INEC Reaffirms Independence, Restates Commitment to Deliver Credible Elections

INEC Reaffirms Independence, Restates Commitment to Deliver Credible Elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reaffirmed its independence and resolve to deliver a “fairer, freer and more credible general election” in 2019 in spite of daunting financial and logistical challenges of a bloated voters’ register that has now risen to 84 million, making it “by far the single biggest data on adult Nigerians

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reaffirmed its independence and resolve to deliver a “fairer, freer and more credible general election” in 2019 in spite of daunting financial and logistical challenges of a bloated voters’ register that has now risen to 84 million, making it “by far the single biggest data on adult Nigerians in the country, probably on the African continent” and the rise in the number of parties from 28 in 2015 to 91.

“INEC composed of 13 of the most accomplished Nigerians, with their records of integrity and courage at stake individually and collectively, stands ready to deliver an even fairer, freer and more credible general election than it did four years ago,” says its National Commissioner, Mr Mohammed Haruna in a statement titled “INEC In The Last Three Years” released in Abuja on Thursday.

Recalling that “Since 2015 INEC has conducted about 195 odd elections, including seven off-season governorship elections, about a dozen senatorial and two dozen federal constituency elections and scores of State Assembly and Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections.”

Dismissing allegations of partisanship by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Haruna who is also a member of INEC’s Information, Voter Education and Publicity Committee, reveals that “Out of these 195 odd elections only a handful have been successfully challenged in courts and in none of them did the courts order wholesale re-runs. Even more importantly, in a large number of the elections, notably the Ondo governorship election in which all contestants were senior lawyers, there were no litigations at all. Most important of all, victories at the polls have been shared across all the major parties including the ruling APC and opposition PDP and APGA.”

Says he: “INEC’s strict adherence to its procedures produced different winners and losers at different elections, it should be apparent to even the most casual political observer of our politics that the central directive principle of the Commission’s policies and programmes in the past three years is the dictum that “Sunlight is the best of disinfectants.””

Apart from defending its budget publicly which showed that a whopping 60 per cent is for salaries of the election officials, Haruna says, “INEC’s watchwords in being guided by this dictum have been inclusiveness, courage, openness and transparency. Hence, the Commission’s well-structured quarterly meetings with all the major stakeholders – the political parties, security agencies, civil society organisations, the media, development partners, etc. – to thoroughly discuss issues pertaining to its mandate, find solutions to them and through these robust discussions, secure the public’s buy-in of the solutions.”

“Among the Commission’s key innovations in furtherance of its mandates in the last three years are, first and foremost, the fixing of the dates of future general elections going forward from 2019 (in this case, the third Saturday of the February of every election year) and its subsequent issuance of the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Election on January 9. This was in line with the best global practices that allow long range planning by all stakeholders in elections.”

“Second, is its reintroduction of simultaneous accreditation and voting, in contrast to the practice in the immediate past of separating the two which was more prone to abuse. Third, is its implementation for the first time in the Commission’s history, of the constitutional and electoral provisions for continuous voter registration (CVR). Fourth, is its enhancement of existing 167,875 smart card readers (SCR) for authentication and verification of its biometric permanent voters’ card (PVC) in addition to procuring 27,327 new ones. This has led to continuous declines in the failure rate of the SCR in the elections it has conducted since 2015 such that today the rate is down to a negligible single digit.”

“Last, but by no means the least, there is its introduction of Form EC 60E, the so-called peoples’ result sheet. This is a poster-size copy of certified results of vote counting announced at polling units (PUs) posted on walls or similar surfaces so that the results can be captured by anyone with a phone which has a camera. This will enable any interested person or political party collate results of an election well ahead of INEC’s official announcements of same. This is meant to make it well-nigh impossible to change the results between PUs and collation centres.”

Haruna posits that “These five innovations are by no means the only ones INEC has introduced in the last three years in consolidation and improvement of the system it inherited from Professor Attahiru Jega. Suffice it to say that between them alone the Commission today has been transformed into arguably the country’s most efficient and respected public institution in service delivery.”

Explaining INEC’s daunting financial and logistical obstacles, the National Commissioner says, the ideal level to have conducted the Voters Register (VR) was at the Pooling Units (PU). “At roughly 120,000 PUs in the country and with five staff per PU each required for the exercise, the Commission would have needed over 600,000, mostly ad-hoc, staff and over 1.20 billion Naira per day for their emoluments alone,” disclosing that INEC’s entire budget for the year was 45.5 billion.

