8 November 2018

Nigeria: SDP Expresses Doubt Over INEC's Preparedness for General Elections

With about four months to the 2019 general elections, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has expressed doubts in the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free and fair elections.

The National Secretary of the party, Shehu Gabam, stated the fears to a team of PREMIUM TIMES editors when he led some officials of the party on a visit Wednesday in Abuja.

"INEC is clearly not prepared for the election" he said.

He said alleged militarisation of Nigeria's civic space, infraction between police and INEC, the challenge of deployment of materials and the uncertainty around the budget of the electoral body, all cast a pall on the expectation of elections that can support and deepen Nigeria's democracy.

Mr Gabam said in the light of all these factors, "this election cannot hold, INEC is not prepared".

The commission's chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, sometime last month said the lack of discrepancy between the figure of N189.2 billion the commission submitted to the executive and what the National Assembly appropriated shows everything was fine.

Mr Yakubu said the commission does not foresee any form of difficulties in meeting the requirements to conduct the elections.

However, making reference to recent elections in Ekiti, Osun, Bauchi and Katsina states, the SDP scribe said they hint at INEC's unpreparedness.

"If you look at the recent by-elections we had, in Ekiti and Osun states (governorship) and part of Bauchi and other places, you can see clearly they are not prepared for this election.

"If you look at the way some of the by-elections have been militarised, and the excessive money that was used, you know that they haven't done their job in terms of sensitisation. The National Orientation Agency, I can't remember when last I heard of them to sensitise Nigerians on some of these things.

"It is a collective responsibility and also if you look at the conflict and the infractions between what the INEC says and what the police say, who is to report who is guilty, who has committed an offence, you will know that the institution is still suffering from a lot of deficiencies.

"And if you look at the budget itself, vis a vis what INEC has said, that if they have not gotten the resources six months to the election, it is going to affect whatever they are doing today.

"This is a national election, it is not just one or two states that you deploy thousands police and I wonder if the Nigerian government is going to apply to the UN or ECOWAS to deploy troops to Nigeria to monitor this election. Our security agencies are overstretched because of crisis all over the country and I haven't seen anything on ground to suggest that this election will be conducted under free and fair atmosphere."

Mr Gabam said there is need for all to come together to face the reality as nothing shows INEC is ready for a free and fair election.

"So for me I will love to encourage INEC to be forthcoming, to be honest, to be transparent. All of us can put heads together, particularly the political parties, to find a way to rescue the situation. So far, they are making us to believe that they will conduct the election, that they are ready for the election, so we will keep on monitoring."

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