By Clifford Ndujihe,Politics Editor
AFTER two postponements, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and #EndSARS protests, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will conduct 15 pending bye-elections – six senatorial and nine state houses of assembly seats in 11 states, today.
No fewer than 143 candidates made up of 127 men and 16 women (11.19 per cent of contestants) are taking part in the elections.
The 11 affected states are Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River, Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Katsina, Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara,
Among the states, Bayelsa tops the chart with two senatorial contests in Bayelsa Central and Bayelsa West. In Bayelsa Central, 418,109 voters will decide the fate of 11 candidates that include two women. For Bayelsa West, 13 male and one female candidate will seek the verdict of 234,469 voters on their senatorial aspiration.
Four other senatorial bye-elections will be held in Imo North (14 candidates), Lagos East (eight candidates), Cross River North (nine candidates) and Plateau South (10 candidates).
While Lagos East has three female candidates, the highest in all the 15 pending bye-elections, the Cross River North, Plateau South, and Imo North have one female candidate each.
The 11 state houses of assembly bye-elections will take place in Bakori constituency (Katsina), Bakura constituency (Zamfara), Bayo Constituency (Borno), Ibaji Constituency (Kogi), Isi-Uzo Constituency (Enugu), Kosofe Constituency (Lagos), Nganzai constituency (Borno), Obudu Constituency (Cross River) and Nasarawa Central Constituency (Nasarawa).
The least contested of the 15 bye-elections is Nasarawa Central State Constituency, which has only two candidates – Ismaila Danbaba Suleiman of the APC and Nuhu Bage Bawa of the PDP.
INEC, police warn riggers to steer clear
Meanwhile, the INEC and security agencies have asked the candidates and political parties to play game according to the rules and deal with those who would try to manipulate the exercises.
National Commissioner and Chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye, declared the readiness of the electoral umpire to conduct credible polls after a meeting Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs from the 11 affected states.
“All the States have received all the non-sensitive materials, trained their staff and received all the funds for the bye-elections. States have also had their sensitive materials delivered to the Central Bank Offices in their state headquarters. These situation reports were corroborated by National Commissioners who are already in the states to oversee the elections…
“The Resident Electoral Commissioners also reported that they have engaged fully with stakeholders on the bye-elections and the Commission wishes to thank all the stakeholders, especially communities where elections will hold and security agencies for their support. The security agencies have all reassured the Commission that they will continue to provide professional support to the Commission for the upcoming bye-elections devoid of any partisan inclinations in order to reproduce the quality of elections that the nation saw in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections”, he stated.