Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday released the timeline for primaries for the 15 political parties contesting Edo State governorship election slated for September 19.
According to the timeline, all the parties must, between June 2 and June 27, conduct their primaries to pick their candidates for the election.
However, the state government warned all the parties to comply with its gazette that regulates political gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there won’t be exemption for any of them.
The gazette provides that political gatherings above 20 persons must be approved by the Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, and must be held in a single facility in Benin, the state capital.
The governor also described as baseless, unfounded and diversionary, allegations of certificate forgery against him and urged
those raising eyebrows over the certificates to approach the issuing institutions to verify the documents’ authenticity.
As part of its preparations for the governorship election, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday inaugurated both the screening and appeal committees for its primary, slated for June 22.
INEC, in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said the release of the schedules and date was in accordance with Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
It explained that of the 15 parties participating in the election, only APC would adopt direct primary to pick its candidate, while others would do so through indirect primary.
In the statement by the National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okoye, INEC said 15 out of the 18 registered political parties had notified the commission of their intention to conduct primaries to pick their governorship candidates.
It added that by the timetable and schedule of activities issued by the commission on February 6, 2020, primaries for Edo State governorship election would take place between June 2 and 27.
Under the timeline, African Alliance (AA) would hold its primary between June 25 and 26 and the mode is indirect. AAC would hold its primary on June 25 and the mode is indirect. ADC would hold its on June 27 and the mode of election is indirect primary.
ADP is expected to hold its primary on June 25, while the mode of the election is indirect.
APC would hold its governorship primary on June 22 and the mode of election is direct election, while the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) would conduct its primary on June 25, using the indirect system.
Other political parties like APM would hold its primary on June 27 and the mode of election is indirect. APP primary would take place on June 26 and the mode is also indirect.
PDP would hold its governorship primary election between June 19 and 20.
Labour Party, NNPP, NRM, SDP, YPP and ZLP would conduct their primaries through indirect mode from June 14 to 27.
INEC appealed to the political parties to conduct their primaries in full compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Political Party Primaries (2018) and the INEC Police COVID-19 Pandemic of 21 May, 2020.
The commission also warned the political parties to shun all acts capable of breaching the peace and unsettling the peace and order of the state and jeopardising the health and safety of party members, election officials and observers.
It warned against violence and impunity, vowing to prosecute offenders.
INEC said: “Sixteen case files arising out of the 2019 general election have been provided by the police (the lead agency for electoral security) on conclusion of investigation.”
It listed the cases to include those in Abia, Anambra, Bayelsa, Gombe, Kogi, Lagos and Niger states, adding that the offences range from snatching and destruction of election materials, disorderly conduct, unlawful possession of ballot papers and Permanent Voters’ Cards to canvassing for votes at polling units on election day.
“Two cases emanating from Bayelsa State governorship election and relating to snatching and destruction of electoral materials are also being prosecuted,” it stated.
State Insists on Compliance with Regulations on Political Gatherings
Edo State Government yesterday ruled out exempting any party from complying with its gazette that regulates political gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking yesterday while receiving the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Lawrence Ehwujakpo, who is in the state for his party, PDP’s ward congresses, Edo State Deputy Governor, Hon. Philip Shaibu, commended PDP for following the guidelines in the gazette and urged all other political parties to follow suit.
Section 2 of the gazette provides that for political parties desiring to field governorship candidates, gatherings of more than 20 persons may be allowed subject to written approved by the governor, “if such gatherings:
“(i) do not exceed 5,000 persons;
(ii) hold in Benin City and in a single location with a large seating capacity of not less than 10,000 persons;
“(iii) are provided with adequate health, safety and sanitary facilities, and
“(iv) are COVID-19 response compliant with social distancing policy, hand-washing and proper use of face masks fully observed.”
Shaibu said the regulations would help in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 and keep Edo people safe.
“We got a letter from your party, PDP, requesting to make use of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for its primary election. Governor Godwin Obaseki approved the request because the party obeyed the rules and regulations set by Edo State Government.
“I, therefore, use this opportunity to tell other political parties to obey the gazette in the state, which is now a law.
“Just as you have obeyed, we are asking and calling on other political parties to obey the law. Any political party that disobeys the law will not hold its primary election in the state as the gazette must be respected.
“The life of Edo people is more important than the political ambition of any politician or wishes of political parties. We need to be alive to play politics. We need to live to vote and be voted for in the election. The rules to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in the gazette must be strictly followed to keep Edo people safe at this period,” he added.
Shaibu commended Bayelsa State Government for the unity, progress and development the people are enjoying, noting that the Obaseki administration is also pursuing the development and progress of the state.
“Development does not have a political party, neither does progress. But parties exist to act as vehicles to actualise the wishes of the people in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“We would fight for the development and progress of Edo State. No element or person will stop our progress because Edo people come first in the agenda of this administration. We will stand against anything that will stop progress and development in the state,” he stated.
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