About sixty-one political parties say they will take the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court over the draft guidelines for the 2019 general elections.
The parties, under the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), had rejected the election guidelines which the commission presented to party leaders last week during its regular consultative meeting.
Since the meeting, CUPP and IPAC have been calling on the commission to stick to the guidelines of 2015, predicting pre-election crisis over what it described as a unilateral decision by the commission.
The parties are aggrieved by what they described as the flawed accreditation procedure, which they claim will allow people not on the voters’ register, including people with fake PVC or voters not properly accredited, to vote.
The parties are also pointing at simultaneous accreditation and voting, an amendment introduced by INEC to reduce the time spent by voters at polling centres.
INEC said it introduced simultaneous accreditation and voting because in 2015, over two million people accredited but did not return to vote.
The commission said the amended guidelines have been in use in off-cycle elections after the 2015 general elections, wondering why the parties which it has been in consultation with, did not have a problem with it till now.
“Simultaneous accreditation and voting, we modified that in 2016 after the second Bayelsa election. it was modified after suggestions from political parties, the media and others,” Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, the director of voter education and publicity at INEC, told newsmen.
“When they said there was no consultation, it’s not true. It was based on all consultations we have had.”
“When you are regulating somebody, when you consult them you don’t necessarily have to accept everything they tell you. You do what is good for everybody. It is like saying students will dictate what should happen in school.”
CUPP’s spokesperson, Imo Ugochinyere, in a statement on Sunday said a suit would be filed on Monday to coincide with INEC’s presentation of the document as section 155 of the Electoral Act gives political parties power to challenge INEC election guidelines in court.
Ugochinyere, who is also the National Chairman of the Action Peoples Party (APP), said this is to stop the electoral body from presenting the document, which he described as controversial and to remove some sections of the draft guidelines, which he claimed were in conflict with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
According to him, some “obnoxious provisions” were inserted into the guidelines and this would lead to massive rigging of the 2019 elections.
The plaintiffs, according to the statement, are Ikenga Ugochinyere of APP, Sam Eke of GPN PARTY, Nsehe Nseobong of RP and Kenneth Udeze of AA.
The chairmen of the political parties are insisting that the only way to have free and fair elections is for those “obnoxious” clauses contained in the guideline, which do not promote free and fair elections, to be expunged.
They also want the INEC chairman to summon an emergency meeting with political parties chairmen to address the “grey areas” in the guidelines to avoid the 2019 election running into a hitch and credibility crisis.