Magnus Eze; Charity Nwakudu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has accused political parties and politicians of flouting the 2019 election timetable.
The Commission released the timetable in January.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, at the maiden town hall meeting convened by the Nigerian Medical Association, to bring health to the front-burner in the manifestos of political parties in the build up to the general elections, also blamed lack of trust for the high cost of conducting elections in the country.
Represented by a National Commissioner, Dr. Muhammed Lecky, the INEC chairman lamented that in spite of the violation of the election timetable, the electoral body is handicapped since it is not constitutionally empowered to sanction defaulters.
“Impunity is all over. There is impunity. You disregard the rules of engagements. You circumvent them so that you can be ahead of the other person. How are we ensuring that we do less impunity going forward?
“An example is the election process; INEC has issued a timetable since January this year; election timetable for 2019. Within that timetable is a schedule of activities- when to commence political party campaign and when it should end.
“For the record, no campaign should start before December 18, 2018. But, of course, when you drive across the road, you see billboards. You see advertisements on television. You come to a forum like this; people make speeches that amount to political party campaigns. This is against the rules. People are disregarding the rules and there are no consequences. INEC does not have that mandate to penalise,” he stated.
On the high cost of election, Yakubu said the commission is spending so much on building Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure as well as on logistics because people do not trust government and its institutions.
“One of the issues that we are not confronting is trust deficit. We lack trust in this country. We don’t trust ourselves. We don’t trust the government. Trust deficit; we are investing some money, since 2011 down to 2019 in ICT, all because of lack of trust. We are bringing neutral elements in place of trust.
“I was in Norway, during their election. The thing we call sensitive materials: ballot papers, they are freely given out in the streets by political parties.
Imagine, Nigerian political parties giving out ballot papers!
“That is unheard of in this country, where we have gunboats escorting ballot papers as if we are preparing for war. Imagine the cost of doing that!”
Also, chairman of the event, Prof. Jerry Gana said the most important dividend of democracy is healthcare because that is the centre of people’s welfare which every government would promise to enhance.