The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that the fierce political tension brewing in Edo State ahead of the September 19 governorship poll may lead to a declaration of a state of emergency if not carefully managed.
This warning was made Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, while having an interaction with heads of media organisations in Benin.
Mr Okoye said the commission was ready for the Edo election but pleaded with leaderships of the political parties and their supporters to sheathe their swords and maintain the peace for a hitchfree poll.
He warned the political gladiators to conduct their campaigns within the ambit of the law.
According to him, the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic has created an unusual electoral atmosphere never experienced before.
“We are aware that INEC has never conducted elections under a pandemic situation. Therefore, this pandemic will make us evolve new strategies for electoral officials, adhoc staff, security agencies, voters and stakeholders.
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“We don’t want anybody to jeopardise their health during the exercise and the commission will continue to fine tune the electoral process within the ambit of the Constitution. We have advised political parties not to play with end-of-tenure elections because anything that disturbs election from being conducted and concluded on or before November 10 will create constitutional crisis that may lead to a state of emergency,” Mr Okoye said.
He said if INEC is confronted with such a scenario, it could only be remedied in accordance with either Section 180, 191 or 305.
“This will warrant the incumbent governor to seek President Muhammadu Buhari’s permission to declare a state of emergency in the state.
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“My advice to all the political gladiators is that they should play by the rules of the game to avoid constitutional crisis arising from the election,” Mr Okoye said.