The Independent National Electoral Commission on Saturday announced a new timetable for the 2023 general elections.
According to the comprehensive timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections released by the commission in Abuja, the presidential and National Assembly elections would now hold on Saturday, February 25, 2023 as against February 18, 2023 earlier announced, while governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections would take place on March 11, 2023.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, during a press briefing in Abuja, explained that the shift was informed by the newly-signed Electoral Act.
Yakubu explained that the new dates were to allow for conformity with the provisions of the Electoral Act, which stipulated that elections notice be published at least 360 days to the elections.
The decision by INEC came barely 24 hours after the signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The President signed the bill 25 days after receiving the reworked bill from the National Assembly.
The delay by the President in taking a position generated anxiety and was met with widespread criticisms.
Yakubu said on Saturday that INEC could not release the detailed Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the General Elections, as it normally would, because of the pending enactment of the Electoral Act 2022, until it was signed into law by the President on Friday.
He said, “The Electoral Act 2022, together with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), form the legal basis for conducting all elections in Nigeria.
“In particular, the Electoral Act provides strict timelines for the implementation of electoral activities based on the date of the general elections.
“One of the significant timelines is the publication of Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for holding an election which has now lapsed for the 2023 general elections.
“Consequently, the commission has decided to adjust the dates of the 2023 general elections to ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law.
“Accordingly, the presidential and National Assembly elections will now hold on Saturday, February 25, 2023 while the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections will hold two weeks later on Saturday, March 11, 2023. With this adjustment, the 2023 general election is now 363 days away.
“Under the law, there are critical time-bound activities from the publication of Notice of Election to the conduct of polls which form the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for elections.”
Yakubu emphasised that the slight changes in date for the 2023 elections would not increase the cost of the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
E-transmission of results possible in over 176,000 locations, says Yakubu
With the new Electoral Act, the INEC chairman added that the results of the 2023 general elections would be electronically transmitted.
While responding to questions from journalists, Yakubu said from the pilot conducted regarding transmission of results to its Results Viewing Portal, the commission had the capacity to transmit results electronically.
He said, “From the pilot we have conducted regarding transmitting results to our IREV portal, we have covered all the nook and cranny of Nigeria and we have no challenge whether in the remote areas or urban areas.
“That has convinced us that we can transmit election results just by uploading polling units results from the over 176,000 locations nationwide.
“Therefore, we are encouraged by the pilot that we have conducted that we have the capacity to transmit results from the polling units nationwide.”
Yakubu, however said the commission was working with stakeholders to ensure that it improves on the processes for seamless transmission with the signing of the new Electoral Act
The INEC chairman said with the new dates, campaign for presidential and National Assembly elections by political parties would now commence on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.
Yakubu said notice of election would be published on Monday, while conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes arising from them will take place between April 4 and June 3, 2022.
The INEC boss added that submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online portal for presidential and National Assembly elections would commence from 9am on Friday, June 10, 2022 and end by 6pm on Friday, June 17, 2022.
He said added, “Submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online nomination portal for governorship and state Assembly elections is from 9am on Friday, July 1, 2022 to 6pm on Friday, July 15, 2022.
“Commencement of campaign by political parties for presidential and National Assembly elections will be Wednesday September 28, 2022.
“Commencement of campaign by political parties for governorship and State Assembly elections will start on Wednesday, October 12, 2022.
“Last day of campaign by political parties for presidential and National Assembly elections will be midnight on Thursday, February 23, 2023.
“Last day of campaign by political parties for governorship and state Assembly elections will be midnight on Thursday, March 9, 2023.”
He said with the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022, the commission would work assiduously to conclude and publish new Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections that are consistent with the Act.
“These regulations and guidelines as well as manuals issued by the commission are all part of the legal regulatory framework for elections.
“Their timely publication will enable all stakeholders in the electoral process to become conversant with their provisions as they prepare for the 2023 general elections.
“On this note, I wish to remind stakeholders, especially the political parties, of their responsibility to adhere strictly to the timelines in this Timetable and Schedule of Activities, as well as all other timelines established by the commission,” he added.
The INEC chairman said it was necessary that all political parties comply with the extant legal framework, ensure proper organisation and management of party primaries and the nomination of qualified candidates in order to prevent unnecessary litigations and rancour.
He warned politicians and political parties against campaigning before the designated time.
Speaking on whether INEC would sanction erring candidates who would start campaign ahead of the dates, he answered affirmatively.
He said, “This is not just a matter of Electoral Act, it is a constitutional provision that there is a timeframe for the commencement of campaign which is 150 days to the election and there is also a period for end of campaign, which is 24 hours to the election.
“Let me seize this opportunity to call the attention of political parties and candidates that the law makes specific, definite provisions for the commencement of campaigns and end of campaigns and all Nigerians are required to adhere to the provisions of the law, including political parties and candidates.
“We will hold meeting with all parties to discuss not only the issue of campaign but all other issues that require the attention of political parties as provided in the Electoral Act.”