Benin City, Wednesday, September 8, 2016: The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) condemns the call for the postponement of the Edo Governorship election scheduled for September 10, 2016. We believe the purported call is aimed at undermining the independence of the electoral commission. The call reeks of interference on the part of the Nigerian Police and Department of State Security (DSS) who are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). The unilateral decision taken by the Nigerian Police and DSS without due consultation with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) suggests a deliberate and well-orchestrated plot to rubbish the image of INEC and portray her as an institution incapable of fulfilling its mandate. Furthermore, it casts doubt on the usefulness of the ICCES to the conduct of elections.
We wish to remind the Nigerian Police and SSS, that elections have been conducted in difficult terrains where there was credible and verifiable evidence of a likely breach of peace. For instance, elections were conducted in the hotbeds of the insurgency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa states in 2015 and these elections were hitch-free.
We will like to EMPHASISE the grave implications of this postponement. On election logistics, INEC, security agencies, CSOs, and other stakeholders have massively deployed for Saturday’s election. Therefore calling for a postponement will amount to fiscal irresponsibility and waste of public resources at a time when the country is undergoing economic hardship. We must also ask how a ‘government in recession’ will garner adequate resources to conduct a rescheduled election. At a time where the country is adopting a cost-effective approach to public governance, this call is insensitive and obtuse.
YIAGA is worried that this development will not only impact on voter confidence but it will create an atmosphere of tension, suspicion and distrust between voters, political parties, INEC and the security agencies.
We call on INEC to be guided by Sections 26 (1) of the Electoral Act in taking a decision on whether to proceed with the election or postpone the election to a latter date. That section is clear that any reason warranting the postponement of election must be COGENT AND VERIFIABLE. What is more worrisome is the silence over a definite timeline when the security agencies will deal decisively with the envisaged terrorist attacks. The circumstances surrounding this call don’t suggest that the so-called ‘credible intelligence’ is cogent and verifiable. YIAGA calls on INEC to resist every attempt by the security agencies to arm twist the Commission to do its bidding.
Virtually all the activities outlined in the widely published election timetable have been successfully conducted by the electoral commission with the exception of the suspension of all election campaigns on September 8thand conduct of the election on September 10, 2016. Based on field reports, INEC is fully prepared to administer the elections as earlier scheduled. YIAGA strongly believes that with the level of preparations of INEC and the peaceful situation in Edo state, the Commission can proceed with the conduct of the September 10 elections if given the required support from the security agencies.
To this end, we urge INEC to assert its independence as guaranteed by the Constitution by resisting any advice, call or request to postpone the elections. Postponing the election has grave financial implications too much to bear in view of the present economic challenges. The President should call the Nigerian Police and DSS to order and direct that they refrain forthwith from interfering with the functions of the electoral commission. Additional security personnel should be redeployed and security beefed up in those places envisaged as terror spots.
YIAGA is one of the civil society organization accredited by INEC to observe the Edo Governorship elections.