In the wake of preparations for the Local Government polls scheduled for September by the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission CROSIEC, several opposition parties have dragged the state electoral umpire to Court to determine sundry issues including seeking an order to restrain INEC from handing the voters register to CROSIEC for the purpose of the scheduled election.
Cross River State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Barrister Mike Igini in an exclusive interview with CrossRiverWatch concerning the litigations by some of the political parties in the State over INEC’s role on the voters register ahead of the September 21, Local Government Election in the State, says “INEC Has No Role Over LG Election.”
What is the position Of INEC on the media reports about some political parties seeking an order from court to retrain you from handing the voters register to CROSIEC?
I think that it’s most unfortunate that people act on ignorance and take certain actions to express themselves without getting the right information. I have always advised that information is better than a man’s opinion, but regrettably without getting the right information people out there have been expressing views to the extent that I saw an embarrassing headline about some people taking INEC to court over the forthcoming local government elections in Cross River State. Even before then, I have been inundated with calls by people that I thought should know the duties of INEC and that of the State Independent Electoral Commission, CROSIEC which are well spelt out in the Constitution as well as the Electoral Act. Therefore there should be distinguished at all times.
Under the Constitution, Section 153 established the setting of the federal executive bodies, one of which is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), particularly if you look at the third schedule, part 1, paragraph 15 is very clear as to the role of INEC with respect to the election. INEC conducts election of state Houses of Assembly, INEC is constitutionally responsible for the conduct of Governorship and Deputy Governorship elections of the 36 States of the Federation, Senate and House of Representatives and above all INEC conducts election to the office of the President and the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These are the four broad categories of election that INEC is involved in. INEC is not responsible for the conduct of local government elections anywhere in Nigeria. The last time that INEC was involved was in 1999 under the Decree no. 44 that we called the 1979 Constitution; that was the last local government election that INEC was involved.
With the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution, that responsibility has been taken over in line with our federal system of government in quote, therefore if you go to section 197 of the Constitution, you will find something similar you called State Executive bodies where you will find State Independent Electoral Commission SIEC; that is where CROSIEC like other SIECs in the 36 states fall within.
The only responsibility where INEC have something to do with the state Electoral bodies has to do with the register compilation which is the statutory responsibility of INEC. We may seek advice, they may also give us advice during such processes especially during delimitation and delineation exercise we engage with them for the purpose of proper data collection and delineation since the local government system is under their purview. This is in line with the part 2 paragraph 4b where they give that advice.
What is your position on the Court cases?
I have not seen the content of the process that was filed in court where INEC name was mentioned to know in what manner INEC is joined. But to clear all doubts, under the Electoral Act, the only responsibility that INEC has to do with respect to SIECs and CROSIEC in particular is the area of voter register.
What is the role of INEC in the Voters Register?
We are to compile, maintain and update on continuous bases a register of voters which also by virtue of section 15, we are also obliged by law to give to political parties who apply to the commission after the payment of the pre-requisite fee, we give them the certified true copy.
In all the 36 states of the federation with respect to local government election, SIECs are expected to liase with INEC state offices to collect the certified true copies of the register for the purpose of elections. In Cross River State, 2,283 polling units and 193 RAs will have the register, that is the only thing that connects us with CROSIEC.
I have received a lot of calls and text messages on why INEC has not monitored the local government primaries for the candidates of different political parties; that is not the Job of INEC but for the CROSIEC if they have provision for it that is their responsibility. Statutorily, under the Constitution of the Fatherland as well as the Act of the National Assembly as exemplified in the Electoral Act in section 15, we do not have any role to play in the forthcoming Local Government Elections in Cross River State.
Has CROSIEC applied for the voters register?
CROSIEC has applied for the voters register. I can tell you that there is an application before me with respect to that and it is been processed for the election.
Did they apply for it before 90 days to the election?
That is strictly a state law and it is for them to iron it out. I don’t know anything about that, on our part we will provide them with the register. We have not done any other voters registration data other than what we have here which CROSIEC will use and there is nothing wrong with it. But very soon we will start the continuous voters registration exercise where the new few emerging communities in the State will be captured for future elections but for now that is what they will use.
Have the political parties applied for the register?
For the purpose of this election, the major body that requested for it is only CROSIEC, because the cost of having a copy of the register for the entire state, but if they ask for it and pay the requisite fees it will be given to them; we are the custodian, we are the maker, it is not different from what we used in 2011 and February 2012 Governorship Election. It is the same.
We have moved away from the era where a public document is been hidden, the FOI Act is in force now so if they apply and meet the demand we will give them. Don’t forget that this is the second local government election to be conducted since I resumed here and I wonder why the sudden name of INEC in local government election. I traveled during the last one conducted in 2010, I was not in Calabar because we don’t have a role to play.
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