From Fred Itua, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, raised the alarm that delay by the National Assembly to pass the Electoral Act amendment bill may adversely affect 2023 general elections.
Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, in a remark during a public hearing on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, said the commission was anxious to know the legal framework that would govern the conduct of the polls.
“By the principles established by the Commission, the 2023 general elections will hold on Saturday, February 18, 2023, which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days away from today or 660 day,” Yakubu said.
Yakubu said the timetable would be released immediately after the Anambra governorship election scheduled for November 6.
“In order to do so, there should be clarity and certainty about the electoral legal framework to govern the 2023 general election,” he said.
Expressing the support of INEC for the Electoral Offences Commission Bill, Yakubu lamented that the public hearing on it was being done 13 years after the recommendation of the Uwais Committee in 2008.
Yakubu said since the 2015 election, 124 cases had been filed in court and prosecuted, nothing that “so far, we have only achieved 60 convictions out of 124, including the latest one that we all know about in Akwa Ibom.”
He said INEC will like to see more prosecution of offenders not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of result of election but most importantly, their sponsors.
“We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including chieftains of political parties and candidates will be prosecuted,” he said.
Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya assured stakeholders that the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was receiving attention and hopefully will be assented to by the President.
Gaya said the passage of the National Electoral Offences Commission will definitely “change the narrative in our electoral process.”
Sponsor of the bill, Senator Abubakar Kyari said the process started in the 8th Senate when he sponsored the bill with Ovie Omo-Agege because they realised that INEC cannot prosecute one per cent of electoral offences and that that function should be taken off their shoulders for INEC to function effectively.