The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has threatened to prosecute any political party that fields unqualified candidates in any election. The commission in a statement by Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said political parties fielding candidates for the elections must conduct transparent and valid direct or indirect primaries in accordance with the dictates of sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Okoye, who announced plan by INEC to conduct bye-elections in six constituencies spread across four states, told parties intending to field candidates for the bye-elections, that only aspirant with the highest number of votes cast at the primary should be declared the winner and the name forwarded to the commission as the candidate of the party. He warned that “political parties that present to the commission the name of a candidate, who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in the Constitution and the Electoral Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction shall be liable to a maximum fine of N500,000.”
The National Commissioner disclosed that the bye-elections, which would be to fill vacancies in Akure North/Akure South federal constituency of Ondo State; Jos North/Bassa federal constituency of Plateau State; Pankshin South state constituency, also of Plateau State; Ogoja/Yala federal constituency of Cross River State; Akpabuyo state constituency, also of Cross River State; and Ngor-Okpala state constituency of Imo State, would hold on Saturday February 26. This, according to him, would enable INEC to focus on the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections and the preparations for the 2023 general election.
Okoye explained that some of the vacancies arose as a result of the death of the previous occupants of the legislative seat as well as violence during the conduct of election. “The commission considered the issues that led to the vacancies and the rescheduling of some of the elections as well as the security situation in some of the states. “The commission is consulting with security agencies and the critical stakeholders relating to the vacancy in Shinkafi state constituency of Zamfara State while the Speaker of the Kaduna State House of Assembly has not declared vacancy in relation to Giwa state constituency of Kaduna State,” he added.
The National Commis-sioner stated that INEC would combine the Ekiti East 1 state constituency election with the governorship election held in Ekiti on June 18. He directed political parties to conduct their primaries and resolve disputes arising therefrom between January 26 and February 5, “while the last day for submission of list of nominated candidates is at 6pm on the 9th February 2022.” He stated that the commission is finalising all arrangements for the election for the February 12, Abuja Area Council election, and enjoined people who applied for fresh registration as well as transfers and replacement of permanent voter’s cards (PVCs) to collect them so as to be able to vote in the election. INEC said a total of 475 candidates sponsored by all the 18 political parties are vying for the 68 constituencies involving six Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors.