From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja

Ahead of the February 3, 2024, re-run and bye-elections in some states, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, alerted the nation of plans to disrupt the exercise

He made the disclosure in his remarks at the first quarterly meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja yesterday.

Yakubu argued that the collective experience as election managers and security agencies show that party primaries can sometimes be more acrimonious than general elections.

The electoral umpire boss further revealed that the commission has fixed the party primary for the Ondo state governorship election will be held between April 6 and 27 this year.

According to him; “What many people do not realise is that there is no election season in Nigeria any longer. Elections are held throughout the year between one general election and another. This adds to the enormous pressure on both INEC and the security agencies.

“For instance, in addition to the bye-elections and re-run elections holding next week, the commission has also released the timetable and schedule of activities for the two off-cycle governorship elections in Edo state scheduled for 21st September 2024 and Ondo state holding on 16th November 2024.

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“As required by the Electoral Act 2022, party primaries and nomination of candidates shall be done not later than 180 days before the date fixed for the elections. Accordingly, party primaries for Edo State will commence next week and end three weeks later (that is 1st- 24th February 2024).

“For Ondo state, primaries will be held between 6th and 27th April 2024. Our collective experience as election managers and security agencies shows that party primaries can sometimes be more acrimonious than general elections. “Therefore, as we prepare for the bye-elections and re-run elections, we should equally be prepared for the two major elections later in this year in Edo and Ondo states,” he noted.

Challenging the security agents to do more, Yakubu said that without a secure and peaceful environment, the conduct of credible elections will be imperilled.

“As you are all aware, election is a multi-stakeholder responsibility. INEC has a role to play. So too are other stakeholders. As security agencies, it is your responsibility to secure the environment to enable us deploy personnel and materials, the protection of observers, the media as well as the polling and collation agents representing the political parties and candidates.

“From experience, the conduct of isolated elections such as bye-elections and re-run elections can be very challenging. We must pay attention to the potentials for disruptive behaviour by some candidates and their supporters. A re-run election conducted in one polling unit or a handful of polling units can be severely disrupted by acts of thuggery knowing full well that these few locations will determine the outcome of the election.

“Arising from the reports we received from the States, concerns have been raised about the impact of the prevailing insecurity in some states on the conduct of the elections, made worse by incendiary statements by some political actors. We will present such concerns and reports at this meeting for appropriate security response,” he said.