The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed dismay at the level of violence that trailed recent congresses organized by some political parties.
The Commission, in a statement by Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the violence in some of the Congresses is making it extremely difficult for the Commission to exercise its statutory oversight responsibility.
It also warned that it might be forced to sanction offending parties if the destruction of property that attends such congresses does not stop.
The statement reads:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has watched with utmost dismay and profound concern the recurrent acrimony, violence and destruction of property, including the Commission’s property and equipment, which have characterized some recent political party congresses across the country. This is the season of political party congresses and conventions to elect their leaders at various levels of party organization and INEC is mandated by law to monitor them. These meetings constitute a very important aspect of the electoral process and democracy generally in Nigeria.
The level of violence in some of the Congresses is making it extremely difficult for the Commission to exercise its statutory oversight responsibility enshrined in Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). In one such Congress in Kaduna recently, violence broke out leading to the destruction of the Commission’s ballot boxes.
Political parties are reminded that they have a clear obligation to ensure that their Congresses and Conventions are orderly, democratic and in accordance with extant legal framework, their own constitutions and guidelines, as well as INEC’s regulations and guidelines.
This Commission will not stand askance and watch party conventions and congresses degenerate into farcical rituals and violent fiascos that threaten lives and destroy property. For the avoidance of doubt, INEC will henceforth reconsider its involvement in these events, should they continue to put lives of members of the public and staff of the Commission at risk.
Henceforth, there will be far-reaching consequences in any situation where party congresses and conventions degenerate into violence and destruction of INEC property. Apart from replacing such destroyed materials, parties may be blacklisted from the receipt of INEC materials for their activities in the future. The Commission may also withdraw its staff from monitoring such violent political party meetings, with the resultant non-recognition of their outcomes.
The Commission wishes to remind political parties of forthcoming primaries to select their candidates for upcoming elections and bye-elections, particularly those for the Anambra State Governorship election and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections. Parties must stick to the respective Timetable and Schedule of Activities for these elections as released by the Commission, which have been communicated to them and are available at the INEC website (www.inec.gov.ng). Parties must ensure that their primaries are peaceful and orderly. Above all, they must adhere strictly to the Electoral Act, INEC Regulations and Guidelines, as well as party constitutions and rules, which are domiciled with the Commission.
Finally, in the conduct of their internal processes, political parties must hold themselves to the same standards they hold the Commission during elections namely, openness, fairness, adherence to rules and peaceful conduct. INEC remains deeply concerned about the acrimony and violence within parties such that there are now more suits in various courts of law arising from party congresses and primaries than from elections conducted by the Commission. Still, the Commission will continue to work with political parties in support of their internal functioning in order to build strong and democratic parties in Nigeria.