The Independent National Electoral Commission would continue to reject requests by political parties for the extension of deadline for the conduct of their primaries because it would contravene the timetable and schedule of activities for the general elections earlier released, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, said on Wednesday.
Using the 2023 elections as a reference point, the Akwa Ibom REC said the commission had given ample time to parties to conduct their primaries based on the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 elections.
Igini who was responding to questions from journalists on why INEC was refusing the request of 18 political parties under the aegis of Inter-Party Advisory Council for changes in the electoral timetable and schedule of activities, maintained that the June 3 deadline was fixed and firm.
He said the dates were arrived at based on the provisions of Sections 76, 116,132, 178 of the constitution as well as the provision of Section 28 of the 2022 Electoral Act.
The chairman of IPAC, Yabagi Sani, had appealed to INEC, to extend deadline for conduct of primary elections.
He had said that Sallah holiday, the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections and screening of an unprecedented large number of aspirants were issues that could hamper timely and strict compliance with the timetable.
But Igini however wondered “why some parties chose almost the last few days to the end of the month of May for these all important activities when they know that submission deadline is June 3, 2022.”
He lamented that within the broad outline of the timetable issued, parties have been making changes and sending letters almost everyday shifting dates, venues and time for the conduct of their primaries.
The REC said, “As disruptive as these changes to our internal workings, they are free to do so and these shifts have all been accommodated by the commission to the extent that our staff now work and in the field during weekends.
“They are at liberty to make these changes have been at huge cost to the commission that deployed staff to various states from Abuja and within states. By the time they arrive, they get messages of postponement even sometimes on the way to venues. All these have endured and accommodated within the framework of the electoral timetable published.
“The only request the commission has difficulty in accommodating is in respect of fundamental shift of dates of submission of names of candidates that emerged from primaries and conventions as contained in the fixed and firm timetable and schedule of activities.
“These dates are fixed and firmed as published and repeated severally in all interactions with political parties because they were arrived at based on the provisions of sections 76, 116,132, 178 of the constitution as well as the provision of section 28 of the 2022 Act. If I may observe and ask, why is it that political parties decided to leave out the whole of April that they should have commenced the conduct of primaries?
“Why is that some of these parties chose almost the last few days to the end of the month of May for these all important activities when they know that submission deadline is 3rd of June 2022 ? Haven’t they been hearing and reading the Chairman’s consistent refrain of constitutional and statutory timelines are “fixed and firmed” at all stakeholders meetings?
“Look, as I have said, changes of venues and time within the framework of already issued constitutional timetable by the commission, no problems and they have been doing that but a fundamental shift is what the commission has advised against to allow for certainty of timeline for the 2023 elections otherwise we will continue to shift and shift the deadline”