Kogi, Bayelsa Governorship Elections: Senate faults INEC’s clearance of multiple candidates

Nigerian senate chambers where senators attend plenary
Nigerian senate chambers

The Senate has vowed to reduce the number of political parties in Nigeria, saying there should not be more than five parties on the ballot.

The lawmaker faulted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for clearing candidates of “failed” parties for the governorship elections coming up on November 16 in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

The Senate Committee on INEC said this on Wednesday at its meeting with the leadership of INEC in Abuja.

The chairman of the committee, Kabiru Gaya, said allowing parties that did not perform well at the last general election to field candidates for the governorship elections was a violation of the amended 2010 Electoral Act.

The electoral commission had cleared 23 parties in Kogi and 45 in Bayelsa for the elections.

It is not clear what provision of the Act Mr Gaya was referring to.

However, section 78, subsection 1 of the Act (as amended) stipulates a window of six months before a general election within which political parties can apply for registration.

“Those parties that didn’t perform (well at the last general election) shouldn’t be on the ballot,” Mr Gaya said.

“The existing Electoral Act as amended has precluded participation of parties that did not perform in the last elections. Why are you putting them (on) the ballot in the forthcoming elections?”

Responding, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said the Commission cannot deregister political parties for low performance because of ongoing electoral suits which may alter the outcome of elections.

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Mr Yakubu said the Commission tried to “systematically deregister under the electoral act but the parties insisted that the electoral act is inferior to the Constitution.

“Again, at what point can we say election has been concluded? Is it after we have issued certificate of return or after the courts have concluded judgments on petitions arising from elections?,” Mr Yakubu said.

However, Mr Gaya insisted that it was wrong to have all the parties on the ballot.

“We need to amend the Act to reduce the political parties to a maximum of five. This committee is really committed to reducing the number of political parties to save taxpayers’ money,” he said.

He, nonetheless, wished INEC success in the elections, and pledged his committee’s unalloyed support to ensure the commission followed the rules “to inspire public confidence in the electoral process.

“We wish you success in Kogi and Bayelsa states. The very essence of this meeting is to identify the loopholes in the 2019 general elections and move towards correcting them through amendment of the electoral act.

“This is to ensure transparency in the electoral process for free, fair and credible elections. It will enhance the credibility of INEC and Nigeria in the eyes of the global community. We are determined to fashion out credible road map for credible elections. Of course, there are challenges but we must get it right.”

Mr Yakubu assured the public that the Commission is ready for the polls.

He said INEC has started the process of recruiting and training 26,000 ad-hoc staff for the two elections. He added that all nonsensitive materials had been deployed to the two states

“There are 14 activities towards the Kogi and Bayelsa elections, we have done 10. We are fully prepared. The terrain is difficult but we are making arrangements with National Union of Road Transport Workers, (NURTW). All nonsensitive materials have been deployed.”

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