CHRISTIAN LAWYERS FELLOWSHIP OF NIGERIA (CLASFON)- POSITION ON INEC’S POSTPONEMENT OF THE 2019 PRESIDENTIAL AND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
The Christian Lawyers Fellowship of Nigeria (CLASFON), like many other stakeholders as well as countless observers, was shocked to hear the announcement in the early hours of 16th February, 2019 by the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections from 16th February, 2019 to 23rd February, 2019 and the Gubernatorial and Houses of Assembly elections from 2nd March to 9th March, 2019. We consider this development as disheartening.
Considering the fact that the schedule for the 2019 General elections was released by INEC over a year ago, the fact that the 2019 elections are the most expensive in the history of Nigeria, the assurances INEC had repeatedly given to the eleventh hour, of its readiness to hold free, fair and credible elections at the scheduled times and the significant international attention the elections have attracted as demonstrated by the large presence of international observers, one cannot but shudder at the explanation of logistic challenges of implementation of the election schedule proffered by INEC as the sole reason for the postponement of the elections.
There is no doubt that the postponement of the polls has resulted in considerable loss of time, earnings and human and material resources for individuals, families, businesses, Civil Society Organisations, the political parties/party candidates, international governmental organisations, development partners and the Federal Government of Nigeria, among others.
The postponement of elections viewed against the backdrop of the specific request for same addressed to INEC by the Hon. Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice makes it compelling for a reasonable person to draw the inference that INEC may not be totally free from political pressure. We however note the assurances of the Chairman of INEC that only logistical challenges have occasioned the shift in election dates.
We urge INEC to justify the shift in the dates for the general elections by delivering the best elections in the history of Nigeria.
We commend the patriotic sacrifices of Nigerians demonstrated so far and in the present circumstances, we urge our compatriots to be patient and go through the process with the resilience we are known for.
We call on all political actors to desist from putting under pressures on INEC while we remind the electoral body to discharge her duties as an unbiased and truly independent umpire. We call on all the organs of the Federal Government of Nigeria to support INEC as mandated by the Constitution to succeed in this important national assignment. The whole world is watching us and we cannot afford to let our citizens down.
We call on all eligible voters and Nigerians to remain law abiding, calm and not to be discouraged, but to see the disappointment as one great sacrifice to make for our dear country and thus be prepared to go out and vote on these new dates. We as a people owe this duty to our country to resist voter apathy which may undermine the credibility of the elections. By doing this, we shall demonstrate our resolve to ensure only credible and worthy leaders are voted into office.
As an organisation, we (CLASFON) had carried out sensitization campaigns across the nation urging the populace to shun violence and vote trading, during and after the elections. We believe our messages resonated well with the Nigerian electorate and will find fulfilment in the engagements with politicians during the forthcoming elections.
We are deeply concerned about the safety and security of sensitive election materials that have already gone out and implore INEC to institute a transparent process for their retrieval or recall and safe keeping ahead of their time of use. This will allay the fears of all stakeholders in view of media reports of fake or thumb printed ballot papers and other sensitive electoral documents in the public domain.
We suggest a reorganisation of INEC’s logistics infrastructure to cope with the challenges of our environment and call for a periodic update to critical stakeholders on the progress made to ensure that INEC deliver credible polls on 23rd February, and 9th March, 2019.
We urge all Nigerians to see beyond our present challenges and to embrace hope bearing in mind that all things will work together for the good of Nigeria and the welfare of its citizens and residents.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Arome M. Okwori
Dated Saturday, the 16th day of February, 2019.