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INEC threatens to sanction parties over violent congresses

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Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman

Scolds PDP over acrimonious meetings
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed concerns over the level of violence and destruction of property that has characterised some of the congresses conducted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Consequently, the electoral umpire threatened to withdraw its staff from monitoring such violent political party meetings in future.

The North-West zonal congress of the PDP was recently disrupted by violent party members in Kaduna. The warring supporters destroyed ballot boxes that belonged to INEC before voting could start, forcing observers and other officials to flee the scene.

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The party’s zonal congress in South-West, which held amid tight security, was also not rancour-free as they were reports of skirmishes around the venue of the event.

INEC’s spokesman, Festus Okoye, in a statement on Monday in Abuja, said the level of violence at some of the congresses was making it “extremely difficult for the commission to exercise its statutory oversight responsibility enshrined in Sections 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended)”.

He said the commission would not stand and watch party conventions and congresses degenerate into farcical rituals and violent fiascos that threaten life and destroy property.

While specifically noting the violence that broke out at the North-West zonal congress of the PDP in Kaduna, Okoye warned of far-reaching consequences in any situation where party congresses and conventions degenerate into violence and destruction of the commission’s property.

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He said: “INEC has watched with utmost dismay and profound concern the recurrent acrimony, violence and destruction of property, including the commission’s property and equipment, which have characterised some recent political party congresses across the country.

“In one of such congresses in Kaduna recently, violence broke out leading to the destruction of the commission’s ballot boxes.

“This is the season of political party congresses and conventions to elect their leaders at various levels of party organisation and INEC is mandated by law to monitor them. These meetings constitute a very important aspect of the electoral process and democracy generally in Nigeria.

“Political parties are reminded that they have a clear obligation to ensure that their congresses and conventions are orderly, democratic and in accordance with extant legal framework, their own constitutions and guidelines, as well as INEC’s regulations and guidelines.

“For the avoidance of doubt, INEC will henceforth reconsider its involvement in these events, should they continue to put lives of members of the public and staff of the commission at risk.”

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