By Angela Atabo
Abuja, May 22, 2022
A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to maintain its electoral timetable because any alteration would be dangerous for the electoral process and for integrity.
The CSOs in a statement on Friday, said political parties had earlier appealed to INEC to change the electoral timetable released on Feb. 26, due to some reasons.
The CSOs include The Electoral Hub, Yiaga Africa, Ayisha Osori, Adopt a Goal Initiative, Abuja School for Social and Political Thought and Emma Ezeazu Centre for Accountability and Good Governance.
Others are Partners West Africa, Nigeria, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Center, Gender Development Initiative, Sesor Empowerment Foundation and Speak Out Africa Initiative.
The CSOs said that on Feb.26, INEC in the interest of all and considering the strict timeline stipulations for the implementation of electoral activities in the new Electoral Act 2022, issued the timetable and schedule of activities for the General Elections.
They said that all political parties were advised to conduct their party primaries and submit the names of nominated candidates between 9 a.m. June 10 and 6 p.m. July 17.
“The timetable for political party primaries, April 4 to June 3, has been known since February 2022, three months ago, and parties have subsequently sent their own timetables to INEC and shared it with the public.
“So, we currently watch with dismay at the various attempts by political parties to pressurise the electoral umpire to suit their ends, and by so doing alter the time stipulations of INEC.
“We are also dismayed at the backhand attempt by the National Assembly to intrude in this process with their last-minute amendment to the new Electoral Act 2022, which just became operational as of Feb. 25, the implementation of which only just started.
“We categorically state that any attempt to alter the present timeline is tantamount to indirectly shifting the General Elections forward and away from 25 February and 11 March earlier fixed by INEC, a move which Nigerians will vehemently resist.’’
The CSOs said that forms had been bought by aspirants on different political parties platforms.
” In essence, the process of party primaries has commenced.”
They said it would be unfair and inconsiderate of these efforts by parties if INEC at this stage changed the timetable, which was part of the rules of the electoral process.
The CSOs, therefore demanded that in the interest of transparency, accountability and integrity of the election, INEC, as an impartial umpire, should maintain its timetable released on Feb. 26.
This, they said, was because parties had already commenced the process and it was be unfair to extend the period.
They added that there were interrelated dependencies that INEC was working with to ensure transparent, well-conducted elections in February and March 2023. To push back on the timelines would affect the election preparations, they said.
“Governance has taken a back seat to politics despite the existential threats of insecurity and the hardship Nigerians face due to the rise in fuel and food costs
“We need those in office to focus on their responsibilities for governance and this will only happen after the primaries.
“The longer the period within which the leading parties have to engage in the primaries, the more unstable the political, economic, and social sectors will be. ‘’
The CSOs said that any review, change or alteration of the timeline for one activity, would ultimately affect other activities and put unnecessary constraints on the Commission.
They said that this would also ultimately result in more complications than what the alteration sought to achieve.
They, therefore, said that the current timeline as conceived by INEC, was best left as it is; as it would help the electorate and candidates alike to rigorously debate critical national issues.
They further argued that it was not in the place of political parties to dictate their own whims to INEC.
They therefore, urged INEC to continue in its impartial duty and resist all attempts aimed at pressurising it to alter the timeline.
They also called on all political parties to respect the rules of INEC as the election management body.