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INEC allays fears on 2023 elections, says no plan to shift polls

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INEC insists APGA won’t participate in Anambra guber poll

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that the 2023 general election is not encumbered and will hold as planned, beginning with the presidential poll scheduled for February 18, 2023.

Responding to speculations that it might postpone the scheduled conduct of the 2023 general election if President Muhammadu Buhari signs the Electoral Bill after February 22, 2022, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Publicity and Chairman of Voter Education, Mr Festus Okoye said the commission was not in any form of dilemma relating to the exercise of its constitutional and legal powers.

Okoye stated that the commission was focused and working proactively to deliver on its mandate.
According to Section 28 (1) of the Electoral Bill 2022, INEC is required to issue a notice of election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election.

The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, had reportedly stated that in line with the Electoral Bill 2022, the deadline for the commission to issue the notice of election for the 2023 general election will be February 22, 2022, “the reasons being that the total number of days from February 22, 2022, to February 17, 2023, is 360 days.”

But Okoye said the speculations and anxiety relating to the shifting of the date of the 2023 elections were based on the Electoral Bill 2022 which, according to him, is still inchoate.

According to him, the existing and extant electoral legal framework for the conduct of elections remains the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
He insisted that the electoral body was in synch with the constitutional provisions relating to the period for the holding of elections, adding that the provisions are sacrosanct and cast in stone.

“The commission is only permitted to orbit around the constitutional timelines in fixing the date for the holding of elections.
“The commission is a regulatory body guided by the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as altered), the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and its Rules, Regulations and Guidelines.

“As of today, the existing and extant electoral legal framework for the conduct of elections remains the Constitution and the Electoral Act and the commission will continue to rely on its provisions for electoral continuity, pending any amendment to the said law.
“By the commission’s Regulations and Guidelines made pursuant to the powers conferred on it by the Constitution and the Electoral Act, the 2023 general election will hold on the 18th of February 2023,” Okoye explained.

He argued that the scheduled date is in consonance and in conformity with sections 132(1) and 178(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that gives the commission the exclusive right and power to appoint the date for the holding of Executive and Legislative Elections subject to the timelines and schedule circumscribed in Sections 132(2) and 178(2) of the Constitution.

“By the said sections, election to executive positions shall hold not earlier than December 30, 2022, and not later than April 29, 2023, while legislative elections shall hold not earlier than 10th January 2023 and not later than May 10, 2023.
“By Section 30 of the existing and current Electoral Act, the commission shall give notice of the holding of the elections not later than 90 days to the said election and this remains the law and the commission is in good standing relating to its timelines and schedules,” Okoye added.

The INEC commissioner said that the speculations and anxiety relating to the shifting of the date of the 2023 elections were based on the Electoral Bill 2022 which is still inchoate.
According to him, Section 28 of the said Bill requires the commission to give notice of election not later than 360 days to the said election, stressing that the said 360 days will elapse in the next few days.
He said that the commission was also aware that Section 58 of the Constitution gives the President 30 days to assent to the Bill or withhold his assent.

“The commission is aware that the Bill was transmitted to the President on January 31, 2022. The members of the National Assembly and the Executive are aware of these timelines in the Bill and the implications of the timelines if the Bill is assented to and these are issues that can be adjusted and streamlined.

“The commission desires an expeditious resolution of the issues surrounding the new electoral legal framework as there are creative and innovative issues and provisions in the Bill that will enhance and advance the electoral process and our democracy.
“The commission is focused and will continue with its preparations for the conduct of the 2023 general election. If there are challenges with timelines, the commission will meet, assess those challenges and remain within the constitutional and legal confines in sections 132(2) and 178(2) of the Constitution that requires that elections to executive positions to hold not earlier than December 30, 2022, and not later than April 29, 2023, while legislative elections shall hold not earlier than January 10, 2023, and not later than May 10, 2023,” he explained.

Some civil society groups had declared February 22, 2022, National Day of Protest on the Electoral Bill
The groups said they were aware that the National Assembly transmitted the Bill to the President on January 2022.
They said that they were also aware the Bill allows for electronic transmission of results, strengthens INEC’s financial independence and empowers the commission to reject falsified election results.

“The bill, when signed, requires INEC to issue Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election. Therefore, the President has to give assent to the bill on or before 22nd February 2022 if the dates announced for the 2023 elections are to be maintained.
Accordingly, they said that they have resolved to declare Tuesday, February 22, 2022, as the National Day of Protest to demand immediate assent to the bill.

