In its first official reaction to the adjustment of the general election guidelines, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said it did not act unilaterally or out of sync in adjusting the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the conduct of the 2023 general election by a few days.
The commission also took a swipe at the PDP, which has cancelled all its primary elections in Ebonyi State, saying, “Some of the political parties that criticised the commission despite being part of the pleas for a little adjustment are now taking advantage of and seizing the opportunity of the 6 days grace period or window they criticised to put their house in order by conducting their outstanding primaries.”
Speaking with THISDAY, the national commissioner in charge of Information and Chairman, Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said, “The Commission understands the mood of the nation and assures Nigerians that going forward, it is determined to follow through with its timelines embedded in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 general election.
“The Commission is focused and determined to conduct free, fair and transparent election in 2023,” Okoye added.
According to him, the commission was resolute and would not in any way tamper with the critical timelines in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities, adding: “The Commission did not act unilaterally or under any form of pressure or duress in the 6-day grace period granted to the 18 registered political parties.
“It is on record that on May 10, 2022, the Commission held a consultative meeting with the leaders of all the 18 registered Political Parties. At the meeting, the political parties requested for an adjustment of the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the conduct of the 2023 general election.
“They requested for 60 days and the Commission turned it down. Thereafter, the political parties requested for a shift of 37 days and the commission turned it down.
“At the consultative meeting, where the parties made the request, some of them accused the Commission of endangering democracy by refusing to alter the Timetable and Schedule of Activities. They insisted that they may not have candidates in so many of the constituencies unless they are given a grace period.
“Of course, the period for the primaries had started as at the time the political parties unanimously made the request. By the Timetable and Schedule of Activities, the period for the primaries commenced on the 4th of April 2022 and to end on the 3rd of June 2022. None of the Political Parties accused the Commission of shifting the goal post at the middle of the game.
“On the 12th of May 2022, the political parties wrote to the Commission once again requesting for an adjustment of the timelines and the Commission turned down their request. None of the political parties accused IPAC of acting unilaterally or not representing them.
“On the 26th of May 2022, the political parties under the auspices of the Inter Party Advisory Council, wrote to the Commission and requested for a meeting to hold on the 27th day of May 2022. IPAC invited their members to the meeting. 15 of the registered Political Parties attended the meeting.
“At the meeting of the 27th May 2022, they informed the Commission that they used their own network to invite all the registered political parties. They once again requested for an adjustment of the timelines on grounds that they have problems.
“They pleaded and canvassed that the Electoral Act 2022 was being operated for the first time and that most of them have made mistakes in the conduct of their primaries. They pleaded with the Commission to show some magnanimity to enable them have crisis-free primaries and avoid avoidable litigation,” the INEC national commissioner stated.
He explained that instead of 37 to 60 days, the political parties pleaded for only six days between the 3rd June and the commencement of the upload of nomination forms on our web portal on 10th June 2022.
“It is, therefore, not true and cannot by any stretch of imagination be insinuated that the commission bowed to pressure. The commission granted a request and headed the plea by all the political parties in Nigeria to use the six days already provided in the Timetable of which all the parties were aware of.
“A passionate plea by political parties for what they called a little adjustment cannot by any stretch of imagination be termed bowing to pressure. Furthermore, the six days grace period extended to the political parties will not in any way affect any of the timelines in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities of the Commission.
“There is no longer any window to play with or any little adjustment to be made. Political parties may find out to their disappointment that they may have no candidates in constituencies, where they are unable to conduct or conclude their congresses and democratic primaries as provided by the Electoral Act 2020. We remind all Political Parties of what happened in some States (Rivers and Zamfara) in 2019,” Okoye said.