Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has challenged members of the 9th Senate to deploy every legislative instrument to urgently start and conclude work on the electoral framework in good time ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The commission’s chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who made the appeal while presenting a certificate of returns to 100 senators-elect in Abuja, expressed happiness over the return of the majority of the members of the 8th Assembly.
Interestingly, the former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor-Kalu, who was the first senator-elect to receive his certificate of return, got a standing ovation from the crowd and other senators-elect.
The certificate presented to Kalu which was signed by INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu on the occasion read: “I here certify that Orji, Uzor Kalu, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been elected to the membership of the Senate for Abia North senatorial district of Abia State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the election held on the 23rd day of February 2019.”
In his opening remarks, Yakubu said: “As a matter of urgency, the commission will begin work on post-2019 elections review and roadmap to 2023 general elections. There is a lot of work but very little time available. As a process governed by law, the success of elections in Nigeria depends, to a large extent, on the electoral legal framework and most importantly in ensuring adherence to the law.
“I want to assure you that we will continue to work with the National Assembly to review and strength our electoral law. But, I want to appeal to the senators-elect to please start work early and conclude work on the electoral framework in a good time well ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“The tendency to delay electoral reform particularly the review of electoral framework until it is too close to the elections leaves the commission with little time to develop processes including regulations and guidelines, make required consultative with stakeholders, embark on effective voter education including sensitisation, train staff and organise deployment for the elections.
“I am glad that among the senators-elect are those whom we have worked very closely with and some of them have taken initiative or even sponsored private-member bills to advance the cause of electoral reforms.
“We look forward to working very closely with you in the next Senate. However, all these are matters to consider; I hope we will do so in earnest, but today is your day I congratulate you and I wish you well in the service of our dear nation,” he said.
Speaking further, the commission’s chairman revealed that the management would meet on Friday to consider the report on the committee set up to look into the governorship and state Assembly elections conducted in Rivers and Bauchi states.
Meanwhile, the duo of senators Kabiru Gaya and Ovie Omo-Agege have said that they would wait on the Presidency and the leadership of the ruling party to decide the composition of the principal officers of the upper chambers of the National Assembly.