Sunday, 20 February 2022

2023 Elections: See Why INEC Might Postpone Next Year's General Election


 | February 20, 2022 


The electoral umpire in Nigeria, ndependent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says it may be forced to postpone the 2023 elections if President Muhammadu Buhari fails to assent to the reworked Electoral Act Amendment Bill by Tuesday.

This was made to to newsmen by INEC's  National Commissioner and Chairman of Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in an interview, Sunday 

According to him, there are some fundamental timelines in the new electoral bill that will fundamentally affect the electoral legal framework.

Recall that Buhari had declined assent to the bill on November 23, 2021, citing insecurity, cost of conducting direct primaries and infringement on the rights of Nigerians as his reasons.

The rejection was conveyed in letters written to the National Assembly.
He also said the decision was based on informed advice by relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government, and a careful review of the bill in light of the current realities in Nigeria.

The bill was thereafter reworked by the National Assembly and passed on January 25, 2022, for presidential assent.

Specifically, the lawmakers amended controversial Clause 84 of the bill, which deals with the mode of primary election to be used by political parties.

In the previous version, lawmakers had prescribed that political parties use only the direct mode of primary. But it was made optional in the reworked bill sent to the President for assent.

However, the bill, which was forwarded on January 31, 2022, is yet to receive presidential assent, raising concerns over the likely consequences should Buharireject it again.

Speaking on the matter, Okoye said: "We understand that on January 31, 2022, the reworked Electoral Act Amendment Bill was forwarded to the President. Under Section 58 of the Constitution, the President has been given the right to assent to bills within 30 days. The 30 days have not elapsed.

"As an electoral management body, we have done our part and it is now left for the National Assembly and the executive to do their part so that the country can have a new legal regime to operate on.

"The tenure of the President and that of the Governors (except Anambra, Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states) will expire on the 28th day of May 2023 while members of the national and state assemblies will stand dissolved on the 8th day of June 2023.   


"By Sections 132(1) and 178(1) of the Constitution, the Commission is empowered to appoint a date for the holding of presidential, governorship, national and state assembly elections.

"INEC had already fixed February 18, 2023, as the date for the presidential election in Nigeria. Now, if you calculate that particular date from today ( last Thursday), it gives you 365 days to that particular election.

"The worrying aspect in this whole impasse is the fact that the new bill before the President contains very far-reaching timelines that will fundamentally affect the date for the election.

"Under Section 28 of the new bill, the Commission is mandated and under a constitutional and legal obligation to issue the notice for the election within 360 days and that is remaining just five days from today.

"The implication is that if the bill is not signed into law thereafter, the Commission has to shift the date for the presidential election to accommodate the 360 days given on the new bill for issuing the notice of the election."

The INEC Chief, however, assured that the Commission is permitted by law to orbit around Sections 132(2) and 178(2) of the Constitution in fixing the date for elections so long as the dates remain within the 150 days and 30 days provided in the Constitution.   

Okoye said: "In other words, the earliest date for the holding of election into executive positions is 30th of December 2022 while the last date is 29th of April 2023.

"For legislative elections, the earliest date is January 10, 2023, and the last date is 10th of May 2023.

"The Commission takes into consideration the possibility of a second election or runoff election in fixing dates for the conduct of elections. Section 58(4) of the Constitution gives the President 30 days to signify that he assents to or that he withholds his assent to a bill.

"The Commission is in good standing in relation to the dates for the holding of the 2023 general elections but is in support of expeditious resolution of the issues surrounding the Bill.