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INEC lacks power to conduct LG elections – Yakubu

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, says the commission has no constitutional power to conduct local government elections except in the Federal Capital Territory.

Yakubu said this on the sidelines of a two-day induction retreat for INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners on Monday in Lagos.

The retreat is to prepare the RECs ahead of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states in September and November, respectively.

Reacting to the agitation seeking constitutional backing for INEC to be saddled with the responsibility of conducting LG elections, Yakubu described it as ‘a constitutional matter’.

According to him, unless necessary constitutional amendments are made, INEC will only continue to organise national and state elections.

“The same section of the Constitution that establishes INEC also establishes the State Independent Electoral Commission and we cannot take over their duties.

“It is good for people to engage in advocacy for INEC to take charge of the whole elections, but the Constitution has to be amended for that to happen.

“For now, INEC can only conduct the local government elections in the Federal Capital Territory with six area council chairmen and 62 councillors.

“And it is in the FCT, the conduct of council elections has been regular and we are proud of what we have done to the best of our capacity.

“So, we are encouraged by what we have done, but as for taking over the LG elections in the states, the constitution has to be amended, and we are not there yet,’’ Yakubu said.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that some Nigerians are canvassing for the dissolution of the SIECs in the ongoing constitutional amendment, to pave the way for INEC to take charge of local government elections.

The proponents believe that state governors are hijacking local councils’ allocation due to irregularities in the conduct of the LG polls.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), in March this year called for the scrapping of SIECs.

Fagbemi said that SIEC’s function should be transferred to INEC, to ensure independence and transparency in the outcome of local government elections in the country.

Meanwhile, the INEC Chairman said the retreat was to prepare the old and new RECs for the elections coming ahead.

Yakubu emphasised the retreat’s role not only in inducting new RECs but also in reviewing and enhancing INEC’s operational capabilities.

He said, “Today’s retreat is held against the background of forthcoming governorship elections in Edo State in the next 81 days and Ondo State in the 137 days.

“In addition, there are five pending bye-elections for Babura/Garki Federal Constituency of Jigawa State and four State constituencies: Khana II of Rivers State, Bagwai/Shanono of Kano State, Zaria Kewaye of Kaduna State and Ganye of Adamawa State. These outstanding bye-elections bring the total of such elections to 14 since the inauguration of the national and state assemblies in June last year.

“Looking forward, there are four major elections before the next general elections in 2027. The Anambra State Governorship election next year will be followed in 2026 by the Ekiti and Osun State governorship elections and, I must remind you in case you forget, the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory.

“Therefore, as we think, reflect and innovate for credible elections, we are also instantly implementing the reforms and innovations that we can introduce by administrative action. Since the election is a process governed by law, we also plan to intensify our engagement with the National Assembly for activities that require legal reform.”

The INEC Chairman stressed the importance of training and equipping the new RECs with the knowledge and skills required to effectively handle the upcoming polls.

“As new RECs, we should focus on how we can acquaint ourselves more with the processes and procedures of the commission.

For the veterans, we should leverage our privileged field experience to contribute how to mitigate recurring challenges in the areas of pre-election and post-election litigation, operational issues, especially in the area of logistics, an improvement on voter education processes, issues of strategic communication and combating fake news, misinformation and disinformation as well as inclusivity in the electoral process, voter registration, allotting voters to polling units, the role of technology from pre-election activities to Election Day processes, political party issues, mainly arising from leadership crisis and the management of party primaries, the recruitment and training of election duty officials, election security and our code of conduct.”

He underscored the commission’s commitment to fair and credible polls.

The PUNCH reports that nine of the RECs were sworn in on December 12, 2023 while one was sworn in on January 30, 2024.

They were deployed as follows: Abubakar Pawa, Kebbi; Abubakar Ahmed, Borno; Dr. Anugbum Onuoha, Edo State; Ehimeakhe Shaka Isah, Akwa Ibom; Aminu Idris, Kaduna; Mohammed Abubakar, Kwara; Oluwatoyin Babalola, Ondo; Olubunmi Omoseyindemi, Ekiti; Etekamba Umore, Delta; and Shehu Wahab, Nasarawa.


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