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INEC and The Hurdles Before 2019 Election

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  • INEC and The Hurdles Before 2019 Election

It’s 394 days to Nigeria’s sixth general elections in the Fourth Republic and that is official. The Independent National Electoral Commission, constitutionally empowered to organise and conduct federal and state elections in Nigeria, had on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 issued what it called the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 general elections, consisting the Presidential, National and State Assembly, Governorship and the Federal Capital Territory Council elections. The timetable was issued at a press briefing by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, which held at the Commission’s Headquarters in Abuja. The day after, Mahmood gave registration certificates to 21 newly registered political parties. The country now has a total of 68 registered parties with about 90 fresh applications still being processed by the election management body.

According to the timetable, there are 14 listed activities ranging from when party primaries will be conducted, when candidates’ names should be filed and when campaigns will start and end. One unique feature about the released timetable is that elections into the chairmanship and councillorship seats of the six Federal Capital Territory Area Councils will hold on March 2, 2019 alongside governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls. It will be recalled that INEC had on March 9, 2017, announced dates for the Presidential and National Assembly elections indicating that the presidential election would hold on February 16, 2019, while the governorship and state assembly elections would be conducted on March 2, 2019.

Given that the umpire has blown the whistle, how prepared are the election stakeholders for the Herculean task ahead? What has changed since INEC on March 9 last year announced the dates for the next general elections? Are we going to have credible, peaceful and successful polls? Are there going to be strict adherence to internal party democracy by our political parties? Will there be issue-based campaigns? Will the voter turnout be high? Will the media reportage be unbiased and professional? Will our courts be spared of being dragged into determining party candidates? Will the elections hold as scheduled? So many questions for actors and stakeholders in the electoral process to answer.

In the official report of INEC on the last general elections held in 2015, the commission identified nine challenges it faced in the lead up to the polls. They were: Rising insecurity in the North-East of the country, due to insurgency; looming threats of violence in the elections particularly linked to the intemperate attitude and rhetoric of politicians; tortuous process of procurement, which could jeopardise timely preparations for elections; non-finalisation of amendments to the electoral legal framework namely, the constitution and Electoral Act; and inability of the commission to finalise the review of electoral constituencies and creation of new Polling Units. Others were: Persistent incapacity of the commission to effectively prosecute electoral offenders to serve as deterrent to those who may plan to engage in electoral malpractices; difficulties of the production and distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards as well as conduct of the CVR exercise; delay in the finalisation of the guidelines for the elections which particularly affected the production of the training manual; and lingering challenges of maximising the impact of voter education.

A critical look at these challenges will reveal that some of them are internal to the electoral management body while others are external to it. Issues of insecurity, legal reform, hate speech and heating up of the polity are all external to INEC. Much as the issue of insurgency can been largely reined in unlike when Boko Haram was in control of about 14 local government areas in the North-East, no part of Nigeria’s territory is under the insurgents. However, the terrorist group still poses a potent threat to peaceful conduct of elections. Fulani herders versus farmers’ conflicts and soaring incidences of crimes and criminality have introduced fresh a dimension to a serious challenge to peaceful conduct of election. If we are not going to have to shift elections for any security reason, all security agencies involved in the elections, particularly those members of Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, must hone their skills, be proactive and secure the election environment. INEC itself must have realised by now that it needs to revise its policy on integration of the Internally Displaced Persons for election. As more conflicts ensue, more IDP camps are sprouting almost on a monthly basis and as was done in 2015, they must be allowed to vote.

Still under insecurity, soft and hard approaches must be devised to curb hate speech and fake news ahead of the forthcoming elections. While it is good for INEC to have frequent meetings with political parties and contestants as well as get them to sign peace accord as was previously done, those who are in breach of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates must be administratively and or legally sanctioned. The National Broadcasting Commission as a regulatory agency must be proactive and punish severely any erring broadcast station that aids and abets promotion of inflammatory comments. The Nigeria Press Council must do the same for newspapers and magazines. We must play politics without bitterness and imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship.