“We urge citizens across the nation to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to act on this matter of urgent national importance”.
The CSOs that signed the statement include Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Yiaga Africa, Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), International Press Centre Institute for Media and Society, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Labour Civil Society Coalition (LASCO), Transition Monitoring Group, CLEEN Foundation, and Civil Society, Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Others include: Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (NNNGO), Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), Enough is Enough (EIE), The Electoral Hub, Centre for Liberty, Take Back Nigeria Movement, International Peace and Civil Responsibility Centre (IPCRC),100 Women Lobby Group, Women in Politics Forum, Raising New Voices, Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa and Ready to Lead Africa.

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POLITICS

Wike meets PDP senators, Orubebe

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The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike on Thursday received the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership in the Senate in Rumuepirikom, his country home in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.

The PDP delegation was led by the Senate Minority Leader, Philip Aduda.

Also a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe met with Wike

Orubebe recently resigned from the Peoples Democratic Party.

In attendance at the meeting were the Senate Minority Whip, Chukwuka Utazi; Shuaibu Lau, Danjuma La’ah and Barry Mpigi.

A Government House source said the senators arrived at the governor’s residence some minutes past 3pm and immediately went into a closed door with their host.

The outcomes of the separate meetings were not made public.

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ADC presidential candidate denies tax fraud allegations in US

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Dumebi Kachikwu

The presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dumebi Kachikwu, has denied allegations of tax fraud in the United States.

Kachikwu said this in a statement on Wednesday titled, ‘Allegations of tax evasion, fraud against me untrue, politically motivated’.

The presidential candidate said the allegations were propagated by his political opponents who were unhappy with his victory at the ADC Presidential primary.

The Roots TV boss, therefore, asked supporters to ignore online reports that the US government had indicted him for tax evasion running into millions of dollars.

The statement read in part, “A few days ago, my campaign team received information that one of the aspirants who lost out in the just concluded ADC presidential primaries was planning a series of smear campaigns against me.

“I was therefore not surprised when I saw this story. Contrary to the information being peddled, I was assessed an additional $9m several years ago by the US Inland Revenue Service.

“This amount was reduced to $2m and when the IRS sued to collect the amount, my lawyers didn’t contest it and instead waited for a default judgement in order to go to the next stage which is making an offer in compromise to reduce the amount to be paid. This is a standard legal practice in tax matters.”

Kachikwu also denied allegations that he delivered a bribe to convicted US Congressman, William Jefferson.

The ADC candidate said rather, he was the one who reported the former Congressman to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The statement further read, “(The report) claimed I had delivered a $100,000 cash bribe to curry the favour of the former US Congressman.  This is another lie as multiple evidence abounds online clearly showing I was the victim who reported the US congressman to the EFCC and the FBI for defrauding my company.

“I have now instructed my lawyers to sue all digital media organisations who participated in the dissemination of this falsehood.”

The Roots TV boss said he was sure of victory in next year’s Presidential election.

Kachikwu, who is a younger brother to a former Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, surprisingly defeated a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, to win the ADC’s Presidential ticket.

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POLITICS

Kwankwaso’s party gains one, Labour Party another as senators defect from APC, PDP

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Two Senators on Wednesday announced their defection from their former political parties to another party ahead of the 2023 general election.

The Senators are: Francis Ezenwa Onyewusi representing Imo East Senatorial district and Haliru Dauda Jika representing Bauchi Central Senatorial district.

Their defection was made known by the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan during a plenary on Wednesday.

While Senator Francis Onyewusi who is a first-timer to the Senate was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and defected to Labour Party (LP), his counterpart in Bauchi was a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) before he defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

The defected Senators cited injustice and inequity in their former political parties that made them fail the primary elections.

On Tuesday, three All Progressives Congress (APC) senators defected to other political parties.

Ahmad Babba Kaita, senator representing Katsina north; Lawal Yahaya Gumau, senator representing Bauchi north, and Francis Alimikhena, senator representing Edo north, all defected to other parties.

Kaita, who represents President Muhammadu Buhari’s senatorial district, defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alongside Alimikhena.Advertisement

Gumau defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), a party led by Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano state.

The defectors have cited “marginalisation” and unfair treatment by their former parties as the reason for joining new parties.

Most of them were seeking reelection, but lost their tickets in their former parties.

The number of APC senators now stands at 66.

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