The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has rejected the idea of rescheduling, postponing and or suspending the Anambra State governorship election scheduled to hold on November 6, 2021, despite the increasing spate of violence in the state.
According to INEC, “For the commission, and indeed the people of Anambra State, rescheduling, adjusting or postponing the election is not an option worth considering giving the challenges of planning and delivering elections within constitutionally and legally approved timetable and schedule.”
This was disclosed by the INEC National Commissioner in charge of Publicity and Voter Education, Festus Okoye.
He said: “The framers of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) imbedded in Section 26 of the law the possibility of rescheduling a governorship election under extraordinary circumstances by showing cogent and veritable reasons.
“These cogent and veritable reasons must be such that can be managed within the limited window allowed by the constitution. The framers of the constitution and the law did not envisage or contemplate any panic rescheduling or postponement on the basis of indeterminate action and activities of non-state actors.”
The INEC national commissioner said contemplating, rescheduling or postponing a governorship election as a panic measure or a step in addressing a developmental, constitutional, legal or security challenge is constitutionally dangerous, legally slippery and politically laced with landmines.
He explained further that: “It is akin to voluntarily drinking the hemlock, and for the electoral management body, it will lead to electoral paralysis having invested heavily in the procurement of non-sensitive and sensitive materials as well as the recruitment and training of election duty officials.”
Okoye explained that there are 14 items in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by INEC on January 19, 2021, explaining that the commission has implemented 10 of the activities leaving the statutory publication of the Notice of Poll which will be done on October 21, 2021, the last day for the submission of the names of polling agents for the election to the electoral officers of the 21 local government areas by political parties, which will elapse on October 21, 2021, the last day for campaigns by political parties, which will elapse on November 4, 2021, and the date of election slated for November 6, 2021.
Accordingly, the INEC chief said: “Therefore, it will amount to threading on a slippery slope to canvass if there is rescheduling or postponement as an option giving the peculiar circumstances of our country and the near similar security challenge in the South-east region and indeed in most parts of the country.
“By Section 180(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended), the governor shall vacate his or her office at the expiration of a period of four years commencing from the date when in the case of a person was elected as governor he took the Oath Allegiance and Oath of Office; and the person last elected to that office took the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office or would, but for his death, have taken such oath.
“By constitutional provision and stipulation, the tenure of the incumbent governor of Anambra State will expire on March 17, 2022, and on that day, the governor and the deputy governor must leave office whether someone has been elected to take over from them or not.”
He said further that: “It is immaterial whether the office is vacant. They do not need a letter of termination or disengagement from duty. The engagement of the governor and his deputy are governed by the constitution and the law and they understand it, and all the critical stakeholders understand this.
“This is Pursuant to Section 178(1) and (2) of the Constitution and Section 25(7) and (8) of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) that election to the office of a state governor shall hold not earlier than 150 days, and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of the office “Hence, by virtue of Section 178(1) and (2) of the Constitution and Section 25(7) and (8) of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended), the earliest date for the election into the office of the Governor of Anambra State, shall be the October 18, 2021, and the latest date for the election shall be February 15, 2022.”
Okoye stressed that the implication is that the constitution has circumscribed the period for the conduct of the election to the period running from October 18, 2021, and February 15, 2022, and no more, adding: “It is true that Section 26(2) of the Electoral Act provides that where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the election as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area or areas concerned appoint another date to hold the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.
Okoye said the caveat here is that the Electoral Act is inferior to the Constitution, and gives the commission the power to postpone or reschedule election within the constitutional parameter allowed by Section 178(2) of the constitution, saying: “It is axiomatic to restate that the constitution is the fundamental law of the land while the Electoral Act is made by the National Assembly pursuant to the powers granted by the constitution, and in the hierarchy of laws, the constitution is supreme.” – Thisday.