Amidst controversies surrounding the availability, validity or otherwise of certificates of Political candidates who are seeking different political positions across levels in the country, the Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adhere strictly to the provisions of the electoral Act 2022 and its Guidelines.
In a letter addressed to the Chairman of INEC (Prof. Mahmood Yakubu), the Chairman of HEDA, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, called on INEC boss not to be distracted nor intimidated by anybody or corporate who falls short of the requirements and provisions of the Electoral Act ahead of the general elections.
According to HEDA’s Leader, Nigeria’s political class are fond of duplicitous and deceptive rhetorics during elections and are bent on deploying different machinations and schemes to achieve their personal aims, as Nigerians are in doubt of the veracity of what the Politicians claim to possess.
“We are not unaware of every crooked game plan and shenanigans by some Politicians regarding their eligibility or otherwise to run for different positions. We have seen different unfounded moonlight tales by either elected or appointed persons about the whereabouts of their credentials and how the court adjudicated those matters.
“As a leading Anti-Corruption Organization and Non-partisan Human Rights and Development league with the mandate to protect and promote universally recognized human rights, public accountability, transparency and environmental justice in Nigeria and Africa, in accordance with International best standards, we call on INEC to be guided by the provisions of Electoral Act 2022 and its guidelines.
Suraju urge the Commission to reject the submission of affidavits in place of certificates by candidates due to the several controversies around swearing to affidavit which are well known to the Commission. He noted that an affidavit cannot replace an institution’s certificate, hence; an affidavit only contains facts believed by the deponent to be true which cannot stand in place of primary evidence.
“We have been keenly following the developments around submission of candidates’ names and credentials list for the 2023 general elections by political parties, and the most recent news of candidates claiming their school certificates are missing. Nigerians cannot be cowed by malicious and mendacious claims emanating from the political class.
“We believe that the Commission’s guidelines towards preparation for the 2023 general election to political parties and the public are clear enough on presentation of certificates.
“We kindly refer Section 115(1)(c) of the Electoral Act to the Commission which provide thus:
“A person who – (c) delivers to an electoral officer any nomination paper or result from knowing it to be forged – commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum term of imprisonment for two years.”
The anti-corruption crusader maintained that no one is above the law and everyone, irrespective of his or her social class, is expected to strictly comply with provisions of the law. He stressed that It is general knowledge that anyone who claims to have misplaced his/her certificate could always apply to the awarding institution for the issuance of another copy or Certified True Copy of the certificate or his transcript.
“We demand that your Commission communicate the invalidity of affidavits as submitted by some candidates in the forthcoming elections to all affected candidates and their parties. Failure to undertake this statutory responsibility will leave our organisation with no other option than to approach a competent court of jurisdiction for an order restraining your Commission from recognising such candidates.
He appreciated the Commission for listening to public outcries regarding extension of registration of new voters, which is a demonstration of the Commission’s resolve to a free and fair election wherein the largest number of eligible voters are freely allowed to exercise their franchise.
“We commend the INEC and re-iterate our commitment to ensuring good governance in Nigeria and assure the Commission of our unflagging support in ensuring a free and fair election in Nigeria,” he added.