Fidelis Soriwei, Olusola Fabiyi and Ifeanyi Onuba
The Independent National Electoral Commission has announced February 16, 2019 as the date for the next presidential and National Assembly elections in the country.
The INEC National Commissioner in charge of the South-West, Solomon Soyebi, who disclosed this during a press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, also said that the commission fixed the governorship/state assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections for Saturday, March 2, 2019.
Soyebi, who is also the INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, said the commission had also taken a decision to place 23 electoral officers that were indicted by the Joint Police/Department of State Services’ report on the Rivers rerun election on suspension.
On the 2019 elections, he said, “In Nigeria, the constitution provides for elections to hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the end of the incumbent’s tenure. In order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders, the commission has decided to fix the date for the national elections for the third Saturday in February of the election year, followed by state elections two weeks later.
“To that extent, the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, 16th February, 2019, while the Governorship/state Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections will hold on Saturday, 2nd March, 2019.”
Soyebi said 23 officers, who were suspended, would be placed on half salaries pending the determination of their cases in court in consonance with the terms and conditions of service of the commission.
The PUNCH had reported exclusively on March 5, 2017 that the commission, in a meeting held last week, had taken a decision to suspend 227 workers indicted by security agencies’ report on the Rivers rerun elections of December 19, 2016 and the 2015 general elections.
While 25 of the workers are facing prosecution for allegedly receiving N111.3m bribe in the Rivers rerun, 202 were indicted for receiving part of the N23bn bribe ahead of the 2015 elections.
Soyebi said INEC had received a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions that it had commenced the prosecution of the 23 workers indicted by the police reports.
He added that the commission suspended its decision on the 202 indicted officers for misconduct by the EFCC’s report on the 2015 general elections to reconcile the EFCC’s report with that of the DPP since the DPP was prosecuting some of the affected workers.
The INEC commissioner stated, “The commission has also received a report from the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, informing us that 23 Electoral Officers indicted over the investigations into the 10th December Rivers rerun elections have been charged to court.
“The commission has repeatedly said that it will cooperate with security agencies for the prosecution of any of our members of staff found to have violated the integrity of the electoral process. Accordingly, at our meeting today, the commission decided to apply the provisions of the INEC terms and conditions of service to all those charged to court, since it constitutes gross misconduct.
“The penalty for this is interdiction. All the 23 electoral officers will be placed on half salary and will not report for duty pending the determination of their respective cases by the court.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you will recall that last week, we informed you that a decision would be taken this week on the recommendation by the disciplinary committee on staff members indicted by the EFCC report for misconduct during the 2015 general elections. However, in view of the fact that some of the members of staff are also among those being prosecuted by the DPP, the commission has decided to defer its decision on the EFCC report to enable us to reconcile the EFCC/DPP reports.”
Speaking also on the move by some politicians in the Peoples Democratic Party to register the Advanced Peoples Democratic Party, he said that the commission had the application but did not disclose further details.
He added that the total number of political associations that had approached the commission for registration as political parties had increased to 84.
Soyebi said, “We have 84 associations that have applied. I can tell you that we have 84 different associations, they are in different stages.
“We have the application of the APDP. It is an association, we don’t know who their parents are, we don’t know where they are coming from because we have our own guidelines for registration of political parties and as far as we are concerned they are still an association.”
However, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, on Thursday hailed the release of the timetable for the conduct of the 2019 general elections by INEC.
He said the release would afford political parties the opportunity to put their houses in order and begin the mobilisation of their members.
Sheriff, who spoke through the acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Bernard Mikko, said the release of the timetable would also ginger up members of the PDP to pursue genuine reconciliation.
He said, “The release of the timetable is in order. We salute it. It is a right step in the right direction.
“Now, our members should know that there is no more time to waste. We need to come together now and work with one voice.
“I also don’t think that the release of the timetable is too early. No, not at all. It will not hurt the economy because we all know that the date for the election is near.
“It will make all the leaders to sit up because the dates for the elections have been released.”
However, the sacked National Caretaker Committee of the party headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, disagreed, saying that it would distract the government.
Makarfi, who spoke through the spokesperson for the committee, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said it was too early for the commission to have released the dates.
He said, “It is too early. They should have kept the dates to themselves. It will heat up the polity. It is unnecessary for now.
“Unless the commission wants to fix a permanent dates for the holding of presidential election as we have in the United States of America. But I doubt if that’s what they have in mind.
“Now, all attention is going to be on the elections thereby making people to neglect other issues like the economy. The action of the commission is not justifiable.” (Punchng.com)