Friday, 18 November 2016

WHY INEC SHOULD NOT POSTPONE THE 2016 ONDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION: ELECTION MONITOR PRELIMINARY PRESS STATEMENT



WHY INEC SHOULD NOT POSTPONE THE 2016 ONDO STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION: ELECTION MONITOR PRELIMINARY PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday 18th, November 2016


Election Monitor (EM) is one of the Election Observer groups accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the 2016 Ondo State Governorship Election. Election Monitor has 157 observers in its mission who will be deployed across all local government areas of Ondo State on Saturday 26th November, 2016.

Media reports indicate that there have been calls by some groups and individuals for INEC to postpone the 2016 Ondo State Governorship Election. While INEC has insisted that it will not postpone the election, the calls for postponement seem to be getting louder from some quarters within Ondo State.




Election Monitor is concerned because this pattern of election postponement has repeated itself too often in the recent Nigerian elections. It may be recalled that INEC insisted it would not postpone the 2015 General elections but later the elections were postponed. The same scenario played out in the 2016 Edo State Governorship election where INEC also initially refused to shift the polls but later had to postpone the election. From all indications it appears there is mounting pressure by certain groups for a postponement of the 2016 Ondo State Governorship Election. Even though INEC has stated it is going ahead with the scheduled date, Election Monitor is worried that history should not repeat itself.

According to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) Section 26 subsection 1, INEC is empowered to postpone an election: “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable”.

There are three key segments of the above portion of the Electoral Act. They are:
  • ·         Serious breach of the peace is likely
  • ·         Natural disasters or other emergencies
  • ·         Postponement is cogent and verifiable

Some media reports have cited a plot to destabilise the state in order to satisfy the condition of ‘serious breach of the peace is likely’ which is one of the conditions by which an election can be postponed. It is important to appreciate the weight on this sort of action. If these media reports have any level of veracity in them, then it means that there maybe attempts to use violence to sabotage the electoral process. This should clearly be seen for what it is which is an affront and aggression against the State and the full weight of the law should be felt by anyone or group who may be hatching such a plot.

The main reason being propounded for the postponement of the election is the lingering court cases affecting some of the leading candidates in the election. It is however important to note that of the three parties having court cases (APC, AD and PDP) only supporters of the PDP have been canvassing for a poll shift.  It is however very clear from the Electoral Act that an election cannot be postponed as a result of internal political crises. While the crises in the PDP is unfortunate, it would be unfair to the remaining 27 contestants in the upcoming election if the election were to be postponed because of the internal crisis of one political party even if that party currently enjoys incumbency in the state. Since the internal crisis in the PDP is not the making of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), there is no way that INEC should be expected to shift an election until a political party resolves its internal crises.

It should also be noted that this is not the first time that the PDP in Ondo State has had internal crisis close to a major election. It may be recalled that on the 7th January 2015 the newly deployed Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to Ondo State at the time, Mr. Segun Agbaje warned that the PDP in the state risked not fielding candidates in the 2015 General Elections if it failed to resolve its internal crises. The REC went on further to say that "all other parties had settled disputes surrounding their candidates except the PDP". It is quite disturbing that almost two years later the PDP in Ondo state finds itself in almost the same position again. This clearly shows that in the recent past, the Ondo State PDP clearly has a history of internal crises. It is Election Monitor's opinion that INEC cannot shift an election outside the constitutional provisions. In addition INEC should not be intimidated in any way to take an unlawful action especially when the political party involved clearly has a history of internal crises in the state. Were INEC to shift the polls because of the candidacy of any particular individual it would not be an action of equity or justice but an action of partisanship showing favouritism towards a particular candidate over and above the remaining 27 contestants. INEC must not succumb to this in the slightest manner. 




It is important to also note that postponement of an election has huge cost and logistics implications on INEC, candidates, observers, the media and other stakeholders. If the postponement of an election forces a candidate who is not so well funded out of the race, then such a postponement has made the election unfair. The postponement of the Edo State Governorship election lead to some political parties being unable to compete.



Some implications of postponing the election are summarized below:

  • ·         Additional cost to all stakeholders
  • ·         Retraining of adhoc personnel
  • ·         Disadvantage to smaller political parties with less resources
  • ·         Possible Voter Apathy
  • ·         Reprogramming of smart card readers


In conclusion Election Monitor wishes to restate that INEC is a legally constituted body bound by the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For anyone to expect INEC to act on the side of illegality in order to provide succor for candidates is unfortunate. Election Monitor wishes to also state that its position is not biased but clearly based on the facts available which have been referenced in this document. In addition it should be recalled that Election Monitor vehemently opposed the postponement of the 2016 Edo State Governorship Election even calling for the National Assembly to investigate it. This can be verified by accessing the following links:

Why INEC should not postpone the 2016 Edo State Governorship Election: Election Monitor preliminary press statement

Edo Governorship Election: CSO asks NASS to investigate postponement of poll


RECOMMENDATIONS

  • ·      In light of this Election Monitor states unequivocally that INEC should resist any attempt to be coerced, intimidated or arm-twisted into postponing an election it is prepared to conduct irrespective of whatever threats are made from any quarters. INEC should continue to state publicly that it is prepared and will go ahead with the November 26th 2016 date as planned.

  • ·     Election Monitor calls on the Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari to direct law enforcement agents to forestall any possible outbreak of violence especially premeditated and on a large scale in Ondo State. Any persons found fomenting violence should be promptly arrested and prosecuted.

  • ·       Election Monitor calls on the judiciary not to allow itself to be used to truncate the electoral process and exacerbate internal crises in political parties as this could have negative effect on all stakeholders eventually.

  • ·     Election Monitor is calling on all voters and inhabitants in Ondo State to remain calm and law-abiding and refuse to allow themselves to be used to foment crisis in the state remembering that many who actually instigate political violence are hardly ever affected by it while the innocent and usually less privileged members of society pay the price for such violence.



Abiodun Ajijola
National Coordinator
Election Monitor

1 comment:

  1. For me it should not postpone and should be held on schedule, thank you for sharing the news and keep us updated with further proceedings

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