INEC threatens to abort Edo, Ondo elections over ‘escalating violence’

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has threatened to abort processes leading to the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.

The Commission took the position on Thursday night in a statement signed by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barrister Festus Okoye.

In the statement titled, ” Escalating Violence and Incendiary Statements on Edo, Ondo Governorship Elections,” the electoral umpire expressed regret that its appeal to the political parties to refrain from incendiary remarks, violence, and other acts capable of undermining peaceful conduct of elections in the two states has fallen on deaf ears.

The statement specifically recalled the unsavoury development to include, destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language.

The Commission further warned the leadership of political parties to keep in mind that “there are extant laws and regulations that they must adhere to during campaigns,” while requesting security agencies to be prepared to rein in those unleashing violence in the affected states and their masterminds.

The statement read in part: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met today 6th August 2020 and deliberated on a number of issues including preparations for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.

“The Commission has observed with deep concern the escalating levels of violent actions and incendiary statements by political parties, candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections. These actions include the destruction of opponents’ campaign materials such as billboards, violent campaigns and use of offensive language. It is important for political parties, candidates and their supporters to keep in mind that there are extant laws and regulations that they must adhere to during campaigns. The Commission will not shirk its responsibility to enforce the rules of the game.

“Consequently, parties and candidates must on no account underestimate the resolve of the Commission to enforce the rules and regulations and apply appropriate sanctions against those who choose to break them. The Commission remains determined to conduct peaceful elections in the two States and in the outstanding National and State Assembly bye-elections.

“Political Parties must realize that Edo and Ondo Governorship elections are taking place at a time of a global pandemic and the Commission is working assiduously to observe and comply with all health and safety protocols issued by the Commission and health authorities.

“With the pandemic taking its toll on the citizenry, the people of Edo and Ondo States must be saved from the added burden of violent and raucous elections. Political parties must remember that Edo and Ondo Governorship Elections have strict constitutional and statutory timelines and threats of violence or actual violence can disrupt those timelines and create a constitutional crisis.

“The Commission will continue to engage stakeholders in the two states on the need for free, fair, safe and peaceful elections, given that it has committed enormous public resources in preparing for the elections. Therefore, the Commission will view gravely any disruptive actions by political actors.

“Going forward, the Commission will work with and collaborate with the security agencies to contain all incidents or threats of violence before and during the elections. Regulatory agencies with roles in the elections, especially those dealing with insecurity, hate speech and abuse of mass media, must step up their activities and ensure that all those that break the law are held to account.

“The Commission wishes to reassure the people of Edo and Ondo States of its determination to conduct credible and safe elections in the two states. The Commission shall not hesitate to discontinue the process should the actions of political actors lead to cogent and verifiable threat and/or breakdown of law and order before or during the elections.”

 

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