“The next best option would have been the ward level, or what we call Registration Areas (RAs). We have 8,809 of these. The cost at that level would have been over 20 billion Naira for the period, i.e. nearly half our annual budget. Thus, we were left with no choice but to conduct the exercise at the level of the 774 Local Governments in the country. Though this cost was affordable, it was by no means chicken change.”

“We then commenced the registration of Nigerians who came of age (18) last year and presented themselves at the registration centers, from April 17 and ended it on August 31 this year, altogether a little over 16 months. In addition, we recorded those who had lost their PVCs and those whose cards were defaced or whose particulars were wrongly captured from the 2014 exercise. We also captured those who wanted their PVCs transferred from where they voted in 2015 to their new areas of residence.”

“Consequently, the exercise captured over 14.5 million new voters. Added to the roughly 70 million captured in 2014, we are likely to have a gross total of over 84 million in the country by the time all the back-end cleaning up processes would have ended well ahead of the February 16 election. This would make our register of voters by far the single biggest data on adult Nigerians in the country, probably on the African continent. The PVCs of virtually all these voters have been printed and distributed to the states for collection.”

Decrying the party primaries that was characterised by acrimony, Haruna argues that “The most recent manifestation of the politicians’ lack of faith in each other and in democratic values as a class were the just concluded primaries of their parties. With hardly any exception, but particularly with the ruling APC and the leading opposition PDP, these primaries have been the most acrimonious in recent history.”

He reveals that “As at the time of this writing, INEC had been joined in over 560 court cases challenging the outcome of the primaries. It had also received 52 petitions and over 300 applications for Certified True Copies (CTC) of the reports of its staff who monitored the primaries in an apparent prelude to even more court cases.”

Since the last general election nearly four years ago, the political landscape has changed tremendously. Today the number of political parties has increased from 28 in 2015 to 91.

“As a result, the numbers of contestants for the country’s 1,558 constituencies – consisting of one presidential, 29 governorship (seven have since become off-season due to court orders), 109 senatorial, 360 House of Representatives, 991 Houses of Assembly and 68 FCT Area Councils – have exploded exponentially from those of 2015 to 73, 1,068, 1,886, 4,634 and 14,643 for the Presidency, Governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly, in that order. As at the time of this writing we had not finalized the tally for FCT Area Councils, the only Local Government whose elections INEC is mandated to conduct.”

Reaffirming INEC’s independence, Haruna contends that “It may, of course, be argued that an election management body, like a newspaper, is as good as its last outing and the Osun State governorship election, as INEC’s last major outing before next year’s general election, was not perfect. Certainly, it was not as good as, say, those of Ondo and Anambra States. Even then no fair-minded critic of the Commission would accuse it of being tardy, or worse still, of being an appendage of the ruling APC.”

“Were it so, it would not have had the courage to announce, as it did in early October, that APC had no candidate, save that of the Presidency, for all the elective offices in Zamfara State, because the party had failed to conduct proper primaries for its candidates for those offices by the Commission’s deadline of October 7.”

“The Commission would also not have had the courage earlier to have conducted a free, fair and credible impeachment process against Senator Dino Melaye in Kogi East which failed woefully in spite of the notorious fact that the Senator had become a painful thorn in APC’s flesh.”

While conceding that “Nepotism and geographical origin in the composition of INEC’s membership, as in the composition of any other organ, should, of course, be of public concern” he however argues that, “what should be of far greater concern is the character, diligence and competence of the members, not whose relations they are or where they come from.” On all three counts no one can accuse either INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu or National Commissioner, Mrs. Amina Zakari of “failure in the past or in the present,” he maintains.

“Each of them was the best graduating student of his/her class; the professor as the best overall graduating student of the university with a first class in History from Usman Danfodio University in 1985 and Mrs. Zakari as the best graduating student of her class with a second class upper in Pharmacy from Ahmadu Bello University in 1980. Before ABU, Mrs. Zakari had finished her secondary education as one of the best students from the once prestigious Queen’s College, Lagos.”

“Yakubu went on to earn his Masters from Cambridge in 1987 and his PhD from Oxford in 1991, making him a member of that rare breed of Oxbridge graduates.  He also earned his professorship in 1998 at a relatively tender age of 36,” Haruna says.

 

 

 

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