Edo Election: INEC Not Independent – CSOs

A coalition of Seventy Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, on Thursday, condemned the advice by security agencies to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to postpone the Edo governorship election initially scheduled for Saturday.

The groups, which were accredited to monitor the election under the aegis of ‘The Situation Room’, described the joint statement by the Nigerian Police Force and the Department of State Service, DSS, as “a gratuitous and unconstitutional interference in the independence of INEC”.

The CSOs, in a statement stated that the advice was in clear violation of section160 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which forbids any person or authority from giving directives or seeking to control INEC, an independent body.

“It is surprising that the Police and DSS who are part of the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security (ICCES) together with INEC, did not formally brief INEC before issuing this contentious statement, to enable all key stakeholders review whatever security challenges the security services may claim to have arisen.

“The “advice” by these security agencies has undermined public confidence in the conduct of the Edo State Governorship poll. INEC now faces a more challenging task of assuring all parties that a revised poll can be properly organized within a constitutionally stipulated time frame.

“We call on the Police, DSS, and all security agencies to take note of their role and limitations within elections and the inter-agency co-ordination arrangements that have been developed over several years. All elections must demonstrate the highest possible commitment from security services to support INEC in completing its constitutional role of organising credible elections that can inspire continued public confidence.

“Situation Room expresses its disappointment at the inability of security agencies to take charge and provide security to citizens and to INEC to enable it conduct free and fair elections. The present situation appears contrived and threatens to truncate the democratic process in Nigeria.

“Additionally, the huge material resources committed to the preparations for the elections by INEC, CSOS and other stakeholders, appears to have been flushed down the drain by the action of the Police and the DSS.

“Situation Room believes that INEC has the Constitutional powers to proceed with its plans to conduct the Edo State Governorship elections as scheduled and calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to call the Police and security services to order, as well as to give their support to INEC to deliver on its mandate of conducting free and fair Governorship elections in Edo State as scheduled. Situation room implores INEC to be guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act in relation to postponement, which states that all reasons must be cogent and verifiable.

“Finally, Situation Room calls on the people of Edo State to remain calm and vigilant and be ready to protect their constitutional rights to vote”, the statement read.

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