The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is to propose amendments to its guidelines to stem the spate of inconclusive elections through removing the eight million uncollected Permanent Voter Cards from its assessment of elections in the country.
Speaking to newsmen, weekend, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, also denied claims that it had received legal advice from the Attorney General of the Federation on legal knots that followed the inconclusive governorship election in Kogi State and the judicial tango that followed the court judgment on Abia State governorship election.
Yakubu, who was flanked by a national commissioner, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, and Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, also disclosed that the commission had, under his watch, conducted 137 re-run elections flowing from the 680 court cases filed against the commission after the 2015 elections.
Yakubu also lamented the avalanche of litigations facing the commission, and in an apparent reference to the ongoing crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, noted that the party had in the last three months been faced with 11 court orders from courts of coordinate jurisdiction, many of which were contradictory.
Noting concerns that the use of total number of registered voters against the use of total number of PVCs collected widened the base for the assessment of elections, Prof. Yakubu said: “It is true that only those who have collected the PVCs can vote, but our guidelines formulated on the Electoral Act only talk about the total number of registered voters in a constituency.
“It is in the guidelines, and we can amend the guidelines. But we cannot amend the guidelines in the middle of an election so that nobody will accuse me of changing the goal post during the election.
“Maybe after we dispose off, particularly these re-run elections, there will be an opportunity in full consultation with the stakeholders to revisit those guidelines.”
He disclosed that there were currently an estimated eight million uncollected PVCs in the country as he said repeated efforts to get the owners to pick them had been largely ineffectual.
Yakubu said the commission would deepen the use of technology and give legal backing to the use of the smart card reader through the amendment of the Electoral Act.
Denies consulting AGF on Kogi on any matter
Yakubu flatly denied the claim that the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, gave advice to the commission on some knotty issues it had faced, particularly on the stalemated governorship election in Kogi and the court decision on Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
He said: “Some people have castigated the commission for relying on the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation in the case of the Kogi election.
“We never sought clarification from the Attorney General of the Federation, we never. In this country, the Attorney General is also the Minister of Justice; so he is the chief law officer of the country, but he is also a political office holder. An independent commission like INEC should not be seen to be relying on the advice of a political office holder. I have never spoken to the Attorney General.”
Yakubu said also said the commission had made a recommendation to the appropriate authority on filling the vacancies in the commission. He disclosed that there were presently six vacancies in the ranks of national commissioners and 21 in the level of Resident Electoral Commissioners.
Noting with concern the spate of conflicting judicial orders and judgments the commission has had to grapple with, he said on the impasse in the PDP:
In the last three months, we have been served 11 judgments and orders interestingly from courts of coordinate jurisdiction operating from three cities of the country on one issue and almost all of them contradictory. It started from Lagos, Port-Harcourt and to Abuja.