The Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and its Guidelines.
HEDA made the appeal against the backdrop of controversies surrounding the availability, validity or otherwise of certificates of candidates seeking elective positions in the country.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Chairman, HEDA, Olanrewaju Suraju, and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.
Mr Suraju called on the INEC boss not to be distracted nor intimidated by anybody who falls short of the requirements and provisions of the Electoral Act, ahead of the general elections.
According to him, the political class deploys all manners of rhetoric to appeal to the electorate to vote for them.
“We are not unaware of every crooked game plan and shenanigans by some politicians regarding their eligibility or otherwise to run for different positions.
“We have seen different unfounded moonlight tales by either elected or appointed persons about the whereabouts of their credentials and how the court adjudicated those matters.
“As a leading Anti-Corruption Organisation and Non-partisan Human Rights and Development League, we call on INEC to be guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act and its guidelines,” Mr Suraju said.
He urged the Commission to reject the submission of affidavits in place of certificates by candidates due to the several controversies around swearing of affidavits which are well known to the Commission.
He said an affidavit cannot replace an institution’s certificate, adding that it only contains facts believed by the deponent to be true, which cannot stand in place of primary evidence.
“We have been keenly following the developments around the submission of candidates’ names and credentials list for the 2023 general elections by political parties.
“The most recent news is that of candidates claiming their school certificates are missing.
“Nigerians cannot be cowed by malicious and mendacious claims emanating from the political class.
“We believe that the commission’s guidelines towards preparation for the 2023 general elections to political parties and the public are clear enough on presentation of certificates.”
The anti-corruption crusader said that no one was above the law and everyone, irrespective of his or her social class, is expected to strictly comply with the provisions of the law.
He said it is general knowledge that anyone who claims to have misplaced his/her certificate could always apply to the awarding institution for the issuance of another copy or Certified True Copy of the certificate or his transcript.
“We demand that your commission communicate the invalidity of affidavits as submitted by some candidates, in the forthcoming elections to all affected candidates and their parties.
“Failure to undertake this statutory responsibility will leave HEDA with no other option than to approach a competent court of jurisdiction for an order restraining your Commission from recognising such candidates.
He appreciated the Commission for listening to public outcries regarding the extension of registration of new voters.
He said that the gesture is a demonstration of the Commission’s resolve to a free and fair election, wherein the largest numbers of eligible voters are freely allowed to exercise their franchise.
“We commend the INEC and re-iterate our commitment to ensuring good governance in Nigeria and assure it of our unflagging support to a free and fair election in Nigeria,” he added.