Ever since the Independent National Electoral Commission-herein after referred to as INEC- had announced the postponement of the already scheduled elections of 16th day of February, 2019 for the Presidential and the National Assembly’s elections and the Gubernatorial, House of Assembly and Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory’s elections, and the refusal of INEC to extend the campaign periods for political parties, some persons and some political parties have been calling on INEC to review its decision by extending the campaign period relying on section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, which provides thus ‘99(1) for the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day’.
Initially, I had supported the views that say that INEC is wrong for its refusal to extend the campaign periods but later, upon a critical analysis of the circumstances necessitating the postponement of the elections along with the section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010, I had to support INEC’s refusal to extend such period.
I have observed that section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 does not provide for what should happen in case the elections have been postponed. I therefore submit that the section or the electoral Act does not envisage a situation where there is postponement of the polling day. Also, the 90 stated time which began since 18th day of November, 2018 and expired on the 15th day of February, 2019 (i.e. for the Presidential and National Assembly elections), has fulfilled the provisions of section 99(1) of the Election Act. Therefore, I humbly submit that the present circumstance of INEC’s postponement has overtaken the provision of section 99(1) of the Act. There is no provision in section 99(1) that provides or says what should happen where the polling day is postponed or whether such postponement automatically extends the campaign period, so that the 24 hours prior referred to in the section 99(1) would now be the 24 hours to the postponed day.
Furthermore, INEC had given logistics as the reason for the postponement of the elections, which is in the national interest. And I am of the view that it is INEC which is in charge of the elections to determine whether it should allow extension of campaign and whether such extension is in the national interest. More so, national interest will in this case, override individual interest of the political parties to campaign.
Also, I am of the humble submission, with due respect, that decision as to whether to extend the campaign period or not in this case, the section 99(1) of the Electoral Act having been overtaken by the event of the postponement, lies in INEC. I do not agree that INEC’s refusal to extend the campaign period means that INEC has done wrong legally speaking.
Therefore, I urge Nigerians to accept the decision made by INEC in good faith without sentiment, grudge, bias, ethnical resentment, etc. in the interest of the nation. We all need to gather our strength together now by concentrating on the scheduled date of the elections. At least, political parties must have done enough from the 18th day of November, 2018 to the 15th day of February, 2019, which was a period of 90 days (i.e. for the Presidential and National Assembly elections). From the campaign already done, the electorates already know who their leaders of choice are and who to consider for leadership had the elections were not postponed and in the postponed date of elections. So, we should not create any legal battle for INEC anymore, also considering the number of court cases that INEC had to battle with within the shortest period of time, in the interest of Nigeria.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! God bless Nigerians!