In a dramatic manner, chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu, yesterday declared as illegal the on-going Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ward and state congresses as well as the national convention scheduled for December 8, 2007 in Abuja. Iwu’s latest “due process action”is a great departure from his previous stance on electoral matters,in which he deliberately breached the rule of law to favour the ruling party in the April polls.
Iwu, who made this pronouncement at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) from the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, said the party flouted section 85(i) of the Electoral Act, which requires that INEC be given 21 days notice before commencement of congresses by parties.
“Section 85(i) of the Electoral Act empowers us to get 21 days notice before commencement of their congresses. INEC will monitor at all levels. Nobody is allowed to conduct the congresses without notifying us. Any such exercise should be cancelled if they did it without notifying us,” he said.
The INEC chairman explained, “there is no need to waste funds and time on such venture, which is illegal. We don’t want to join issues with anybody. We just want to follow due process.”
Briefing the press at the end of the meeting, the commission’s national commissioner in charge of information and publicity, Barrister Philip Umeadi (Jnr), said INEC had drawn the attention of PDP to the “illegality” of the congresses and the planned national convention in view of its non-compliance with section 85 (i) of the Electoral Act.
According to him, it was too late for the PDP to correct the anomaly except that party “completely put off the convention until they comply with the provisions of the law.”
“We have adequately notified them about the implication of such action, to the effect that whatever it is that they have done, whether they call it harmonisation or whatever it is, that is null and void and of no effect as far as the commission is concerned.”
He said, “The reason we are taking this matter very seriously is that one of the greatest challenges we had in the conduct of the last elections, is party democracy and nomination of candidates have consistently posed a problem and if we don’t start now to correct these issues, I am certain that we will be unable to do that in an election year.”
He added: “The provision of the law is very clear. As long as it has to do with question of candidates and officers emerging from a particular political party, be it at ward, state or federal level, the political parties are enjoined by law to give statutory notices of such activities to the commission and they have not done that.”
It will be recalled that the PDP has finished its ward congresses and is set for the local government congresses this weekend, while the state congresses are scheduled for November 17, with the national convention fixed for December 8 in Abuja.
But in a swift reaction,chairman of the PDP,Dr.Ahmadu Ali said the party complied with the provisions of the Electoral Act by notifying INEC even before the commencement of the congresses.
In an exclusive response to our correspondent last night,Ali said,’All I know is that,we wrote to INEC intimating the commission of our preparations to commence our congresses before we started,but if they(INEC)said they did not get our letter,then let it be so’.