…Welcomes Amendment of Electoral Act to Provide for Electronic Transmission of Results The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to review the current election security framework in order to check thuggery, violence, ballot box snatching and other electoral malpractices. This is coming against the backdrop of its endorsement of current moves by the National
…Welcomes Amendment of Electoral Act to Provide for Electronic Transmission of Results
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to review the current election security framework in order to check thuggery, violence, ballot box snatching and other electoral malpractices. This is coming against the backdrop of its endorsement of current moves by the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to provide for the use of technology…
“We must review the deployment of armed security to the outer perimeters so that they are readily available to counter the movement of thugs with the intention of disrupting elections through the intimidation of voters; harassment of election officials, observers and the media or snatching of election materials,” says the Commission’s Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting held on Wednesday at the INEC headquarters, Abuja, Yakubu, observes that since the purpose of security deployment during elections is to protect the voters, election officials and materials, accredited observers, journalists and to safeguard the integrity of the processes, the posting of security personnel in all future elections should be tied to specific locations and activities.
According to him, all security personnel deployed to polling units and collation centres should be identified by name, just as INEC officials, in order to enhance transparency and to enable the Commission and security agencies know who to contact in specific locations during elections when the need arises, and who to hold responsible for the proper conduct of election in those locations.
Says he: “The current electoral security framework provides for deployment of personnel in three concentric circles. In the innermost circle are the polling units where unarmed policemen are deployed while in the outer circles, armed security personnel are deployed to mount roadblocks, patrols and provide rapid response in case of any emergency at the polling units or collation centres.
Prof. Yakubu averred that any arrest of offenders must be followed by a thorough investigation to ensure that thugs and their sponsors are penalised under the law. He affirmed that while the Commission has no power under the law to cancel elections, “it will not hesitate to suspend elections anywhere its officials report the disruption of the process or threats to the lives of voters, election officials and observers by acts of thuggery or community connivance.”
Continuing further, he says, “The Commission will not return to the affected areas for as long as it takes until we are guaranteed adequate safety for all those involved in the process. We must never allow violence and thuggery to define our elections. The Commission will submit proposals to the National Assembly on how the electoral legal framework can be amended to sanction violators and further empower the Commission in this respect.”
The INEC Chairman told the gathering that the Commission had, ahead of the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, appraised the security situation in the two states using its Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool (EVMAT), which identified some flashpoints. The assessment, he stated, was shared with the security agencies.
“We also had several stakeholders’ meetings in Yenagoa and Lokoja involving the security agencies. At these meetings, stakeholders across the board expressed concern about the possibility of violence. The security agencies made their own assessment based on which they arrived at the numbers of personnel to be deployed as well as other operational details in order to secure the process. At this meeting, we shall review the efficacy of security deployment in relation to field experience on election day, in order to determine what we got right and what we did not,” he says.
On the deployment of technology, Yakubu expressed delight at the interest shown by the Senate Committee on INEC to amend the extant laws to allow for the use of technology for elections, revealing that the Committee had already shared the Electoral Act Amendment Bill with the Commission for its input.
His words: “We are excited by some of the new provisions concerning electronic transmission of results. We are glad that the electoral legal framework is removing some of the encumbrances to the full deployment of technology for the improvement of the electoral process in Nigeria, especially result collation and management. The Commission will work with the National Assembly for the expeditious passage of the amendment to the electoral legal framework so that work can begin in earnest to make future elections in Nigeria more technology-based. It is long overdue, it is doable, it is achievable and it is inevitable.”
The INEC Chairman also said that the Commission had already scheduled re-run elections to hold simultaneously in 28 constituencies across 12 states of the federation on 25th January 2020.
Deputy Senate President, Mr Ovie Omo-Agege, earlier on Monday, said he had introduced a bill for comprehensive amendment of the Electoral Act No. 6 of 2010. Omo-Agege said this at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room Stakeholders Forum on Elections, organised by the coalition of more than 70 civil societies in Abuja.
He said the bill, co-sponsored with Sen. Abubakar Kyari of Borno North Senatorial District, was now making its way to public hearing, having scaled Second Reading with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate.
Omo-Agege says the amendment bill on electoral malpractice “is a decisive response to a plethora of our Supreme Court’s decision inviting the National Assembly to make sensible amendments to the Electoral Act. And I believe it is responsible for us to take the apex court’s constructive guidance on issues that fundamentally affect our democracy.
“This apart, Section 153 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, specifically and expressly empowers INEC to “issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effects to the provisions of this Act and for its administration thereof.
“The pervasive non-compliance with the Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals, would carry clear consequences for people who think violating electoral due process is a rewarding exercise.”
According to him, “The proposed Bill to amend the Electoral Act would focus on resolving issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.’’
Omo-Agege said that the bill would also mandate INEC to publish the Voters’ Register for public scrutiny at every Registration Area and on its website, at least seven days before a general election.
It also mandates INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that losses its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement or new candidate.
He said the bill would grant agents of political parties the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of election, define over-voting to include situations where “total votes cast also exceed total number of accredited voters’’.
According to the deputy senate president, it also provides greater clarity and transparency in the process of reaching the final announcement of election results, starting with sorting of ballots, counting of votes among others.
Omo-Agege said the bill would mandate INEC to record and keep relevant detailed information of results sheets, ballot papers and other sensitive electoral materials used in an election, with clear consequences for violation. He said the bill also provide sanctions for giving false information on registration of a political party, and that failure by INEC and others to comply with any provision of the Act carried clear and adequate sanctions.
INEC Chairman, who was represented by Mr. Festus Okoye, national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education, said the Commission was committed to electoral reforms that would strengthen the power and value of the vote. He said the Commission would work assiduously with critical stakeholders in the electoral process in providing clarity, removing ambiguities, plugging existing lacuna in laws and constitutionally implementing those aspects of the law that guaranteed the credibility of elections.
“The Commission will definitely send its proposals to the National Assembly to clearly state aspects of the existing Law it supports, aspects that need further retooling, and new proposals that will strengthen the electoral process and the regulatory functions of the Commission.’’
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami said the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration was committed to tackling electoral fraud and violence through the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission. Malami, who was represented by Ms Juliet Ibekaku, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Ethics and Justice, said the government was already working with the 9th National Assembly with a view to ensuring an early passage of amendments to the Electoral Act and the Election Offences Commission Bill into law.
Earlier, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said the objective of the event was to discuss the current state of the electoral environment in the country. Nwankwo said it is also aimed at making recommendations and suggestions that would improve the political and electoral process in Nigeria. “We believe INEC has the responsibility to be a key driver of the much needed change in the electoral sector,’’ he added.