The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained that the monitoring of the direct primaries of the 18 registered political parties in the country has financial and security implications, stating that it will require about 17,618 officials to supervise only the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in one day.
The commission further explained that monitoring the direct primaries of the 18 political parties registered so far would involve much staff.
In the amended Electoral Bill awaiting assent by President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly has restricted political parties to the use of direct primaries to elect candidates for elections.
However, the state governors, who are opposed to direct primaries, had expressed fear over the logistical problems it would create for the commission.
Speaking to THISDAY on Saturday night, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Information, Mr. Festus Okoye, acknowledged that the monitoring of the direct primaries of the 18 registered political parties has security and financial implications.
“If a political party decides to organise its primaries at the Registration Area (Ward) level, the commission must deploy monitors to the 8,809 Registration Areas in the country. If the party decides to organise its presidential, governorship, National Assembly, and state assembly primaries at different times and on different days, it means that the commission must deploy four times to monitor the primaries of the party.
“If a political party decides to organise its primaries at the local government level, it means that the commission must deploy monitors to the 774 local government areas of the country,” Okoye explained.
Despite the huge logistics challenges, Okoye said the commission would surely work out the modalities for the monitoring of the primaries as soon as the law is assented to.
“The monitoring of direct primaries has financial and national security implications. The ad-hoc staff must be harvested from MDAs or the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) or the universities or other sources as may be determined by the commission and supervised by a certain category of our staff”.
According to Okoye, the ad-hoc staff must be trained and transported, adding that some of them must be housed.
“Some of the primaries may go late into the night and we must make arrangements for their security and protection. But the fundamental issue is that the commission has the experience in monitoring direct primaries and the only difference here is that in the present context few parties adopted the direct primary method of selecting or electing their candidates,” he said.
Okoye further disclosed that the entire staff strength of the commission is slightly over 16,000, adding the commission must rely on a certain category of ad-hoc staff to cover the Registration Areas if a political party decides to use the 8,809 Registration Areas for its primaries.
Okoye further noted that INEC will aggregate the figures and design a continuity framework and matrix for monitoring of direct primaries.
Okoye explained that the commission as a constitutional and legal body is bound to give effect to and implement laws legally and legitimately passed by the National Assembly.
He said INEC does not have a choice in this regard.
“The moment the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria assents to the Bill, it becomes law and the commission must implement the law passed by the National Assembly which has received Presidential assent. Presently, it is in the realm of speculation on whether the president will sign or withhold assent. The bill is inchoate till assented to by the president,” he added.
He explained that Section 87(2) of the existing and operative law provides that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by a political party for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.
He added that the moment a political party gives to the commission the requisite 21 days’ notice, the commission must mobilise and monitor the primaries of the party whether it is by direct or indirect primaries.
“However, if the president assents to the bill, it means that all the existing political parties must roll out guidelines on how to conduct their primaries bearing in mind that the fundamental and overriding consideration is ensuring that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party. Each political party must design its methodology depending on its strength and capacity.”
He noted that Section 4 of the Constitution domiciles the legislative powers of the Federation in the National Assembly.
“It is within their remit to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Federation. Moreover, section 228 of the Constitution provides that the National Assembly may by law provide guidelines and rules to ensure internal democracy within political parties, including making laws for the conduct of party primaries, party congresses, and party conventions,” Okoye said.
According to him, INEC’s responsibility is to participate in public hearings and make suggestions and recommendations.
“As I have pointed out, our responsibility is to obey and give effect to laws passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President. Section 228 of the Constitution gives the National Assembly the power to make laws relating to internal democracy in political parties,” he added.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja