The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has threatened to bar some political parties from fielding polling agents in Saturday's elections over their inability to meet the deadline and requirements for the submission of particulars of their agents.
INEC spoke, yesterday, against the backdrop that most of the 72 parties participating in the general elections had missed the deadline to submit the list of polling agents by one week.
"We are concerned that a week after the deadline for the submission of the list of poll agents for Presidential and National Assembly elections and less than three weeks to the deadline for the submission of the list of candidates for the Governorship and State Assembly elections, only few political parties have complied with the extant provisions of the law. Most of the lists submitted are not accompanied by the photographs and specimen signatures of the poll/party agents as required by law", the Commission said.
Festus Okoye, National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, who disclosed this, said the decision was taken after a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) from all the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja on Friday to further review the Commission's state of readiness for the general elections.
According to him, at the end of the meeting, the Commission decided to draw the attention of the registered political parties and members of the public to the provisions of the law regarding the submission of names of polling/party agents by political parties.
Section 45 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that each political party may, by notice in writing addressed to the Electoral Officer of the Local Government Area or Area Council, appoint a polling agent for each polling unit and collation centre in the Local Government Area or Area Council for which it has a candidate and the notice, which sets out the name and address of the polling agent shall be accompanied by two passport photographs of each polling agent and sample signature of the polling agent and be given to the Electoral Officer at least 14 days before the date fixed for the election.
The Section further provides that no person presently serving as Chairman or member of a Local Government or Area Council, Commissioner of a State, Deputy Governor, or Governor of a State, Minister or any other person holding political office under any tier of Government and who has not resigned his appointment at least 3 months before the election shall serve as a polling agent of any political party, either at the polling unit or at any center designated for collation of results of election.
Okoye said INEC, in its timetable and schedule of activities for the general elections published on January 9, 2018, fixed February 1, 2019 as the last date for the submission of the names, two passport photographs of each polling agent and their sample signatures for the presidential and National Assembly Elections and February 16, 2019.
"The Commission has decided as follows: All political parties that submitted incomplete applications without the specimen signatures and photographs of the poll/party agents are strongly requested to regularize this on or before close of work on Monday, February 11, 2019", the National Commissioner said.
"All Political Parties are reminded that February 16, 2019 is the last day for the submission of the names, photographs and specimen signatures of poll/party agents for the Governorship, State Assembly and Area Council elections.
"Any list of poll/party agents that is not accompanied by specimen signatures and photographs of poll/party agents will be rejected.
"It is unlawful for political parties to deploy poll/party agents whose names have not been forwarded to the Commission and duly accredited in accordance with the law. The security agents have been so informed and no recognition, right or privilege will be accorded to anyone not accredited by the Commission".