Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed that it will disqualify the presidential and vice presidential candidates of some political parties over violation of Electoral Act on the age stipulation of presidential candidates.
The Commission`s chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, who made the disclosure at the ongoing three-day capacity building workshop for journalists, in Abuja, lamented that the nation witnessed the most acrimonious party primaries in the recent history of electioneering.
His words, “So far, INEC has successfully implemented seven out of the 14 activities strictly on schedule, including the conduct of party primaries for all elections and the processes of nomination of candidates.
“We did not, and will never, tolerate any breach of the strict timelines provided for in the timetable for the elections.
“At the end of the period for the substitution and withdrawal of candidates for the Presidential election, a total of 73 political parties have now filed their nominations.
“Even so, a few parties have nominated candidates below the mandatory age of 35 years for as Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates.
“We have drawn the attention of the parties concerned to the breach of the constitutional requirement ahead of the publication of the full list of presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2019 general elections.
“For National Assembly elections, a total of 1,848 candidates (1,615 male and 233 female) are vying for 109 Senatorial seats while 4,635 candidates (4,066 male and 569 female) are competing for the 360 seats in the House of Representatives.
“Similarly, the full list of candidates and their political parties will be published for public information in line with the Commission’s timetable and schedule of activities.
“As for state elections, a total of 1,068 candidates, 980 male and 88 female, are contesting for 29 Governorship positions with 805 male and 263 female Deputy Governorship candidates.
“The Commission is working on the list of candidates nominated by political parties for the 991 State Assembly constituencies as well as the 68 Area Council Chairmen and Councillors for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“The full details will also be published for public information in line with our timetable and schedule of activities.
“Unfortunately, we have also witnessed some of the most acrimonious party primaries in our recent history.
“Internal party democracy is still a source of concern to our electoral progress.
“So far, the Commission has been joined in 396 pending actions in various courts across the country arising from the conduct of party primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties.
“We have similarly received 302 requests for Certified True Copies (CTC) of documents, mainly our monitoring reports of party primaries and copies of personal particulars of candidates.
“These requests are obviously a prelude to more court actions. In addition, we have also received 52 petitions and protests from aggrieved party aspirants.
“The implication of these challenges is that as we prepare for the General Elections, we are also going to grapple with pre-election litigations.
“Parties that fail to respect the democratic process in selecting candidates during primary elections lose the moral right to complain about secondary elections.
“I wish to reassure the nation that we shall continue to maintain our neutrality as the umpire, registrar and regulator of political parties.
Speaking further, the electoral umpire said: “In order to effectively discharge the above responsibilities, the media needs unfettered access to information.
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“It is for this reason that INEC is today one of the most accessible public service organisations to the media. With eighty-five (85) media organisations accredited by the Commission to cover our activities, the INEC Press Corps is one of the largest in Nigeria.
“Our relationship with the media is not only at press conferences.
“We have a system of quarterly consultative meetings at which the media not only ask questions and seek clarification but also offer suggestions on how systems and processes of the Commission can be improved upon.
“We have also organised retreats such as this one to enhance the capacity of the INEC press corps in their service to the nation. I am proud to say that as a result of our robust and continuous engagement with the media and other stakeholders in the democratic process, INEC is today one of the most improved public service organisations in Nigeria.
“The trajectory since 2010 shows continuous improvement in service delivery in spite of the challenges we sometimes face from other actors whose roles are not only complimentary but indispensable to the discharge of our mandate.
“In the next 77 days, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect their representatives in Government.
“Campaigns for Presidential and National Assembly elections started 12 days ago on November 18, 2018. Campaigns for Governorship and State Assembly elections begin tomorrow December 1, 2018.
“We can say that the 2019 General Election is truly around the corner. Let me once again seize this opportunity to reassure the country that INEC is ready and committed to free, fair and credible elections.
“You would recall that on January 9, 2018, the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 General Elections.
“For the first time in our history, the date for General Election was announced over a year in advance.
“More specifically, the timetable lists 14 step-by-step constitutional and other legal and other statutory activities required of the Commission ahead of the elections beginning with the formal Publication of Notice and ending with the election day,” he said.
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