Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, to “immediately extend the deadline for voter registration to give more time for eligible Nigerians to exercise their right to participation the same way the electoral body has extended the deadline for party primaries.”
Against its earlier stance, the INEC, last week, suddenly extended the deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties by six days, from June 3 to June 9.
Also, the online pre-registration ends by today while the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ends by June 30,2022.
In the letter dated May 28, 2022, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Voters are also critical stakeholders in the electoral process. Treating all eligible Nigerian voters fairly would advance the people’s right to vote and to participate in their own government.”
According to SERAP, “Extending the voter registration deadline would provide more time for eligible voters, including young people, the elderly, people living with disability, as well as those resident in states facing security challenges and living in IDP camps to participate in the 2023 elections.”
SERAP said, “Extending the deadline for voter registration would be entirely consistent with constitutional and international standards, and the Electoral Act. Any such extension would also not impact negatively on the INEC’s election calendar and activities.”
SERAP also said, “INEC mandates ought to be exercised in a fair, just and non-discriminatory manner. If voting is as important as the INEC always claims it is, now is the time to show that Nigerian voters will be treated equally and fairly. The future of Nigeria’s democracy depends on it.”
The letter, read in part: “The INEC must not only be independent and impartial in the exercise of its constitutional and statutory responsibilities, but must also be seen to be independent and impartial.
“The public perception of the independence and impartiality of INEC is essential for building public confidence in the electoral process, and ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the 2023 elections. Where Nigerians have doubts about the independence and impartiality of INEC, they are more likely to have less confidence in the electoral process thereby undermining democracy.
“Enforcing unrealistic voter registration deadline while extending the deadline for party primaries would deny and abridge the constitutional and international human rights of eligible voters including to equal treatment and equal protection, and non-discrimination.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The recommended extension would also bolster voter confidence in the electoral process, and the ability of INEC to discharge its constitutional and statutory responsibilities independently and impartially.
“Extending the deadline for voter registration would also be justified, given reports of challenges in the voter registration exercise, especially for young people, the elderly, persons living with disabilities, and those residents in states facing security challenges and living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.
“One of the people’s most sacred rights is the right to vote. The commission has a constitutional and statutory responsibility to ensure the effective exercise of the right of all eligible voters to participate in their own government.
“Extending the deadline for party primaries without providing adequate time and opportunity for eligible voters to register and participate in the 2023 general election would amount to an unfair and discriminatory treatment of Nigerian voters, and violate other human rights.
“The will of the people is expressed through democratic elections. This requires that people should be afforded adequate time and opportunity to register to vote. Extending the voter registration deadline is crucial for promoting the independence and impartiality of INEC and building public confidence in the electoral process.
“SERAP therefore urges you and the commission to take immediate measures to encourage greater political participation by extending voter registration deadlines, and improving voters’ education and engagement throughout the country. This would show the commitment of the commission to the principles of equal protection and non-discrimination.
“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides in Section 14(1)(c) that, ‘the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.’
“Section 9(6) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that ‘the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of Voters under this section shall not stop not later than 90 days before any election covered by this Act.’”
“Similarly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance guarantee the right to political participation.
“These human rights treaties also require states parties, including Nigeria to ensure the independence and impartiality of national electoral bodies responsible for the management of elections, as well as to promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation.
“The right of people to participate in their government is a fundamental feature of any democratic society, and any undue restriction of the right would strike at the heart of representative government.
“According to our information, the INEC recently extended the deadline for political party primaries. The commission also plans to end the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) by June 30, 2022. The commission is also set to suspend online pre-registration by May 30, 2022.
“However, following the extension of the deadline for party primaries, and the fact that the INEC has declared 42per cent of new voters’ registration invalid, it is also fair and just for INEC to extend the deadlines for voter registration.”
N1.8bn Discovery: Recall Buratai For Investigation, PDP Tasks Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to recall the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Ambassador to Benin Republic, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai (rtd), to face investigations over an alleged connection with the N1.8billion recovered in a property in Abuja.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) recently recovered N1.8billion worth of property owned by a military contractor in Abuja.
The opposition party, in a statement by its National Organising Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, yesterday, demanded the recall and investigation of Buratai.
PDP said its demand was predicated on the alleged missing $1billion meant to purchase arms to fight terrorism.
It added that corruption under President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC-led administration has led to the upsurge in unhindered terrorism attacks, mass killing of citizens, and loss of many of our gallant fighters.
The statement partly read, “It is therefore of serious interest to Nigerians when reports that the ICPC discovered the sum of N1.8billion in various currencies, expensive cars, and jewellery secreted in a property in Abuja allegedly linked to the former COAS broke out.
“There are already apprehensions that the discovered money is part of the security fund that was criminally diverted. This is especially against the backdrop of the frenzy and spirited efforts by certain quarters linked to the APC to suppress investigation and free flow of information, politicise the matter and sweep it under the carpet.
“Nigerians will recall that our Party has on several occasions alerted that the looting of our treasury is officially sanctioned and enabled by the APC administration with its refusal to prosecute those who were alleged and found to have been involved in massive corruption.
“It would also be recalled that the PDP drew attention to plans of the APC to create a slush fund account from monies fraudulently drawn from the national treasury to finance their plot to rig the 2023 general election.”
