Apparently invoking the statutory powers conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that it stands by the timetable released in January for the 2019 rounds of elections.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Monday, at a consultative meeting with the media at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, said irrespective of the reordering of the elections timetable by the National Assembly, INEC’s decision has not changed.
The development confirmed The Daily Times story on Monday in which it was reported that INEC stands by its decision on the election sequencing and will take steps at the appropriate time should its powers be usurped by any other institution.
The INEC boss said the Commission released the election timetable in line with its statutory responsibility, saying that “we are operating under the existing laws which are provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution. We are covered by the provision of the extant laws.
“We have released the timetable after due consultations of stakeholders in the nation’s Election Management Board and we stand by that timetable. Nothing has changed and so we anchor our planning on the conduct of the 2019 elections on the carefully planned election sequencing”, he added.
The chairman added that the Commission is aware of ongoing constitution amendment process by the legislative arm and will await its conclusion and then take appropriate action as it affects the operations of election processes.
He said the National Assembly is still in the process of amending the Electoral Act which is just one item on the amendment list, hence it would be preemptive to ask what would be INEC’s action should the law be amended.
He added that after the amendments might have been passed by the legislative arm, it awaits the ratification of the executive arm through the President’s assent, so the Commission remains resolute on its timetable until anything changes it.
Yakubu added that the Commission could not therefore be said to be in contention with the National Assembly over fixing of the timetable because it is the prerogative right of INEC to do so except otherwise stipulated by a superior law outside the extant laws.
According to him, “the Electoral Act 2010 is still in force, it has not been changed and therefore there is no vacuum, there is no lacuna in our law. Our electoral manuals are anchored on the basis of the existing law”.
When asked what the Commission will do if the amendment is eventually passed and assented by the president, the chairman said “if anything happens tomorrow, then we will address it.”
Yakubu said the meeting is necessary in view of the critical role the media plays as stakeholders in election management.
He said the media is one of the greatest partners in the area of voters’ education and covering of election conduct, adding that the meeting will further strengthen and deepen democracy because the media sharpens policy and provide useful suggestions on election management.
National President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Mr Waheed Odusile, represented by Adebayo Bodunrin, acknowledged INEC for the quarterly meeting which he said will enable the media to be carried along in the build up to 2019 general election.
“INEC acknowledges that the media is a critical partner in ensuring enduring democracy”, he said while assuring the Commission of unalloyed cooperation of the media.
He advised the Commission to be conscious of comments by the public and not to be discouraged by negative comments.
“INEC should try as much as possible to keep to its pledge of conducting free, fair and credible elections”, he said.