Last minute judgments won’t alter our plans, says INEC

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Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday foreclosed any adjustment to its planned arrangement for the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections on account of recently delivered court judgments.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who said this in Lokoja during a stakeholders’ meeting/signing of peace accord among political parties and candidates, also assured that the commission was ready to conduct next Saturday’s election.

He said all non-sensitive materials had been delivered to the commission’s office in Lokoja, while the sensitive materials had been delivered to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The INEC boss also emphasised the essential value of the Smart Card Readers (SRC), saying their use was mandatory, in accordance with the regulations and guidance of the commission for the conduct of elections.

Yakubu, however, appealed to all stakeholders to help INEC to make the exercise peaceful and successful and said all the efforts of the commission to deliver a free, fair and peaceful election required the support and commitment of all stakeholders.

Speaking on the issue of recently delivered court judgments, especially the one affecting participation of political parties, the INEC chairman said: “I would like to assure the people of Kogi State that our preparations will not be affected by the judgment delivered five days ago in which a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the Commission to include a political party on the ballot.

“Although the judgment is at variance with the decision of another Federal High Court in Abuja delivered ten days earlier, which affirmed the propriety of the Commission’s action in a similar case by another political party, INEC has a consistent record of obeying court orders. However, we will consider legitimate steps to address the conflicting judgments by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in the interest of our electoral jurisprudence.

“Furthermore, with four days to the governorship elections, two more cases challenging the decision of the Commission on the validity of candidates’ nominations have been reserved for judgment in Bayelsa and Kogi States. In addition, there are twelve (12) cases of intra-party disputes filed by aspirants from different political parties challenging the conduct of their own primaries and nomination of candidates, some of which have been reserved for judgment in the next few days.

“I must admit that the plethora of court cases and conflicting judgments delivered on the eve of elections in Nigeria are stressful to the Commission and costly to the nation. However, I wish to reassure the people of Bayelsa and Kogi states that learning from experience, the Commission has taken steps to ensure that the elections on Saturday in the two states are not affected by any eleventh hour judgment.”