However, it is very worrisome that barely a year to the next elections, the legal framework for the conduct of the polls remains uncertain. Will there be reduction in the age to contest certain political offices such as the Presidency, governorship, House of Representatives and state Houses of Assembly as being proposed under the Not Too Young To Run Bill? Will there be any provision for independent candidacy as was the case in the First Republic and the practice in many climes? Will there be electronic voting in 2019? Will it be possible to have a timeline for conclusion of pre-election litigations as is currently with post-election dispute resolution? Will there be Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal to effectively prosecute electoral offenders before the next general elections? For INEC to be able to properly plan for the next general elections, it is imperative for our federal and state lawmakers to expedite actions aimed at concluding the constitution amendment as well as the passage of the proposed new Electoral Act.

On the issues internal to INEC itself, the commission must implement its Strategic Plan and Election Project Plan faithfully. It should resolve all issues relating to the functionality of the SmartCard Reader particularly the authentication of the voter’s fingerprint by the device. Procurement of all sensitive and non-sensitive materials must also be done in a timely manner. The recruitment, training and deployment of poll workers must be seamless. INEC must fine-tune its logistic plan including ensuring that corps members and transport union members contracted for electioneering purposes do not hold the commission and indeed the country to ransom. The commission should also rev up its current Continuous Voter Registration, clean the register of “ghost” names, and ensure prompt delivery of the Permanent Voter Cards (I learnt over eight million PVCs have not been collected from INEC since 2015). Also urgent and important is the creation of additional polling units to effectively ensure that the PUs are close to the electorate as possible; more so since there will be restriction of movement during elections.

INEC must also ensure effective monitoring of political parties and integration of persons with disabilities into the electoral process. Finally, it must be well-resourced in a timely manner to ensure prompt delivery of services. Best wishes, Nigeria!

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Government

COVID-19 Vaccine: African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) to Purchase 270 Million Doses for Nigeria, Other African Nations

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African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) Approves $2 Billion for the Purchase of 270 million Doses for African Nations

African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim) said it has approved $2 billion for the purchase of 270 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for African nations, including Nigeria.

Prof. Benedict Oramah, the President of the Bank, disclosed this at a virtual Africa Soft Power Series held on Tuesday.

He, however, stated that the lender is looking to raise more funds for the COVID-19 vaccines’ acquisition.

He said: “The African Union knows that unless you put the virus away, your economy can’t come back. If Africa didn’t do anything, it would become a COVID-19 continent when other parts of the world have already moved on.
“Recall that it took seven years during the heat of HIV for them to come to Africa after 12 million people had died.

“With the assistance of the AU, we were able to get 270 million vaccines and financing need of about $2 billion. Afreximbank then went ahead to secure the $2 billion. But that money for the 270 million doses could only add 15 per cent to the 20 per cent that Covax was bringing.

He added that this is not the time to wait for handouts or free vaccines as other countries will naturally sort themselves out before African nations.

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China Calls for Better China-U.S. Relations

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China Calls for China-U.S. Relations

Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi said on Monday the United States and China could work together on issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic if they repaired their damaged bilateral relationship.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang, a Chinese state councillor and foreign minister, said Beijing stood ready to reopen constructive dialogue with Washington after relations between the two countries sank to their lowest in decades under former president Donald Trump.

Wang called on Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese goods and abandon what he said was an irrational suppression of the Chinese tech sector, steps he said would create the “necessary conditions” for cooperation.

Before Wang spoke at a forum sponsored by the foreign ministry, officials played footage of the “ping-pong diplomacy” of 1972 when an exchange of table tennis players cleared the way for then U.S. President Richard Nixon to visit China.

Wang urged Washington to respect China’s core interests, stop “smearing” the ruling Communist Party, stop interfering in Beijing’s internal affairs and stop “conniving” with separatist forces for Taiwan’s independence.

“Over the past few years, the United States basically cut off bilateral dialogue at all levels,” Wang said in prepared remarks translated into English.

“We stand ready to have candid communication with the U.S. side, and engage in dialogues aimed at solving problems.”

Wang pointed to a recent call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden as a positive step.

Washington and Beijing have clashed on multiple fronts including trade, accusations of human rights crimes against the Uighur Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s territorial claims in the resources-rich South China Sea.

The Biden administration has, however, signalled it will maintain pressure on Beijing. Biden has voiced concern about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices and endorsed of a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide in Xinjiang.

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U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

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President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office Of The White House

U.S. Supreme Court Allows Release of Trump Tax Returns

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.

Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after being defeated in his Nov. 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that the president’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.

In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.

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