By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
Ahead of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo State this year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has warned that where an election is disrupted, it (the commission) will not make a declaration on the outcome due to lack of adherence to guiding rules of the election.
The Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu gave the warning while speaking at a virtual event on Democracy and Elections in West Africa, organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) on Tuesday.
At the event, which sought to put a limelight on the future of democracy in the West African region, the INEC Chairman also assured of the Commission’s commitment to free, fair and credible elections.
The governorship election in Edo State is scheduled to take place on September 19, while that of Ondo State is billed for October 20, 2020.
The INEC Chairman specifically warned that where an election is disrupted, the commission will not make a declaration on the outcome due to lack of adherence to guiding rules of the election.
Professor Yakubu said: “Where the election is disrupted and the commission cannot vouch for the integrity of the process, we will not go ahead to make any declaration.”
Noting that political parties have been duly notified on this, Professor Yakubu said: “You (political parties, politicians and voters) either behave for the elections to be concluded in a free and fair manner or we do what the law says.”
Professor Yakubu said there will be no point making a declaration in such situation because the commission will not endorse fraud or function outside the minimum standard set for the
conduct of credible elections anywhere.
“While elections are disrupted, we should look far beyond the electoral commission. I think you put your fingers on the problem, on the political class and the security challenges. And that is why we have been engaging with them,” Professor Yakubu said.
Addressing the challenges the Commission might face in conducting an election in a Coronavirus pandemic period, Yakubu, said Nigeria with ten bye-elections and over 6.2 million voters is determined to ensure democracy is not truncated.
“Our electoral and democratic process can’t be suspended on account of the COVID19 pandemic, “ Professor Yakubu said.
He said proper measures have been put in place to contain the possible spread of COVID-19 among voters and officials. Listing some of the measures, the INEC Chairman said, machines used for voter authentication will be disinfected, the use of face masks and a two-meter (6 feet) physical distance between voters will be enforced while infrared thermometers will be provided in voting and collation areas.
Professor Yakubu said adequate security, during the process, will be put in place, while officials participating in the conduct of the election will be properly trained in line with advisories and guideline listed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
According to him, INEC will continue to relate with political parties across the country to ensure a free, credible and fair respective of the pandemic
“INEC is one of the most litigated against public institutions in the country. In the last one and the half years over the conduct of the general elections and party primaries, we have been dragged to court over 2000 times and it is counting, “ Professor Yakubu.
In her address, the Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, called for sanctions against political parties and individuals who make efforts to jeopardize electoral systems in African countries.
Hassan said unruly behaviour by politicians and their supporters should not be condoned.