By Dominic James
20th April 2021
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will no longer tolerate any form of violence against its staff or destruction of its property during primaries conducted by political parties.
To be sure, the Commission said it would be forced to reconsider its involvement in the monitoring of party primaries if they continue to put the lives of members of the public and its staff at risk.
In an apparent response to the fallout of some recently conducted party primaries in which violence took the centre-stage, the Commission, in a statement dated 19th April and signed by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Barrister Festus Okoye, affirmed that it would no longer stand askance and watch conventions and congresses degenerate into farcical rituals and violent fiascos that threaten lives and destroy property.
“Henceforth, there will be far-reaching consequences in any situation where party congresses and conventions degenerate into violence and destruction of INEC property,” the Commission warned, adding: “apart from replacing such destroyed materials, parties may be blacklisted from the receipt of INEC materials for their activities in the future. The Commission may also withdraw its staff from monitoring such violent political party meetings, with the resultant non-recognition of their outcomes.”
The Commission said that it has watched with “utmost dismay and profound concern, the recurrent acrimony, violence and destruction of property, including INEC’s property and equipment which have been the hallmark of some recent political party congresses across the country.
Political parties are, at this time, holding congresses and conventions to elect their leaders at various levels of party organization. INEC is mandated by law to monitor them.
But the Commission observed that the level of violence in some of the Congresses is making it difficult to exercise its statutory oversight responsibilities contained in Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Okoye said: “In one such Congress in Kaduna recently, violence broke out, leading to the destruction of the Commission’s ballot boxes.”
The Commission reminded political parties of their obligation to ensure that their Congresses and Conventions are orderly, democratic and in accordance with the extant legal framework, their constitutions and guidelines, as well as INEC’s regulations and guidelines.
On the forthcoming primaries to select candidates for scheduled elections and bye-elections, particularly the Anambra State Governorship election and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections, Okoye asserted that participating political parties must stick to the respective Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the elections as released by INEC and which have been communicated to them. The details are also available on the Commission’s website.
The statement partly reads: “Parties must stick to the respective Timetable and Schedule of Activities for these elections as released by the Commission, which has been communicated to them and is available at the INEC website (www.inec.gov.ng). Parties must ensure that their primaries are peaceful and orderly. Above all, they must adhere strictly to the Electoral Act, INEC Regulations and Guidelines, as well as party constitutions and rules, which are domiciled with the Commission.”
Okoye asked the political parties to, in the conduct of their internal processes, subject themselves to the same standards that they hold INEC during elections, “namely openness, fairness, adherence to rules and peaceful conduct.” He said the Commission was deeply concerned about the acrimony and violence within parties, which have resulted in more suits in various courts over party congresses and primaries than the actual elections conducted by INEC.