Bayelsa State stakeholders has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to change the Nov. 2 date, scheduled for the conduct of governorship election in the state.
Gov. Seriake Dickson made the call when he led a delegation of the stakeholders during a courtesy visit on INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on Tuesday in Abuja.
Dickson, represented by his deputy, retired Rear Admiral Gboribiogha Jonah, said that the Nov. 2 date coincided with the state’s annual thanksgiving celebration which was created by a bill and has been marked for the past seven years.
He said that various interest groups in the state have raised concern over the date and requested for a change in the date.
Dickson said that it would not be out of place for INEC to reconsider the date considering relevant of Nov.2 to the state and it’s people.
“It is on this note that the Christian community approached the governor to plead with you to reconsider the date for the election.
“We are also concern that if the election is held on that day, it is possible that it may affect turn out of voters.
“We want everybody to be in the mood, come out and vote as required by INEC. Any other date that is fixed that will not clash with this day (Nov. 2) will be good for us.
“The plea we are making is that the people of Bayelsa also feel that their wishes are also respected.
“As a listening commission, we are very hopeful that our plea will be taking in good light and likewise granted,” Dickson said.
Responding, Yakubu, said the commission would look into the plea by the stakeholders.
He said that the commission maintained an open door policy and all stakeholders are free to seek audience with INEC on any matter important for the improvement of electoral process.
He recalled that the commission on April 9 released the date for the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
“Shortly after the release of the timetable, we received a letter from Bayelsa State Government drawing the Commission’s attention that Nov. 2 each year has been designated as Thanksgiving Day in the state and declared work-free by an Act of the State House of Assembly.
“The state government has appealed to the Commission to reconsider the date for this reason. The Speaker of the State Assembly, religious leaders and other stakeholders made a similar appeal to the Commission.
“Today, all the stakeholders are here to further reiterate their appeal. We have listened to you. At the next meeting of the Commission, your appeal will be examined and the Commission’s decision will be announced by Friday this week,” he said.
Yakubu, however, appealed to all stakeholders in Bayelsa and Kogi to ensure that the forthcoming governorship elections in the states were devoid of hate speech, intimidation of voters and vote buying.
He urged them to shun violence including bombing and arson that led to the destruction of election materials and INEC facilities in the last governorship elections in two states.
“I urge you to appeal to your supporters to ensure that the creeks and waterways, the hills and forests, urban and rural areas, the polling units and collation centres are free of thugs who unleash mayhem that turn a simple democratic process into needless bloodletting,” he said.
He expressed confidence that with the stakeholders’ support the commission would conduct peaceful election in Bayelsa in November including Southern Ijaw.
Yakubu assured the stakeholders that INEC is committed to a free, fair and credible process, promising that the commission would deploy early, adhere to its guidelines and regulations, ensure a transparent and prompt collation and declaration of results.
He also appeal to all political parties to ensure the conduct of transparent, credible and rancour-free primaries for the nomination of candidates.
“From the 2019 general elections, we have seen how acrimonious party primaries have been, resulting in numerous litigation and making our preparations for elections difficult.
“We are still grappling with issues arising from the conduct of party primaries.
“Pre-election litigation through the regular courts (the High Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court) have resulted in a number of judgement in favour of petitioners.
“So far, primary elections conducted by political parties in 22 constituencies across the federation have been upturned by the regular Courts of Law on account of improper party primaries.
“In all cases, we have obeyed the orders of court and issued Certificates of Return to candidates declared winners by the Courts. More of such judgments have been received and are currently under consideration by the Commission,” he said.
He also disclosed that the commission would soon commence prosecution of offenders in the just concluded elections.
“Arising from the arrests made by the security agencies in the 2019 general elections, the Commission will soon commence the prosecution of offenders whose case files have been prepared by the Nigeria Police Force,” he said.
Present at the meeting were representatives of traditional rulers, clergymen and members of the state’s Council of Elders.