Senior Advocate of Nigeria and rights activist, Femi Falana, has said the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and some political parties should take the blame for the postponement of February 16 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Falana also slammed INEC on reasons given for the postponement, which he said does not exist in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
He stated this in a statement issued in Lagos, yesterday.
Falana said: “By virtue of section 26 of the Electoral Act, an election may be postponed if a serious breach of peace or violence is likely to occur, or on account of a natural disaster or other emergencies. To prevent any abuse of power, the reasons for postponement of any election must be cogent and verifiable.
“Furthermore, section 105 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria provides that if the Federation is at war, in which the territory of the country is physically involved and the president considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may pass a resolution to postpone the election and such postponement shall not be more than six months; at any one time.
“Therefore, any postponement of elections, on account of logistical or operational reasons, cannot be justified under the Electoral Act or the constitution. Since general election had been postponed on two previous occasions, due to lack of adequate preparations, INEC ought to have prevented shifting of the 2019 general election.
“Although all the political parties have blamed INEC for the postponement, some of them contributed to the national shame and embarrassment. Owing to the decision of political leaders to select and impose candidates on their parties, in utter violation of section 87 of the Electoral Act, many aggrieved candidates rushed to court for legal redress,.
“Consequently, not less than 600 pre-election cases were filed and are pending in the various courts while not less than 40 orders have directed INEC to accept the names of candidates who won the primaries but were shortchanged. The resort to litigation due to the impunity of majority of political parties, contributed to the unwarranted delay in the preparations of INEC for the general elections.”
Falana also called for electoral reforms, in line with how the governments of late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, former president Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, recommended unbundling of INEC; for effective performance.
He accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of failing to commit themselves to electoral reforms and for forgetting that Yar’Adua had admitted that the 2007 general election, which produced his regime, was highly flawed.
Since general election had been postponed on two previous occasions due to lack of adequate preparations, he argued that INEC ought to have prevented the shifting of the 2019 general election.
He said the APC and PDP, aside INEC, should apologise to Nigerians for their deliberate refusal to implement the electoral reforms recommended by the two panels.
On INEC’s ban of fresh campaigns at last Saturday’s stakeholders’ meeting, Falana added: “INEC has not paid attention to Section 99 of the Electoral Act which provides that the period of campaigning in public, by political parties shall end 24 hours before polling day. Since elections have been shifted, the period of campaign has also shifted and will end 24 hours to the new polling day.”