The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is already planning and preparing for a run-off presidential election on February 25, 2023, if no candidate meets the conditional requirements for declaring a winner based on votes cast.
Mr Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, gave the hint during a meeting with Bureau Chiefs/Editors of media organizations on Friday in Abuja.
Okoye stated that such a plan had been INEC’s tradition for all elections held by the commission since the return of democracy in 1999.
He stated that INEC was already planning to print twice the number of ballot papers required for the first ballot in the event of a rerun election.
He explained that because the commission only had 21 days to conduct the rerun or run-off election, the preparations were always done alone first.
According to the national commissioner, before a candidate can be declared the winner of the presidential election, he or she must receive the most votes cast and a quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of the federation’s states and the FCT.
He stated that if no candidate meets the threshold, the constitution states that a second election should be held for two of the candidates with the highest and majority votes, in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
“Section 134 subsection 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which is the fundamental law of the land, makes it mandatory that before anyone is deemed to have been elected as a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that candidate must secure the highest number of votes cast at the election.
“He must also secure a quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. That is mandatory.
“Now, if no candidate secures this highest number of votes and the mandatory threshold, the Constitution says we must have a second election within a period of 21 days.
“Now, not all candidates are going to participate in this second election. Eighteen candidates will be on the ballot for the first election, ” he said.
Okoye also explained that: “If no candidate emerges on the first ballot, only two candidates are going to be on the second ballot or only two candidates are going to contest the second election.
“Who are those candidates that will be on the ballot for the second election?
“The Constitution has made it very clear that two candidates will be on the ballot are; one amongst the candidates who scored the highest number of votes at the election, the one that scored the highest number of votes at the election.
“The second candidate that will be on the ballot will be one amongst the remaining candidates who have the majority of votes in the highest number of states.”
He emphasised that: “The Constitution did not say that the person who came second will be the person who will be on the ballot. That’s not what Constitution says.”
Okoye stated that due to the large number of ballot papers required for the election, over 90 million, and the number of days required to conduct the second election, INEC would always print the paper alongside those for the first poll.
“If 93 million ballot papers are required for the presidential election, INEC will print 186 million ballot papers just to be ready for a possible second presidential election.
“This is because the law gives the commission just 21 days within which to engage in reverse logistics and conduct a run-off election in case there’s no winner.”
In terms of how INEC would determine the two candidates to appear on the second ballot, Okoye stated that in order to meet the deadline, the commission would continue to print for all political parties that participate in the first ballot.
He stated that it was the responsibility of political parties to educate voters on who to vote for among the two candidates who met the requirements for the second election.
He stated that any votes cast for any other candidates who are not expected to be on the second ballot would be counted as void votes.
Okoye also stated that all sensitive materials for the 2023 general elections, with the exception of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, would be kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“We have classified the BVAS as a sensitive material and we have engaged with different security agencies to provide security for the BVAS because the BVAS will be in the custody of the commission.
“So, we have adopted a hybrid approach as the BVAS will remain with the commission while the ballot papers will be in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“This was the agreement we had with political parties, security agencies, Civil Society Organisations and media.”
Mrs Oluwatoyin Babalola, INEC Director of Legal Drafting Department, stated in her presentation that INEC would continue to evolve and improve the electoral process in relation to international best practices and the electoral legal framework in its pursuit of credible elections.
Babalola described the Electoral Act 2022 as a commendable effort to bring Nigeria’s electoral process up to par with countries around the world while also meeting Nigerians’ aspirations.
“It is believed that the provisions of the Act will guarantee the delivery of free, fair, transparent and credible elections which will in turn increase the acceptance of the electoral processes and outcomes in the 2023 general election and beyond.”
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