By Bassey Udo
To ensure compliance with the provisions of the new electoral Bill 2022 signed into law President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday announced adjustments to the general elections timetable for 2023.
The Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, announced the adjustments during a media briefing in Abuja on the preparations towards the elections in view of the new electoral law.
Yakubu who described the passage of the Electoral Act as historic, considering this would be the fourth time theblaw would be repealed and re-enacted since the return to democracy in Nigeria in May 1999.
Apart from the 1998 – 1999
elections, which were administered by transitional decrees until the 2001 Electoral Act was passed into law, Yakubu said the Act was repealed and re-enacted as the
Electoral Act 2002.
Again, in 2006, he said the law was equally repealed and re-enacted in 2010, before the latest repeal and enactment as 2022 Electoral Act.
With the decision in 2017 by the Commission to establish fixed dates for General Elections in the country, the INEC Chairman said this was based on the electoral agency’s determination to create certainty in the electoral calendar and to enable all stakeholders in the electoral process, namely the electoral commission, political parties and candidates, security agencies, observers, the media, etc.)to prepare adequately for elections.
By that decision, Yakubu said Presidential and National Assembly elections were scheduled to hold on the third Saturday of February of each General Election year, while Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections were to follow two weeks later.
Consequently, for the 2023 General Election, he said the electoral scheduled was billed to commence on February 18,2023 with the Presidential and National Assembly elections, followed by the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections on March 4,
However, the Chairman said in view of the inability of the Commission to publish the detailed elections timetable and other schedule of activities for the General Election, because of the non-enactment of the Electoral Act 2022, it was unable to meet its official deadline.
Following the signing of the Electoral Act 2022 on Friday, he said the law,together with the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), would form the legal basis for
conducting all elections in the country.
The Electoral Act, he noted, provides strict adherence to timelines in the implementation of electoral activities based on the date of the General Election.
He draw attention to the publication of Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for holding an election, which he described as one of the most significant timelines in the schedule.
Although he said the publication of the election notice within 360 days has since lapsed for the 2023 General Election, he said with the new Act 2022, the Commission would go ahead to roll out the timetable.
“Consequently, the Commission has decided to adjust the dates of the 2023 General Election to ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law.
“Accordingly, the Presidential and National Assembly elections will now hold on Saturday 25th February 2023, while the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections will hold two weeks later on Saturday 11th March 2023,” he announced.
With the adjustment, the INEC Chairman said the 2023 General Election would now be about 363 days away.
Under the law, he said there were critical timebound activities from the publication of Notice of Election to the Conduct of Polls, which form the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for elections.
Some of the critical activities and their dates of implementation include Publication of Notice of Election – Monday 28th February 2022; Conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes that would arise from them – Monday, April 4, 2022 to Friday, June 3, 2022.
Besides,he said submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online portal for Presidential and National Assembly election would be for 9.00am on Friday,June 10, 2022 and 6.00 pm on Friday.
Again, the submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online nomination portal for Governorship and State Assembly elections ( 9.00am on Friday, July 10, 2022 to 6.00pm on Friday July 2022.
Commencement of Campaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly election – Wednesday, September 28 2022.
Other schedules include commencement of campaign by political parties for Governorship
and State Assembly elections – Wednesday October 12, 2022, and the last day of campaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly elections – midnight on Thursday, February 23, 2023, while that of the Governorship and State
Assembly elections would be midnight on Thursday March 9, 2023.
He promised to circulate the new Electoral Act 2022, as well as publish new Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections which are consistent with the Act.
He urged all stakeholders in the electoral process to ensure they became conversant with their provisions as they prepare for the 2023 General election, adding that political parties have a responsibility to adhere strictly to the timelines in the timetable
and schedule of activities by the