By Oloniruha Emmanuel
Political parties on Tuesday expressed support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for fixing dates ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The parties announced the support to the commission in a communiqué at the end of their meeting with INEC in Abuja.
INEC had on Thursday announced Feb. 16, 2019 for Presidential and National Assembly elections and March 2, 2019 for Governorship, State Assembly and Federal Capital Territory Area Councils polls.
It explained that fixing the dates was part of its efforts at standardising and ensuring certainty of timetable for general elections in the country.
In the communiqué read by Dr Onwubuya Breakforth, National Deputy Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), the parties said they believed the initiative would engender certainty in the country’s election calendar.
They said that dates were within the period stipulated by INEC for the elections.
“We also welcome the assurance by INEC to commence the nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in April, 2017 at local government level.
“IPAC also pledged to fully support the commission in the registration of new voters and creating further public awareness in the distribution of uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
“As a step in this direction, the meeting agreed that uncollected PVCs should be distributed simultaneously with the nationwide CVR,’’ the communiqué said.
It urged INEC to further deepen the use of technology in elections and work with the National Assembly to remove all legal encumbrances to full deployment of Information and Communication Technology in future polls.
On the outstanding Anambra Central Senatorial rerun election, the group called on INEC to liaise with concerned political parties to resolve ongoing litigation to pave way for the conduct of the election.
“In view of the recent Supreme Court judgment on the election, it was agreed that INEC shall work with the political parties that have cases in the lower court to find amicable ways to resolve out of court.
“This is to enable the commission conduct the outstanding election in the senatorial district.
“INEC shall engage with the parties involved based on this principle,’’ it said.
The communiqué said that all political parties in the meeting renewed their commitments to internal democracy while affirming commitment to non-violence in elections.
It commended INEC’s effort to prosecute electoral offenders and acknowledged that appropriate sanction was the most effective panacea to electoral violence.
“It was also resolved that this should be expanded to include all violators of the Electoral Act, no matter how highly placed.’’
Representing INEC, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr Oluwole Osase-Uzzi, said that the commission had accepted to explore out-of-court solution to the Anambra legislative election.
“INEC is prepared to conduct the election as soon as all legal impediments are removed,’’ Osase-Uzzi added.
On what would happened about the announced dates for the 2019 general elections if ongoing amendment of the Electoral Act was concluded before the election, he said the commission was working with extant laws.
“We are working with an extant law and the time for election is fixed by the Constitution.
“So, if the Constitution is amended before 2019 or on that day and it necessitates the change, then, we will comply with whatever extant law that is available before the election.
“But, if it is not amended before then, we go with the dates as they stand now. INEC is bound to go with whatever the law states,’’ Osase-Uzzi said.