The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared that it would not proceed with the conclusion of pending rerun elections unless political parties and relevant stakeholders commit to ensuring violence-free polls.
The electoral commission also stated that security agencies would also have to guarantee that there is peace, order and safety of all electoral officials, stakeholders and other materials before the conduct of the pending polls can take place.
INEC’s resolution over the pending polls was contained in a statement signed its secretary, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu.
Recall that the Senate had on Wednesday raised the alarm over the pending senatorial rerun elections and urged INEC to hasten the process.
Electorates from some of the affected areas have also staged protests at the entrance of the National Assembly, demanding that the elections be conducted.
But the statement by INEC yesterday declared that the elections would only be completed when it gets the assurance of a peaceful process from security agencies.
“The commission wishes to state that it can only proceed with the conduct or conclusion of the elections where the following exist.
“A firm and unequivocal commitment to violence-free polls by the affected political parties and relevant stakeholders.
“An assurance by the security agencies that it is safe to return through a guarantee of peace, order and safety of all election officials, voters, other stakeholders, materials, polling units and facilities to be used for the elections by the security agencies.”
The commission however added that it had resolved to “engage the political parties in its capacity as their regulator as well as the principal manager of the electoral process.
“Engage the security agencies as custodians who are statutorily responsible for the maintenance of law and order.
“Enlist the intervention of relevant Government agencies as civil society organisations (CSOs), religious bodies and traditional institutions with relevant cognate experience and their peace building and conflict resolution assets and resources in building consensus with a view to securing a conducive atmosphere for the peaceful conduct of the elections.”
The commission said that in the course of its deliberation, it observed “violent resistance to the commencement of the polls as in Imo North Senatorial and three (3) state constituencies in Imo State.
“Disruption of polls after commencement (as in Kogi East Senatorial and Idah State constituency and all Senatorial and some House of Representatives and State House of Assembly elections in Rivers State.”
INEC said the violence which attended the elections resulted in a death of a polling official, maiming and various other degrees of injuries, intimidation and psychological trauma to innocent citizens, voters and its personnel, as well as political party agents/supporters and protagonists.
While pointing out that it was committed to obeying the orders of the tribunals and courts as well as fulfilling its constitutional and statutory mandate, as a responsible public institution, the commission however restated “its resolve and responsibility not to unnecessarily expose its staff or stakeholders to danger and to avoid any action that will likely lead to a threat of, or breakdown of law and order.”
INEC added that it would remain steadfast in its willingness to undertake its civic responsibility even in “sometimes difficult or daunting circumstances often created by few misguided and opportunistic persons.”
In a related development, INEC yesterday also disclosed that it had suspended election in the Minjibir State Constituency of Kano State and withdrawn all its personnel from the field.
INEC’s Director, Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, in a statement yesterday, said the decision followed the spate of violence, threats and general insecurity, including the assault and intimidation of its staff and voters and the snatching of card readers and other election materials.
He said a new date would be announced when the commission is satisfied that it is safe for it to return to the constituency and when conditions are conducive for the conduct of the election.
“Following the spate of violence, threats and general insecurity, including the assault and intimidation of its staff and voters and the snatching of card readers and other election materials, the Independent National Electoral Commission is compelled to suspend the election in the Minjibir State Constituency of Kano State forthwith and withdraw all its personnel from the field.
“This is being done pursuant to its powers under Section 26 of the Electoral Amendment Act, 2015 & after consultation with the security agencies.
“Consequently, voters are advised to return to their abodes and continue their lawful activities while security agencies have promptly reacted to safeguard citizens and forestall a complete breakdown of law and order in the area. A new date for the election will be announced in due course when the commission is satisfied that it is safe for it to return to the constituency and when conditions are conducive for the conduct of the election,” the statement read.