The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is short of 33 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs). However, that will not hamper preparation for the 2019 elections, the Commission has said.
The INEC on Thursday announced that the 2019 elections will kick off on Saturday, February 19 with the Presidential and National Assembly polls.
The governorship/state assembly/FCT Area council polls will follow on Saturday, March 2.
INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of South West, Solomon Soyebi told The Nation in Abuja that constitutional imperatives embodied in the Electoral Act make it compulsory for INEC to undertake certain activities within some specified period.
On September 27, last year, the Senate had asked President Muhammadu Buhari to nominate qualified persons to fill in the vacant positions in INEC stressing that vacancies in 20 states at that time had contributed to the spate of inconclusive elections and a decline in the electoral system.
It noted “with deep concern that at least 20 states of the federation have no Resident Electoral Commissioners contrary to Section 14 ( 2 ) of Third Schedule of the 1999 constitution (as amended).”
The figure has since risen to 33.
The Senate further said that INEC “cannot function optimally without the full complement of members that will superintend the activities of other personnel.”
However, Soyebi said INEC’s decision to begin arrangements for the 2019 elections is realistic.
“It is definitely realistic; the elections are to take place about two years from now.
“I am sure they’ll be appointed before then; so, what we are doing in advance is merely to ensure early preparation for the 2019 general elections.
“You should also note that we have to operate in accordance with constitutional guidelines; under our laws, the election must take place not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the end of the incumbent’s tenure.
“As I stated earlier, in order to ensure certainty in our dates for elections, and to allow for proper planning by the Commission, political parties, security agencies, candidates and all stakeholders, the Commission decided to fix the date for the National Elections for the third Saturday in February of the election year, followed by State elections two weeks later.
“Thus, the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday, 16th February 2019, while the Governorship/State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council Elections will hold on Saturday 2nd March 2019,” he stated.
Under Section 153 of the 1999 constitution as amended, Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution , which establishes INEC; and Section 14 ( 1 ) and ( 2 ) of the Third Schedule, which establishes the office of the National Chairman of INEC , the 12 National Commissioners and the RECs , the president is empowered to appoint the RECs subject to the confirmation of the Senate.
The last holders of the positions in Kaduna , Enugu, Benue, Ogun, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Plateau, Jigawa, Taraba, Imo, Ondo, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Edo, Borno and Kwara states as well as the FCT retired.
On July 25, the tenure of three RECs – Aniedi Ikoiwak (Rivers State), Baritor Kpagig (Delta) and Habu Hinna (Taraba) will lapse while that of Abdullahi Kaugama (Kaduna) will end in 2020.