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2019: INEC Chairman In The Eyes Of The Storm



With the myriad of engagements he is facing concerning the conduct of the 2019 general elections, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, is in the eyes of the storm following contempt charge, SUNDAY ISUWA writes.

There is presently about 18.1 percent increase in the voter register when compared with the 70 million voters the country had during the 2015 general elections.

Also, from about 40 political parties in 2015, Nigeria now has 91 political platforms contesting in 2019 which has put more pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and it’s National Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, to deliver free, fair and credible elections.

The commission has also faced an undue delay in its preparations for the 2019 elections with its N189.8 billion budget still faced with uncertainty.

Recently, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, ordered for the arrest of INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, over ‘contempt.’

The trial Judge, Justice Stephen Pam, said the order it gave the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to execute the bench warrant it issued against the INEC boss, was still subsisting.

Even though a division of Court of Appeal directed that the arrest warrant against Yakubu should not be executed until September 17, Pam insisted that the INEC boss must face the contempt charge.

It was gathered that the INEC chairman had between July 5 and July 10 allegedly failed to honour the court’s summons.

Yakubu, however, denied disobeying any order of court, adding that he was denied fair hearing by the trial Judge.

The INEC boss said there was no evidence that any court summons was enrolled and served on him.

Even though some Nigerians are complaining about the distractions Yakubu is facing ahead of the 2019 general elections, other political pundits believed everyone has a duty of respecting court proceedings.

The 2019 general elections budget proposal of  about N189 billion is in four components.  The first component was the Election Operational Cost which is estimated at 134.4 billion naira while the second component is the Election Technology Cost, estimated at N27.5 billion.

The third and fourth components of  N184.5 billion and N4.6 billion are  for Election Administrative Cost , and contingency, respectively.

From the budgets put together by INEC, it shows that the chairman of the electoral umpire has serious task ahead of him.

As at the 11th of August, the commission had registered 12.1 million new voters. if you add this to almost 70 million on the register before the 2015 general elections, Nigeria now have over 80 million registered voters.

The commission is  going to conduct elections into more constituencies in 2019 than the 2015 general election with the FCT Area Council end of tenure  elections coinciding with the general elections in 2019.

LEADERSHIP reports that INEC would be conducting elections into 1,558 constituencies across the country.

The commission has 1 Presidential Constituency, 109 Senatorial, 360 Federal Constituencies, 991 State Constituencies, 29 State governorship elections, and for the first time, the general election is coinciding with the Area Council Elections in the FCT which also has  about 68 constituencies.

To show the seriousness of the coming elections, there were about 40 political parties in 2015 but as at today Nigeria has over 91 political parties and still considering applications from 140 associations seeking for registration.

If half of the political parties field candidates, INEC will process a total of 70,809 nomination forms for the election. If all the 91 political parties present candidates for all the constituencies, INEC will process over 144,000 applications for the election, pushing more task for the electoral umpire.

“So it is really a huge task for the commission,” INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said, referring to the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

According to Yakubu, there is increase in the cost of logistics, which include increase in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which was needed to fuel all the commission’s vehicles, increase in exchange rate of foreign currencies as compared to 2015 and increase in the number of voting points due to increase in number of registered voters.

“I do not think there is any relationship between the court charge against the INEC chairman and the conduct of the 2019 election,” a political analyst, Boladale Adekoya said adding that Yakubu’s ordeal with the court should be treated differently.

“Warrant of arrest issued on the INEC chairman is not a threat to the 2019 general elections, “ Adekoya said adding that, “both  scenarios are different.”

“The office of the INEC chairman is not for an individual and if for any reason, a court of competent jurisdiction find him guilty of any crime, a replacement will be made,” he added.

He said the conduct of the elections and it operation doesn’t revolve around one man adding that the INEC boss is merely a supervisor.

“Supervisors can be changed without the process stopping,” Adekoya said, insisting that all Nigerians must respect court orders.

Speaking further on the importance of the 2019 general elections, Adekoya said the position of the INEC chairman is too sensitive for any individual that will continue a back and forth in court.

“If court summons and injunctions will affect his absolute commitment, then he has a moral obligation to resign. He is not the only one who is qualified to conduct a free and fair election,” he added.

“INEC is committed towards conducting election as planned and on schedule, we have had them reiterate this time without number and I believe they are serious,” a senatorial aspirant for the Southern Borno seat, under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kudla M Satumari Haske, said.

According to Kudla, INEC is a creation of the law adding that if there are issues that the court requires the electoral umpire to clarify, they should oblige it.

“Refusal to Honour the invitation of the court is what will give room for speculations and innuendos by observers and opportunity for enemies of democracy to capitalize on and overheat the polity,” Kudla said, adding that if the present situation is not managed well, it could be a challenge to the 2019 elections.

“This alone, with other related issues, one can say that it could present a challenge for the smooth running of the election. Having said that, Nigerians are eager to see 2019 come and Nigerians will resist any attempt to disrupt the coming elections,” the aspirant added.