• Insists Presidential election comes 1st
By Lateef Ibrahim
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said on Monday that the various dates fixed for the conduct of the 2019 general elections stay for now, pointing out that they (the dates) were fixed based on the existing laws of the land.
The Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said this in Abuja during a consultative meeting with the media in Abuja.
Yakubu also assured that INEC would do everything possible to ensure that the voters’ register is completely cleaned up with a view to ensuring that only credible voters are eligible to vote during the next year’s elections.
The INEC Chairman allayed the fears that the incidence of under-age voting witnessed during the recent local government election in Kano will not repeat itself in the forthcoming national elections.
The Commission, it will be recalled, had already fixed Saturday, 16th of February, 2018 for the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections; while it slated the governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls for Saturday, March 2 of the same year.
The National Assembly has, however, kicked against the arrangement. Instead, both the Senate and the House of Representatives want the sequence of elections to be reversed in a way that the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls will hold first, while the Presidential and National Assembly elections will be conducted last.
Already, a bill to that effect has been passed by the two houses of the National Assembly and forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. But the President is yet to assent to the said bill.
While speaking on the matter yesterday, Prof Yakubu maintained that INEC is fully covered by the existing laws of the country in fixing the dates, pointing out that, “if something happens tomorrow, we will look at it”.
In the words of the INEC Chairman: “Here we’re dealing with certainties. As far as the commission is concerned, there is no lacuna in the constitution. As far as we are concerned, we are dealing with existing laws. But if, eventually the bill (seeking the reversal of the sequence of elections) is assented to, we will look at the provisions and tell Nigerians what to do.
“As far as the situation is concerned at the moment, we are operating under an existing law; we have issued the timetable for the elections accordingly. If there is anything that happened tomorrow, we will then examined what happened tomorrow.
“We are covered by the provisions of the extant law and the existing provision of the Electoral Act, 2010”, he said.
Prof. Yakubu equally assured that all Nigerians who have so far registered under the ongoing voter registration exercise will get their permanent voter cards (PVC) before the 2018 elections.
He explained that all those who registered last year will get their PVCs before the month of May, this year; while those presently registering will get theirs before the elections.
Reacting to the issue of the underage voters in Kano, the INEC Chairman explained that the committee set up to probe the allegation will be moving to Kano tomorrow (Wednesday) to commence its duties.
Prof. Yakubu, who also expressed worries over the issue of votes buying during elections, assured that the commission is working hard, in conjunction with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to nip the trend in the bud.
The INEC Chairman, who had earlier met with members of the Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, assured that the forthcoming general elections will be free fair and credible.