…To consider Dickson’s request for shift in Nov. 2 gov’ship poll date
Tunde Opalana, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will soon start the prosecution of persons arrested across the country for several electoral offences during the 2010 general election.
The Commission said it is ready to charge to court offenders whose case files were already prepared by the Nigeria Police.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed the readiness of the Commission to bring to book arrested offenders on Tuesday while receiving a delegation from Bayelsa State Government at the Commission headquarters, Abuja.
The delegation led by the Deputy Governor, Rear Adm Gboribiogha John Jonah (rtd), were in Abuja to press for a change in the November 2, 2019 announced date for governorship election in Bayelsa State.
The Deputy governor said the state government had written letters to INEC pleading for a change in the fixed date to enable the state government and its people observe its annual thanksgiving service always held on November 2 every year.
He said the state appreciated the constitutional responsibility of INEC to fix dates for elections but pleads with the Commission to allow people of Bayelsa State opportunity of observing this year’s thanksgiving service without hindrance.
According to him, after the creation of the state on November 1, 1996, different stakeholders in the state gathered to thank God for the creation and has since been observing the date.
He added that the state governor, Seriake Dickson, went ahead to seek parliamentary approval through an executive order and the bill for the November 2 thanksgiving date was passed into law and it has been a state day in the past seven years.
Jonah said “Bayelsa needs to thank God on a yearly basis and picked November 2. In keeping with the accepted date, an executive Bill was sent to the State Assembly and was passed into law and since then we have been observing the date.
“When INEC announced the schedule of governorship elections for both Bayelsa and Kogi states for November 2, 2019, the state governor, His Excellency, Seriake Dickson, wrote a letter to INEC raising certain issues, to which INEC acknowledged and invited the state governor.
But, in as much as he would have love to be here, he was unable to make the trip, hence he asked me to on his behalf lead a team of the state delegation comprising of state officials, religious leaders and traditional rulers on this visit.
“Bayelsa State needs to thank God on a yearly basis and we picked November 2 for the thanksgiving.
“Religious leaders from both the Christian Association of Nigeria and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria met with other stakeholders like the traditional institution met with the governor to acknowledge the responsibility of INEC to fix election date but urged the governor to plead with INEC to see reason in shifting the date.
“INEC has the duty to fix the date but it would not be out of place to plea with INEC. So, we’ve come on behalf of the state to appeal to you to reconsider the date.
“We are concerned that if election is fixed on that day, it may affect voters turn out. Any other day fixed will be good for us and we hope that INEC as a listening institution will grant our request “.
Reacting, INEC chairman, Prof. Yakubu, said the Commission welcomed the request by Bayelsa State Government for the meeting upon the receipt of a letter asking for a change in the date.
Yakubu said the Commission had on April 9, 2019 released time table and activities for governorship election in Bayelsa and Kogi States and fixed November 2, 2019.
He, however, promised that the state request will be tabled at a management meeting of the Commission and will convey INEC’s decision to the state on Friday.
The chairman, however, warned stakeholders in Bayelsa State to avoid repetition of ugly incidents such as arson, killing, ballot boxes snatches, etc that characterised the 2015 governorship polls in the state.
“May I seize this opportunity to appeal to all stakeholders in Bayelsa and Kogi states to ensure that the forthcoming Governorship elections are devoid of hate speech, intimidation of voters and INEC officials, vote buying, violence including bombing and arson that led to the destruction of election materials and INEC facilities in the last Governorship elections in the two states and other sundry violations of the law.
“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”.
Yakubu said INEC is committed to free, fair and credible election and promised transparent and prompt Collation and announcement of election results.