The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cautioned the Nigeria Police Force against any activity that could undermine its independence as the nation prepares for the 2023 general election.
Festus Okoye, INEC’s Commissioner for Information and Voter Education Committee, issued the caution in a news release on Friday.
The electoral body stated this in reaction to the invitation of its Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Edo State, Dr Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem, by the state’s police command.
Sinikiem, according to earlier reports, was invited to answer questions pertaining to allegations that he forged results of a primary election in the state.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Edo State chapter, had petitioned the state’s Commissioner of Police seeking the investigation and prosecution of the REC for allegedly conniving with a faction of the party to forge results used by that faction to file cases against the petitioner at the Federal High Courts in Abuja and Edo State.
Meanwhile, contrary to reports, the Edo State Police Command had debunked reports that it arrested and detained Sinikiem.
Reacting, INEC corroborated the police that its REC was not detained but warned that inviting key officials of the Commission “at this critical period” may undermine its conduct of the 2023 polls.
Okoye, “The Commission can confirm that the REC was invited. However, the Edo State Police Command has issued a statement to clarify the situation, saying that the REC was only invited to provide insight into some technical issues regarding our processes and nothing more.
“He was neither detained nor is he personally under investigation as media reports suggested.
“While we welcome the clarification by the Police Command, we wish to point out that any other official of the Commission assigned by the REC could have provided the required insight.
“Alternatively, a visit to our State Office by the Commissioner of Police or his assigned representative could have achieved the same goal as has been the tradition in our collaborative relationship with security agencies.
“For emphasis, our REC in Edo State, Dr. Johnson Alalibo Sinikiem, is a conscientious public officer and co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) at State level
“He was the sitting REC when the Iast governorship election was conducted in Edo State on 19th September 2020 which was adjudged to be free, fair and credible.
“Any action capable of creating the impression of harassment of our officials or infringement of the independence of the Commission must be avoided, especially at this critical period of our preparations for the 2023 General Election.”