The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has adjusted the dates for the 2023 general elections, following Friday’s signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC Chairman, said this at a news conference on the release of the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 General Elections in Abuja on Saturday.
Yakubu said that the Presidential and National Assembly elections, earlier slated for Feb. 18, 2023, have been shifted to Feb.25, 2023, while Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections have been adjusted from March 4, 2023 to March 8, 2023.
According to him, with the adjustment, the 2023 General Election is now 363 days away.
“President Muhammadu Buhari having signed the Electoral Bill 2022 into law made history by making it the fourth time since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria in May 1999 that the Electoral Act was repealed and re-enacted,” Yakubu said.
This , he said gave INEC the leeway to begin 2023 general elections activities.
“You may recall that in 2017, the commission decided to fix dates for general elections in Nigeria. This decision was based on our determination to create certainty in the electoral calendar.
“It is to also enable all stakeholders in the electoral process ,the electoral commission, political parties and candidates, security agencies, observers, the media among others to prepare adequately for elections.
“By that decision, Presidential and National Assembly election shall hold on the third Saturday of the month of February of each general election year, while governorship and state Houses of Assembly election shall follow two weeks later.
“Consequently, the 2023 General Election was scheduled to commence on Feb. 18, 2023 with the Presidential and National Assembly elections, followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly election on March 4, 2023,” Yakubu said.
He added: “However, the commission could not release the detailed timetable and schedule of activities for the General Election, as it normally would, because of the pending enactment of the Electoral Act, 2022 which has now been signed into law.”
Yakubu said that the Electoral Act 2022, together with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, formed the legal basis for conducting all elections in Nigeria.
He said that in particular, the Electoral Act provided strict timelines for the implementation of electoral activities based on the date of the General Election.
He added that one of the significant timelines was the publication of Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for holding an election which has now lapsed for the 2023 General Election.
Yakubu said that consequently, the commission had decided to adjust the dates for the 2023 General Election to ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law.
He said that under the law, there were critical time-bound activities from the publication of Notice of Election to the Conduct of Poll which formed the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for elections.
“Some of the critical activities and their dates of implementation are as follows:Publication of Notice of Election – Monday, Feb. 28.
“Conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes arising from them – Monday, April 4, to Friday, June 3.
“Submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online portal for Presidential and National Assembly election – 9.00a.m.,on Friday June 10 to 6.00p.m.,on Friday June 17,” he said.
The Chairman said that submission of nomination forms to INEC via the online nomination portal for governorship and states Houses for Assembly election would start as from 9.00a.m.,on Friday, July,1 to 6.00p.m.,on Friday, July 15.
He added that the commencement of campaign by political parties for presidential and national assembly election would begin on Wednesday, Sept.28.
Yakubu said that the commencement of campaign by political parties for governorship and state houses of assembly election was Wednesday, Oct. 12.
He added that the last day forbcampaign by political parties for Presidential and National Assembly election would be midnight of Thursday, Feb. 23,2023.
He said that the last day for campaign by political parties for governorship and state houses of assembly election was midnight of Thursday, March 9, 2023.
Yakubu said that the detailed soft copy of the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election would be uploaded to the INEC website and social media platforms.
He said that in addition, the Notice of Election would be published at INEC’s offices in all the states of the Ffderation as required by law on Monday, Feb. 28.
He said that with the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022, the commission would work assiduously to conclude and publish new Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections that in consistent with the Act.
He said that these Regulations and Guidelines as well as Manuals issued by the commission were all part of the legal regulatory framework for elections.
Yakubu added that their timely publication would enable all stakeholders in the electoral process to become conversant with their provisions as they prepared for the 2023 General Election.
“On this note, I wish to remind stakeholders, especially the political parties, of their responsibility to adhere strictly to the timelines in this Timetable and Schedule of Activities, as well as all other timelines established by the commission.
“ It is necessary that all political parties comply with the extant legal framework, ensure proper organisation and management of party primaries and the nomination of qualified candidates in order to prevent unnecessary litigations and rancour.”