The Independent National Electoral Commission on Saturday said it would stop the announcement of results in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State scheduled for September 19 2020 if there was threat to peace.
The commission specifically threatened to withdraw from the exercise even if election has started at any time violence erupted.
INEC National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, tabled the issues in an interview with Sunday PUNCH in Abuja.
He was reacting to enquiries from our correspondent on the scary developments in Edo State, about six weeks to the governorship election and the outcome of its meeting held on Thursday.
Okoye said, “The commission reviewed the conduct of political parties and the candidates in Edo and Ondo States and reminded them of the need to play by the rules of the game. The commission advised political parties to pay attention to the dangers of violence and the use of incendiary statements on the electoral process.
“The commission made it clear that it will not conduct elections in a violent environment and will withdraw and not announce any results if there are cogent and verifiable threats to its officials and the voters.”
He also responded to questions on whether INEC would consider shifting election if the violence escalates before the election or the September 19 date remained date remains sacrosanct.
Okoye said, “The commission is committed and determined to conduct the elections within the constitutionally allowed period but the parties must not cuddle violence and engage in acts aimed at undermining the electoral process and expect a soft landing from the commission. We are a regulatory body and those being regulated must obey the rules and procedures for campaigns and rallies.
“The commission cannot shift the Edo governorship election beyond October 10, 2020. If the election is disrupted and the commission is unable to deploy on September 19 2020, millions spent on printing of ballot papers, result sheets, payment of allowances for ad-hoc staff, hiring of vehicles and other sundry expenses will go down the drains.
“Disruption of the election will put unnecessary pressure on the commission relating to the time for the possible conduct of a second election. Disruption may throw the timelines for the conduct of elections out of gear and there will be constitutional crisis in Edo State.”
However, Inter-Party Advisory Council has urged INEC not to succumb to distractions to suspend or postpone the governorship election in Edo.
The organisation, which is coalition of the 18 political parties in Nigeria, condemned what it described as “the unfolding political upheavals and rascality in Edo State,” adding that it was a misstep that could plunge the country into a major crisis.
IPAC was reacting to the threat by INEC to stop the elections in Edo and Ondo states if the actions of political actors were verifiable threats of breakdown of law and order before or during the elections.
But the IPAC National Chairman, Dr Leonard Nzenwa, and Publicity Secretary, Major Agbo, during a press briefing in Abuja, called on the President, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to ensure that there was no such breakdown.