According to the PDP, the APC test runs their 2023 rigging plot in the Ekiti State governorship election with massive use of money to prosecute a vote-buying scheme.
The opposition party insisted that the reports of alleged massive looting under Buhari’s watch further confirm the APC administration as a haven for treasury looters.
“Moreover, the recently exposed looting of N80billion by the suspended Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, which investigation has now gone cold is suspected to have been engineered by the cabal at the very high level of the APC administration,” it added.
The PDP maintained that Buratai should return to the country and be made to face investigation.
According to the party, this is important because any allegation bordering on the looting of funds meant for the fight against terrorism is of grave national concern and consequence.
PDP requested that Buratai be thoroughly investigated and if found wanting must be made to face the full weight of the law.
King Jaja, Alapu-In-Council Receive Rivers PDP Guber Candidate In Opobo …Say Fubara’s Emergence Represents Riverine Communities’ Yearnings
The Chairman of Rivers State Council of Traditional Rulers and Amanyanabo of Opobo Kingdom, King Dandeson Douglas Jaja, alongside the Alapu-In-Council, last Saturday, received the Rivers State gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 general election, Sir Siminialayi Fubara in Opobo, the headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State.
While receiving the candidate, King Jaja said Fubara’s emergence represents the long yearnings of the riverine communities to produce the governor of the state since creation, and prayed that God perfects his victory at the elections.
The Amanyanabo noted that the kingdom would not take the opportunity of his emergence for granted as he expressed the undying gratitude of his kingdom to Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, who supported the emergence of their son as the candidate of the ruling party.
He urged his people to leave no stone unturned in supporting Fubara to victory in 2023.
Speaking earlier, the PDP flag bearer, Sir Siminialayi Fubara,had told the Amanyanabo and the Council of Chiefs that his visit was to intimate them of his emergence as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in the 2023 elections, and to seek their blessings as their son.
He said he considered it proper to do this before party campaigns commence, especially in seeking their prayers and blessings.
Fubara noted that his victory at the primary was not by his effort but grace of God at work, and enjoined the kingdom to join him in applauding Governor Nyesom Wike for supporting his emergence.
He further commended the governor for his developmental strides in Opobo and across the state.
The standard bearer visited the Amanyanabo and Alapu-In-Council along with party stalwarts and elders of Opobo/Nkoro extraction.
Insecurity: Northern Group Backs Matawalle On Self-Defence Order
A northern group, Arewa Development Forum for Peace and Justice (ADFPJ), has said the directive by the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, that residents in the state should bear arms to defend themselves was in order.
This, the group, while rising from an emergency meeting held in Kaduna, yesterday, said was because the people of the North-West part of the country had suffered so much from banditry activities over the years.
They, therefore, noted that any lawful measure taken by the state to stop the rampaging terrorists that had consistently invaded the state, was in order.
Consequently, a statement released by the Executive Chairman of the group, Alhaji Zubairu Mustafa, also urged governors from the North-West to emulate the Zamfara State’s helmsman by issuing similar directives to their citizens.
The North-West comprises Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto and Zamfara states.
The group also knocked the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, and other elites for hastily rebuking and condemning the governor’s order, adding that they were just being economical with the truth over the spate of insecurity in Zamfara State and other parts of the country.
According to them, the insecurity has festered across the country because there was no serious strategy in place by security agencies to end the challenge.
They added that with Matawalle’s order, the insecurity in his state would cease because if citizens were armed, bandits or terrorists or other criminal elements, would rethink before striking.
The statement read in part, “The Northern Elements Group, known as AREWA Development Forum for Peace and Justice, has risen from an urgent meeting of general concern in Kaduna with the resolution to support the idea of Zamfara State Governor, Bello Mohammed Mutawall, on giving permission to citizens to acquire and use weapons for protection against invading bandits in their communities.
“The group pleads with the state governors in the North-West region to set up machinery and measures for the Joint Task Force of able youths as community-based vigilante volunteers in order to complement the efforts of security operatives in the fight against criminal activities in the region like that of the Community Protection Guard (CPG) launched in Zamfara on Saturday.
“The group faulted negative reactions over the suggestion of Zamfara State Governor and bemoans at hurried comments of discouragement by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, and other elites who are economical with the truth of happening on the recent kidnapping, killings and attacks of the communities in North-West region and environs by suspected bandits.
“From Zurmi to Tsafe, from Bakura to Maru to Shinkafi, these bandits have continued with their deadly and dastardly attacks against innocent people because security agencies are overwhelmed with inadequate manpower, precision equipment and logistics facilities to nip the nefarious activities of these blood-thirsty terrorists, insurgents and bandits in the bud.
“In this case, Governor Matawalle is the man wearing the shoe and knows where it hurts, hence, our call on all meaning Nigerians to support his call on locals to legally acquire arms to protect and defend their communities against any form of criminal invasion.
“Therefore, we are supporting any leader that seems to have agreed and made a clear and acceptable decision within the ambit of law to bring lasting peace and security to the lives and properties of citizens.
“Nothing is more important than a leader in playing his role of saving lives and properties of his people than attending funerals or making a sympathy visit and lamentations after attacks.
“Proactive measures that include supporting military & Police operations, provision of logistics and giving communities’ rights of self-defence, are more important and best options for bringing a lasting and assured peace, cohesion and security to people in dire situations like now.”
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