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Stakeholders intensify calls against off-season elections in Nigeria

On November 11, 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted off-season elections in three states, as reported by DAILY POST. The increasing frequency of off-season elections in Nigeria has become a cause for concern among various stakeholders. This trend gained momentum following the Supreme Court’s decision to remove Chris Ngige, who contested the 2003 Governorship election in Anambra State under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), declaring Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as the winner.

Presently, Nigeria has eight off-season governorship elections, including Anambra, Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, and Imo states, each with distinct election timetables. Imo State deviated from the regular election cycle after the Supreme Court nullified Emeka Ihedioha’s victory in the 2019 governorship election, subsequently declaring Hope Uzodinma as the governor.

The origin of off-season elections in Bayelsa State dates back to 2007, triggered by the nullification of Timipre Sylva’s victory, the PDP governorship candidate, due to a legal challenge by Ebitimi Amgbare of the Action Congress of Nigeria. Ondo State experienced a similar deviation when the court invalidated Olusegun Agagu’s re-election in 2007, leading to the emergence of Olusegun Mimiko as the governor in 2009.

Kogi, Edo, Osun, and Ekiti states also witnessed off-season elections due to legal disputes arising from governorship polls during general elections. Notably, eight months after the 2023 general elections, INEC conducted off-season elections in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa, with an estimated budget of N18 billion, including substantial expenses on security to safeguard the electoral process.

Some Nigerians expressed concerns about alleged irregularities in the November 11 governorship polls in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi, suggesting that conducting these elections during the general elections might have prevented such issues.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, on November 11, called for an end to the practice of off-season elections, expressing worries that it might extend to presidential elections in the future. Several stakeholders, including Atiku Bagudu and Alhaji Yerima Shettima, supported the idea of enacting legislation to mandate the judiciary to resolve all electoral matters before the inauguration of elected officials.

Dr. Onome Anthony of the Labour Party emphasized the need for a law requiring the resolution of electoral matters before the swearing-in, arguing that it would prevent challenges faced in the 2023 presidential election.

National President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, highlighted the potential benefits of such a law, including enhanced stability, continuity of governance, and efficient resource allocation. However, he acknowledged the challenge of ensuring timely resolution of electoral matters.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria supported the idea of stopping off-season elections through legislation. Still, he expressed skepticism about the current National Assembly’s willingness to pass such a law, citing perceived self-interest and lack of patriotism among its members.

Onwubiko suggested that addressing the root cause of election fraud, such as corrupt practices within INEC, and establishing an Election Crimes Commission with special courts, would be crucial in ensuring transparent and accountable electoral processes in Nigeria.



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