•Commission acting within existing laws –Senate
Romanus Ugwu; Fred Itua, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will not be in any hurry to alter its timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections, despite the re-ordering done by the National Assembly.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who said this during a stakeholders meeting with the media in Abuja, yesterday, maintained that the commission is operating under existing provisions of the Electoral Act, as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Prof. Yakubu maintained that the commission is however, ready, to adjust if the bill is assented to.
On reactions that have trailed the reordering of the general elections timetable by the National Assembly, the INEC boss said: “The second issue I would want to comment on, in relation to preparations for the 2019 general elections, is the electoral legal framework by INEC.
“We are aware of the bill passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly, awaiting assent, concerning provisions of section 35, on the sequence of elections and the interest it has generated.
“As it is at the moment, the only law that exists is the Electoral Act of 2015, as amended, and the 1999 constitution, as amended. We have released the time-table and schedule of elections, in accordance with the law. And, that is the position of the commission, going forward.
“Let me add, again, that INEC is dealing with certainty and as far as the commission is concerned, there is no legal lacuna. What we have done was based on the existing law and nothing has changed. If the bill is eventually assented to, we will look at the provisions and come out to tell Nigerians the next step. But, as far as the situation is concerned at the moment, we are operating under the existing provisions of the Electoral Act, as enshrined in the constitution. We are governed by the provisions of that extant laws and issue of changing the timetable does not arise for now,” he noted.
On the budget for next year’s elections, he said: “I promised, last week, in Lagos, that the budget for the 2019 general elections will be finalised this week. As I speak with you, the file is on my table and we are looking at it, in line with the existing schedule of activities. Thereafter, we will submit to the approving authority and I want to assure you that it will happen, before the end of this week.”
He also spoke about the disturbing issue of vote-buying.
“Another issue that is of great concern to the commission, ahead of the 2019 general elections ,is the issue of vote-buying. The media have reported the incidence in previous elections and the commission is really worried about it. Ours must be a democracy of the people, for the people and by the people; not based on plutocracy or the rich. We are taking steps to ensure that elements within our powers in the election provision that will curb the incidence of vote buying will be implemented.
“We are working with the security agencies since the responsibility falls on them. We have discussed with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on this matter, on how parties can curtail finances. There is a limit set under the law and the EFCC has the legal backing to address these issues,” he said.
The INEC boss further assured that activities for the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections will soon be released.
In its reaction, Senate said INEC did not err by going ahead with the election time-table, despite the National Assembly’s amendment of the extant Electoral Act.
Senate spokesman, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, told Daily Sun, yesterday evening that, until the amendment is signed into law by the president, INEC has the constitutional powers to insist on what is best for the country.
“You know we cannot be joining issues with INEC. We do not want to overheat the polity. They are doing their work, while we are doing our own. To be fair to them, what they are doing right now is within the what the law says. Until our ongoing amendment is signed into law, I do not think that we have the right to interfere in what INEC is doing right now. We cannot be seen to be doing that at this moment. INEC had already issued that statement about election timetable before we passed that amendment bill,” Senator Abdullahi said.