Benue council polls postponed over legal technicalities

From Uche Nnorom, Makurdi

The Benue State Independent Electoral Commission (BSIEC) yesterday announced a postponement of the proposed November 30, 2019 Council polls in Benue till the first quarter of year 2020.
Chairman of the Commission, Joseph Tersoo Loko, announced this during the Commission’s Stakeholders Forum held at the George Akume Hall, Local Government Service Commission, Makurdi.
The BSIEC Chairman blamed the postponement on glaring contradictions on the timetable released by the Commission on September 23, 2019.
“The import of this meeting is to inform stakeholders on preparations so far, to also intimate them that the Commission has taken note of the contradiction on the timetable released on 23rd September, 2019, in respect to Section 30 of Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) which has provided for 90 days notice of election and Section 15(2) of the Benue State Electoral Law, 2012(as amended) which has provided for 21 days notice, which conflicts with Section 30 of the Electoral Act, 2010”, he stated.
Loko said in view of the shortcomings realized from its timetable, the Commission has postponed its election date from November 30, 2019 to the First quarter of 2020 to accommodate and make further clarifications on the provisions of the existing Electoral Laws.
Dr. Loko promised that the Commission shall, pursuant to the requirements of its mandate serve a new “Notice of Election” and present its new timetable to stakeholders and sued for the collaboration of political parties and other stakeholders in achieving credible polls.
In their reactions, stakeholders from across political parties, said BSIEC was sitting on a time bomb and the Commission has just saved itself from imminent litigations as the earlier timetable was jaundicely flawed with lacunas that every political party would have latched on to make a mess of the Commission in court.
The various speakers commended the Chairman and his Commission for having a rethink and requested that going forward, as key participants, political parties should be carried along adequately and the fees of 300,000 naira for chairmanship candidates, as well as 200, 000 naira for councillorship nominees be reviewed downward or removed completely, same way INEC does not charge political parties separate fees.
However, observers who spoke on the sidelines on grounds of anonymity, murmured that the actual reason for the postponement was Governor Samuel Ortom’s inability to mobilize the Commission financially to meet up the demands of its assignment on the proposed date, as up till now, BSIEC had not accessed one kobo from the government that had hurriedly usurped the powers of the Commission to fix a date for the council polls.

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