Nigeria’s electoral umpire will release a timetable for the 2023 general elections immediately after the Anambra gubernatorial election, the chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, has disclosed.
The Anambra governorship election is scheduled to hold on November 6.
Although INEC had announced February 18, 2023, as the date for the presidential election, details of other elections like primaries, National Assembly and governorship polls remain unknown and are expected in the timetable.
Mr Yakubu said this on Wednesday at the public hearing on the Electoral Offences Commission bill organised by the Senate Committee on INEC in partnership with YIAGA Africa.
The bill, which was read for the second time at the Senate in March 2020, is sponsored by Borno senator, Abubakar Kyari.
It proposes deterrence and sanctions for anti-democratic acts in the electoral environment in order to increase the transparency and credibility of the electoral process.
It provides for the commission to investigate and prosecute electoral offenders, as well as adopt measures to prevent, minimise and eradicate electoral offences.
In his remarks, Mr Yakubu said there have been calls for actions against electoral offenders.
“We hope to release the timetable for the general elections immediately after the Anambra governorship election scheduled to hold on the 6th of November 2021.
“In order to do so, there should be clarity and certainty about the electoral legal framework to govern the 2023 general election. We are confident that the National Assembly will do the needful and to do so in earnest,” he said.
Since the 2019 general elections, he said, the commission has conducted 28 bye-elections and four governorship elections.
“It is not that the commission hasn’t done much or anything about the prosecution of electoral offenders.
“What have we done since the 2015 general elections – 124 cases that have been filed in court and are being prosecuted. So far, we have only achieved 60 convictions out of 124 including the latest one that we all know about in Akwa Ibom.
“We will like to see more prosecution of offenders; not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of result of election. But most importantly, their sponsors. We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery including chieftains of political parties and candidates will be prosecuted. By doing so we believe that we will send an even bigger message,” he said.
Accelerate passage of Electoral Act
While he expressed excitement over the electoral offences commission bill, the INEC boss urged the National Assembly to quickly complete pending review of the Electoral Act.
“We are confident that the National Assembly will conclude work on the legal framework in earnest. The commission is anxious to know the legal framework to govern the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
“By the principle established by the commission, the 2023 general elections will hold on Saturday, 18 February 2023 which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days away from today.”
Earlier, chairman of the committee, Kabir Gaya, said the Electoral Offences Commission is not only necessary but compulsory in a developing democracy like Nigeria’s.
He said the process for the passage of the bill will be concluded and the legislation passed in the second quarter of this year.
Mr Gaya’s remark comes barely 24 hours after the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, assured that the Electoral Act amendment bill will be passed in June.
The bill, among others, seeks to resolve issues concerning INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.
Efforts to get the bill signed into law by previous assemblies were futile with President Muhammadu Buhari rejecting it four times.
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