elections which must be free, fair and credible. The reality in Nigeria today is that elections have become an all-year round activity for the Commission. This year alone, the Commission has conducted elections into 28 constituencies by court order. Four bye-elections will be held in the next three weeks and, as I said earlier, vacancies were declared in two Senatorial Districts yesterday. We are also awaiting declarations of vacancies for two more Senatorial Districts. While we are conducting these elections, we must also continue to proactively and progressively work for the improvement of the electoral process.”

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