By virtue of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), tenure of the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors of States of the Federation (except Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo and Osun States) will expire on the 28th day of May 2023 while the National and State Assemblies will stand dissolved on the 8th day of June 2023.
Pursuant to Sections 76(2), 116(2), 132(2) and 178(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), elections to the said offices shall hold not earlier than One Hundred and Fifty (150) days and not later than Thirty (30) days before the expiration of the term of office of` the last holder of that office.
In exercise of the powers conferred by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission fixed dates for the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday, 25th February, 2023, while the Governorship and State Assembly elections was scheduled to hold on Saturday, 11th March, 2023.
As the event draw nearer it is very critical to observe some of the notable factors that may affect the neutrality of INEC Kogi State in the 2023 elections.
COLLECTION OF PERMANENT VOTERS CARDS
The rate of the collection of the PVCs is a serious issue. One of the allegations was that there had been a deliberate ploy to deny some areas the PVCs in order to privilege certain senatorial districts. INEC Kogi State is not doing enough to distribute the PVCs. It has been revealed that INEC Kogi State is not ready to comply with the Commission’s directive on deployment of its officials to all the 239 wards in Kogi State within the period proposed. Significant arrangement for the collection of PVCs is only for urbanized and full complement of their officials will not be deployed just like they did during the last display of register for correction, claims and objections.
BELIEF IN THE PARTIALITY OF INEC KOGI STATE
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Hale Longpet Gabriel is an appointee of the ruling Federal Government, Engr. Suleiman Tanko Musa, current Administrative Secretary, was belief to be a long time friend of the Kogi State Governor, it was rumoured that his posting to Kogi State was facilitated by the Governor of Kogi State.
It was the Governor who arranged a very special residential accommodation for the duo within high brown areas in GRA this is gears towards easy accessibility. Right from his resumption in office in Kogi State; particularly during the primary election, he never hides his feeling and readiness to carrying out his master’s bidding.
INTEGRITY OF THE ELECTORAL OFFICERS ACROSS THE 21 LGAs IN KOGI STATE
Election Officials have a major role to play in the electoral process. The manner in which they discharge their duties affects the degree of confidence voters will have in the electoral process.
Election Officials should be courteous, polite and helpful at all times. Voters should be treated equally and with respect. Unethical and corrupt practices by election officials can incur severe punishment under the law.
However, most of the Electoral Officers across the 21 LGAs in Kogi State are standing trail at the Kogi State High Court, Kontonkarfe. The case initiated the EFCC against them and some out gone principal officials in the State Office is yet to see the light of the day. Our investigation revealed how a compromised was reached with certain authority with a view to frustrate the case provided they continued to play along.
LACK OF VOTER EDUCATION
Adequate voter Education is the only panacea for electoral infractions. Voter Education as a key to citizens’ proper appreciation of their role in the electoral process, except in her official records IINEC Kogi State) there is no drive for voter education from INEC Kogi State.
These brief factors identified may affect INEC Kogi State neutrality in the 2023 elections if nothing is done by the relevant authorities to address them as appropriate; the hope by the Independent National Electoral Commission in trying to provide free and fair elections in a polarized and fragile state like Kogi State, the objectivity of any index for measuring how free and fair elections are is socially constructed due to the character of the state and therefore subjectively determined. For this, whether the outcome of any election is accepted as reflecting the will of the voters will largely depend on people‘s perception.