By Andy Chukwu
Governor Rocha Okorochas, the senator-elect for Imo Sentorial District was conspicuously absent on Thursday as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) presented Certificates of Return to newly elected federal lawmakers.
Okorocha’s absence at the event was not unrelated to the decision of INEC not to present him with a certificate for alleged coercing an electoral official to return him as senator-elect. Okorocha immediately fired back, accusing INEC of allowing itself to be used by partisans who are afraid of his future political ambition in the country.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman, at the event, urged the new federal lawmakers to speedily work on the new electoral bill for the country, while promising that the commission will start work immediately on the post electoral review of the 2019 general elections and plans for the 2023 elections. He said a lot of work needed to be done with very little time available.
“As a process governed by law, the success of elections in Nigeria depend to a large extent on the electoral legal framework and most importantly in ensuring adherence to the law.
“I want to assure you that we will continue to work with the National Assembly to review and strengthen our electoral law. But, I want to appeal to the senators-elect to please start work early and conclude work on the electoral framework in good time well ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“The tendency to delay electoral reforms particularly the review of electoral framework until it is too close to the elections, leaves the commission with little time to develop processes including regulations and guidelines, make required consultations with stakeholders, embark on effective voter education including sensitization, train staff and organize deployment for the elections.
“I am glad that among the senators-elect are senators that we have worked very closely with and some of them have taken initiatives or even sponsored private member bills to advance the cause of electoral reforms. We look forward to working very closely with you in the next senate. However all these are matters to be considered, I hope we will do so in earnest”, he said.
Only 100 senators out of the expected 109 senators for the ninth National Assembly were presented with certificates as there are outstanding issues in some constituencies.
These senators included 62 members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), 37 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members and one Young Progressives Party (YPP) member.
Members-elect of the House of Representatives were also presented with their certificates if return.