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Primaries: INEC Grants Parties Six Extra Days, Timetable Remains Unchanged

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (left) and National Commissioner, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu at the meeting.

By Dominic James

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has granted political parties six days between 6th and 9th June 2022 to conclude their outstanding primaries and prepare to upload the candidates’ list and affidavits to the nomination portal.

The concession followed a second request by party leaders to have the deadline for the conduct of primaries for nominating candidates for the 2023 general election extended beyond 3rd June.

The Commission had, on 26th February 2022, released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election. The third activity on the Timetable is the Conduct of Primaries between 4th April and 3rd June. The fourth activity – Submission of Forms EC9, EC9A, 9B, 9C, 9D and 9E online via the Nomination Portal – is scheduled for 10th to 17th June (Presidential and National Assembly); and 1st to 15th July (Governorship and State Assembly). Nothing is fixed for 4th to 9th June.

Since the release of the Timetable, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had, on three occasions, appealed to the parties to ensure strict compliance with the timeline.

But at the second quarterly meeting between the Commission and party leaders held on 10th May 2022 in Abuja, Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr Yabagi Sani, on behalf of his colleagues, asked for an extension of the deadline for the conduct of party primaries by 37 days – from 3rd June to 4th August.

Justifying the request, Sani said some of the issues considered by the IPAC General Assembly, which necessitated the call for an extension in the timeframe, were based on specific circumstances and developments that had hampered timely and strict compliance by the political parties to the Timetable.

His words: “The Christian Lenten season and the Muslim fasting in the month of Ramadan respectively followed by the Easter and Eid-el-Fitr (celebration) in which the vast majority of party members were involved, greatly disrupted planned activities, leading to a loss of about two weeks out of the allotted time of the timetable.”

However, the INEC Chairman insisted there would be no extension due to the complications such an extension would unleash on the planning template for the 2023 general election.

Prof. Yakubu said: “Twice in the last two weeks, the Commission had cause to remind the political parties of the necessity for strict compliance with the timelines for party primaries. I hereby reiterate the position of the Commission that there will be no review of the timelines. There are so many interrelated activities that are associated with the timelines which must be carried out. Any review to extend the timeline for one activity will affect other activities and put unnecessary pressure on political parties and the Commission. This will ultimately result in more complications than what the extension seeks to achieve. Therefore, the Commission will not review the timelines.”

The party leaders subsequently requested another meeting held today. They presented a modified demand, asking for a window within 3rd June when the primaries would have ended and 9th June when the parties would start uploading the list of their nominated candidates to the Nomination Portal.

Chairman, Zenith Labour Party, Dan Nwanyanwu, said: “What we are pleading for is nothing but to allow the political parties a week (to tidy up) because, during this time, nothing is happening. It’s (the period) just for the parties to start preparing their documentation so, if it will please the Commission to give us the period between 3rd and 9th (June) so that the political parties can put their acts together, without prejudice to what had been done (concluded primaries) already which cannot be undone.”

He continued: “We asked for 30 days, and you refused us. We asked for a few months, but you refused us. All the things we asked, you refused us. I think this one will not affect the Timetable. It will not shift the date of the election; it will not do anything. It is just this small window so that we can technically take all those things we have not done.”

Responding, the INEC Chairman said: “It appears that the proposition this time around is different from the request made earlier to which the Commission has responded emphatically. For emphasis, the request the last time was for an extension of between 37 and 60 days. On this, the position of the Commission has not changed. Such a request will not be entertained in view of the overlapping activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities already published.

“It appears the parties have now presented a modified request for what the (IPAC) Chairman calls ‘a little adjustment’. We will now discuss further to understand the basis for requesting this little adjustment, and thereafter, the Commission will meet and a statement will be issued.”

The Commission subsequently had a meeting after the interaction with party leaders.

In a statement titled Party Primaries and Submission of List of Nominated Candidates issued after its meeting and signed by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Barrister Festus Okoye, the Commission noted that following its refusal of an earlier request by IPAC to grant an extension for 37 – 60 days, the parties have now pleaded for a concession to use the six days between 4th and 9th June 2022 to conclude outstanding primaries and prepare to upload the list of candidates and their affidavits to the INEC Candidates Nomination portal.

The Statement reads: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met with the leadership of political parties today, Friday 27th May 2022. Once again, the political parties requested the Commission to review the timelines for political party primaries provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the conduct of the 2023 General Election released on Saturday, 26th February 2022.

“Earlier, the political parties had requested for 37 – 60 days extension of the timeline for primaries and the Nomination of candidates. The Commission was emphatic that this request could not be granted because it would disrupt other scheduled activities on the Timetable. This position of the Commission has not changed.

“However, based on the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election, the parties have now pleaded with the Commission to use the 6-day period between 4th and 9th June 2022 to conclude outstanding primaries and prepare to upload the list of candidates and their affidavits to the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal. The Commission did not schedule any specific activity during this period. The idea is to simply give parties time to compile the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates before uploading the same to the INEC Candidates Nomination Portal from 10th – 17th June 2022.

“The Commission has decided to allow the request of the political parties since the six-day period does not conflict with the next scheduled activity, which is the submission of the list of nominated candidates or any of the subsequent timelines which remain sacrosanct. However, this request is granted in respect of outstanding primaries only without prejudice to those already concluded by political parties. The Commission will not monitor already concluded primaries.”