The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has no plan whatsoever to shift next year’s elections, the Commission’s Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has declared.
The Commission is currently battling for the passage of its budget for the polls by the National Assembly.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa on Friday, Yakubu said “there are no conditions under which elections should be postponed, under section 26 of the Electoral Act, the date is formed and fixed, February 16, 2019.”
He added:”we issued the timetable way in advance. For the very first time in the history of our nation, citizens of Nigeria know when elections will take place; one year in advance. It has never happened before.
“Secondly, for the very first time in the history of our country citizens know the budget of the electoral commission. (Election) budget has never been defended before the National Assembly, as citizens know line by line how much the commission proposed; what the money is going to be spent on. I think I am very happy with this process.”
Asked if he was not worried about the delay in passing the budget proposal, the INEC chairman said: “well, we have made the clarification that the National Assembly asked for, and I am happy that the National Assembly and the two committees on INEC expressed satisfaction on the clarification that we made on the matter of appropriation.
“So we look forward to hearing what the National Assembly will say.”
He said there are no discrepancies in the budget figures before the National Assembly. On the voters’ registration extension, the INEC boss said: “we started the continuous voters’ registration exercise on April 27, 2017, as provided for in our constitution, registering voters consistently in the last 16 months.
“In response to appeals by Nigerians, we have created more centres for the registration but finally decided that we should suspend the process as provided for by the law, six months to the elections.
“But again in response to appeals by Nigerians, we have now extended to the end of the month. As at Saturday last week, we had registered 12.1 million citizens. This (figure) will eventually be added to the 70 million voters that are already registered for the 2019 general elections. We have voters register of over 80 million citizens.”
He said that the extended registration is going to take place between 9a.m and 5pm daily, but excluding the Eid El Kabir holidays.
He said that the end of the second voters registration exercise on August 31 does not mean the end of the collection of PVCs.
“Collection of PVCs will continue until at least one week to the general election in February 2019,” he said
Asked what brought him to the villa, he said “It has nothing to do with our national politics. Recall that in March 2016, I was elected the President of ECOWAS network of electoral commission.
“In that capacity recently, we undertook a NEEDS assessment visit to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and part of what they requested of Nigeria, is assistance with voters’ registration kits.
“They want to start the voters registration on the 23rd of this month but they are relying on Nigeria to provide the assistance.
“That is why I came and had a meeting with Ambassador Lawal who is the senior special assistant to the president on foreign affairs to facilitate Nigeria’s electoral assistance to Guinea-Bissau.
“It is important to do so because you should also remember that for several years now, Nigeria has had troops in Guinea-Bissau to stabilize the country and that stability is dependent upon the conduct of proper elections.”