The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently raised the alarm that next year’s general election could be threatened by conflicting orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction in respect of lists of candidates by political parties. National Commissioner of INEC in charge of Information and Voter Education, Dr. Festus Okoye, disclosed this at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), during a campus outreach organised by the European Centre for Electoral Support.
Okoye, who represented the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission would not want a situation where it would be blamed for disobeying court orders and advised the parties to resolve their internal differences without frustrating the commission’s operations. The INEC commissioner also urged the courts to be circumspect in issuing ex parte orders.
We have no doubt that the alarm raised by INEC may threaten the smooth conduct of the 2019 general election. The issuance of conflicting orders from courts of concurrent jurisdiction could be dangerous to public order. With the general election a few months away, nothing should be done to derail its smooth conduct. The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, should immediately address the issue of conflicting orders from the courts. We believe that if ex parte orders must be given, it must be in extreme circumstances and the reason(s) must be compelling enough, without breaching the public peace the country needs ahead of the election. It is, therefore, expedient that judges should try as much as possible to avoid issuing ex parte orders at random.
Apart from the danger posed by indiscriminate issuance of ex parte orders, there are other dangers that should be nipped in the bud or else, they could hamper the forthcoming election. One of such concerns is the proliferation of arms and ammunition in the country by some unscrupulous politicians. Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service recently intercepted caches of arms and military uniforms which were brought into the country through the nation’s land and sea borders.
Therefore, all hands must be on deck to avert possible threats to the election. Security agencies should be professional and neutral during the exercise. The recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states questioned the professionalism of some security agencies and their officials. They need to be trained and retrained before, during and after the election.
The electoral umpire must ensure that the card reader functions optimally during the poll. No voter should be disenfranchised on account of the failure of the card reader. While we endorse the use of the card reader during the general election, INEC must ensure that it works. Therefore, let no politician be afraid of the use of the card reader. Any attempt to stop the use of the card reader in the election, could expose the election process to manipulation by desperate politicians. INEC must ensure that the card reader machines are available and functional all over the country. It is important that the electoral agency begins early enough to train those that will operate the equipment. There should be no excuse for failure in the 2019 election. Only those with genuine Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) should be allowed to vote during the election.
Considering the allegations of rigging by some political parties in previous polls, INEC should ensure that the coming poll is free and fair. However, the commission needs the cooperation of all, including the National Assembly to ensure that the funds and materials for the poll are timely released. Let all the stakeholders work in concert to ensure that the 2019 election is credible. Nigeria cannot afford to bungle the election. Improving the integrity of our election is a duty that must be done.