…As Agbakoba, Olawepo-Hashim Kick on Electoral Bill The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will use card readers during the 2019 general elections, dousing fears that the poll may be manipulated. The Commission however ruled out the electronic transmission of results. This is coming against the mounting criticism that has dogged the denial of
…As Agbakoba, Olawepo-Hashim Kick on Electoral Bill
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will use card readers during the 2019 general elections, dousing fears that the poll may be manipulated. The Commission however ruled out the electronic transmission of results.
This is coming against the mounting criticism that has dogged the denial of assent by President Muhammadu Buhari to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed by the National Assembly..
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu said the Commission would deploy card readers in every polling unit in the country just as it did in 2015.
Yakubu, who spoke during the public hearing on the menace of vote buying and improving the country’s electoral processes, said the Commission had finished all preparations towards the use of the card reader.
Responding to questions from some senators and stakeholders, Yakubu said: “For those talking about whether INEC would use card reader during the 2019 elections or not, I want to assure that INEC will deploy card reader in every polling unit in the country.”
“This is an assurance from the Commission, and we are ever ready to do that, although we are yet to configure the card readers to match every polling unit.”
Senate President, Mr Bukola Saraki, had while declaring the hearing open, urged INEC, security agencies and other stakeholders to ensure free, fair and credible polls in 2019.
He said INEC should improve on the unprecedented record it set during the 2015 elections, noting out that vote buying is currently one of the most disturbing challenges of Nigeria’s political process.
Former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said President Buhari lied about his reason for declining assent to the amended Electoral Bill.
The President refused to assent to the bill on three occasions in 2018. The last time due to ‘drafting errors’ and omission of the use of card readers, his aide on National Assembly Matters, Mr Ita Enang said in September.
On Friday, December 7, Buhari declined to assent to the bill for the fourth time on the grounds that the 2019 polls scheduled for February, may be disrupted if he gave assent to the bill.
Agbakoba, a member of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), said Buhari’s decision to withhold assent was incorrect, claiming the amendment proposed by the bill was targeted at making the 2019 general elections credible with the use of card readers and electronic transmission of election results from the polling units.
“The President claims that part of the reason for withholding assent was that INEC will not have enough time to become familiar with the 2018 bill and that a new Act will generate confusion. This is simply incorrect and flies in the face of INEC’s announcement that it will not use Incident Forms or manual voting in 2019 elections,” Agbakoba said in a letter to the National Assembly.
Urging members of the National Assembly “to override Mr President and enact 2018 Electoral Act.”, the lawyer said the President’s claim that INEC was not prepared for the technological innovations proposed by the bill were untrue, as the Commission had partly used the card reader in previous elections.
He said, “The 2015 elections were partly conducted by INEC using smart cards (card readers), but the Supreme Court held that smart cards are not allowed, not being included in the Electoral Act 2010.”
“The 2015 elections were also partly conducted by INEC using Incident Forms. In effect, smart cards and Incident Forms were both used to conduct 2015 elections.”
“INEC says it is familiar with the amendments contained in the 2018 Electoral bill. INEC has used smart cards at all elections from 2015. INEC has submitted an election budget which provides for smart cards and transmission equipment,”
He argued that the decline of the Electoral Act would give way to “a lot of controversy about the use of Incident Forms, as it enabled non-accredited persons to vote, questioning the credibility of the elections.”
“In order to remove constraints that will impact the credibility of future elections, such as 2019, the Electoral Act 2010 was amended by the 2018 Bill, to formalise the legal basis of the smart cards which was already in use for elections by INEC anyway.”
Agbakoba said the 2018 Electoral Bill if signed will “also introduce the extremely important procedure of transmitting results of votes from polling units by electronic means. Electronic transmission will remove rigging and enhance the credibility of the vote count.”
Also speaking on the issue, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Trust (PT), Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, accused the two dominant political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of playing politics with the nation’s stability through the way and manner they are handling the Electoral Bill 2018.
At an interaction with journalists in Abuja, Olawepo-Hashim noted that rather than present the outlook of statesmen, leaders of the two parties are rather obsessed with personal gains.
The PT candidate told reporters that the President’s refusal to give accent to the Electoral Bill, passed by the National Assembly was an indication that the main actors in the Nigerian polity have fallen below standards.
“The President is conducting himself like a typical Nigerian politician of the era of political decline, rather than behaving as a patriot that I have always thought he is. By his actions, he is simply saying ‘let me benefit from the fraudulent process for my 2019 bid. You can push for the new law in 2023 when I will not be contesting,” Olawepo-Hashim stated.
He further said: “It is regrettable that with the spiralling poverty in the land, insurgency by Boko Haram, violence in the North East and North West, the incipience of Shite rebellion due to high handedness, massive insecurity and bloodletting in various states, Nigeria may be damaged beyond redemption in four years should we all succumb to the plot of the APC to hand themselves a fresh term through a faulty process.”
Olawepo-Hashim said that the PDP-led legislature had ample time to correct the perceived lacuna in the Electoral Act 2010, which they had created in the first instance, but are rather distracting the polity with it.
He said: “In the task of nation-building, political leaders sometimes have to rise above the fray and take decisions in the national interest, even when it does not seem to benefit from it. Some of us did this before. In 2000, when some of our colleagues wanted to change our two-year tenure to four years, I led the opposition to this, even though I would have been a beneficiary of that exercise as a National Executive Committee (NEC) member.”
The PT presidential candidate called on the electorate and the entire citizens of Nigeria not to be discouraged from participating in the next polls as a result of the antics of the APC and PDP.
He regretted that since what he called the “garrison” election in Osun State and the unfortunate decline of assent to the Electoral Bill, the APC has been trying to spread fear in the hearts of would-be voters that their votes will not count.
He however said that the PT is a product of the struggle for democracy, adding that the populace knows what to do in the event of anyone trying to hold on to power, irrespective of the people’s desire, saying: “We are a party for the people and we shall stand by them all the time.”
Olawepo-Hashim added: “The path of honour is for the President to commit himself to a transparent poll and ensure to ignore the counsel of palace courtiers and political war mongers intent on moving the country in the path of further destruction, God forbid.”
“Next year is Nigeria’s hour of glory, and we will not allow anyone to prevent the glory of God from shinning on the nation. We have come a long way as a nation and Nigeria is no longer an entity that can be towed with, especially with the level of sacrifices our people have made,” he said.