The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday cautioned against the conduct of acrimonious party congresses and conventions, warning that it would move against any errant political party.
In a statement yesterday by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, the commission said it had watched with utmost dismay and concern the recurrent acrimony, violence and destruction of property, including the commission’s property and equipment, which characterised some recent political party congresses across the country.
The warning came against the backdrop of violence that marred the North-west zonal congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna, during which hoodlums attacked delegates with many of them sustaining injuries.
Okoye stated that the commission was mandated by law to monitor congresses because they constituted an important aspect of the electoral process and democracy in Nigeria.
“The level of violence in some of the congresses is making it extremely difficult for the commission to exercise its statutory oversight responsibility enshrined in Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
“In one such congress in Kaduna recently, violence broke out leading to the destruction of the commission’s ballot boxes,” Okoye added.
He urged political parties to discharge their obligation to ensure that their congresses and conventions are orderly, democratic and in accordance with extant legal framework, their constitutions and guidelines, as well as INEC’s regulations and guidelines.
“This commission will not stand askance and watch party conventions and congresses degenerate into farcical rituals and violent fiascos that threaten lives and destroy property.
“For the avoidance of doubt, INEC will henceforth reconsider its involvement in these events, should they continue to put lives of members of the public and staff of the commission at risk. Henceforth, there will be far-reaching consequences in any situation where party congresses and conventions degenerate into violence and destruction of INEC property.
“Apart from replacing such destroyed materials, parties may be blacklisted from the receipt of INEC materials for their activities in the future. The commission may also withdraw its staff from monitoring such violent political party meetings, with the resultant non-recognition of their outcomes,” Okoye said.
Meanwhile, three members of staff of INEC have been killed in an auto crash, while five others were injured.
A separate statement yesterday by Okoye said the accident occurred while the commission’s staff members were on their way to Maiduguri, Borno State for a training programme.
“On Sunday, April 18, 2021, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for the state, Mr. Mohammed Magaji Ibrahim, informed the commission that an Electoral Officer (EO) and some Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) travelling from some local government areas to Maiduguri for a special training ahead of the conversion of voting points into polling units were involved in the accident.
“Unfortunately, three staff: Adamu Mohammed (EO, Biu LGA), Abubakar Hamma Joda and Suleiman Umar (AEOs, Damboa LGA) lost their lives while five others sustained injuries. The deceased staff, who were indigenes of Adamawa State, will be buried today (yesterday), Monday, April 19, 2021, in Yola.
“The Supervising National Commissioner for Borno, Adamawa and Taraba States, AVM Ahmed Tijjani Mu’azu (rtd), will represent the commission at their funeral while the injured staff members are receiving treatment in a specialist hospital in Maiduguri,” Okoye said.