INEC has stated that it has put in place measures that will make it impossible to rig the 2019 general election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State says the Commission developed a foolproof system to eliminate, under-aged voters, manipulation of results and rigging of the 2019 general elections. Patrick Andrew brings excerpt of interview.
What is the essence of the current verification of voter register?
The Electoral Act provides for that. Besides, it will us to arrive at the authentic registered voters for the 2019 general elections. At the end of the exercise, the Commission will give satisfied copies to political parties so that they will know what the total figure of the registered voters for the entire country, state by state, ward by ward, polling unit by polling unit. But what is most important now is in view of all the issues around under aged persons, ineligible persons and people who were brought from other communities, an authentic voter register is necessary.
We have spent enormous resources to ensure that the preliminary voter register is taken to the polling units. Now Nigerians should go to the polling units to check their names and addresses of those registered to vote at that polling unit.
INEC has held meetings with security agencies and many wonder are those meetings achieving the kind of results that INEC would love to have in the light of the role security played in the last three elections?
Well, in other jurisdiction USA for instance, you saw the election that just took place and in the UK and other parts of the world, the electoral process is built on trust and that is why when you travel out to the USA to observe election while welcoming you they say ‘welcome to the celebration of American democracy’.
But in Nigeria when you are talking about election it is as if you are preparing for war and this is a sad commentary for us and that is where the issue of security comes in. Outside Nigeria security does not have a special role to play in election, in fact Election Day is like any other normal day. But here in our country, you have heard about even the Commissioner of Police and the hierarchy of the National Security Adviser getting involved in election matters.
Regrettably, even the reprobate elites are doing everything to create the impression as if election is all about war. Sadly, their children, their family members are never involved as a matter of fact by December they are going to take their family members out of this country. And so security has become a major issue and that is why we have been having inter-agency consultative security meetings.
For us (INEC), we are engaging them because a successful election will be determined by the neutrality of the umpire who is on the driver’s seat, the neutrality of security agencies, the role of the judiciary because you could see the pre-election election matters that are coming up now. Of course you know the outcome of primaries and how they are handled determined the shape of the general election.
Security is a binary subject, it is either there is security or no security. Our message to or engagement with the security agencies is ‘this election will come and go, when the history of the 2019 elections like previous elections is written will you want to be on the foot note?
Will your contribution lead to the advancement of democracy or to bring it down? As umpire-the INEC- I can tell you that we will stand tall, mighty in defence of the procedure for this election because two basic indisia are used to measure the credibility level of any election which are processe indicators and outcome indicators.
On the part of INEC, we are going to conduct an election that will meet the legitimate expectation of Nigerian people by ensuring that the vote of the people. First materials will be delivered to all polling units, and Nigerians should go there and audit those materials in terms of the Result Sheets, yes voters but I am specifically referring to party agents must be there.
For instance, in the presidential election where there are 120000 polling units, these agents must be there, observers both foreign and local will be there. We have gone to a level such that we now used customised papers whereby you cannot take one ballot paper from place to another, card reader will be used and there will be no incident form in the 2019 general elections.
Yes, at all there will no incident form in 2019. We have redesigned our voter register just in case we have any issue about authenticating the bio-data of an individual. The way we have designed our register it will be incidented on that register, at best we will recapture you at that point.
Every voter with incident?
No, that is only those who have issues with their biometric in our voter register. In fact, we have enhanced the card reader to help. We are saying in the likely event that a voter or we have issues with authenticating your biometric, we shall incident it in the register which we have redesigned and there are some columns we have designed, secondly we are saying that we can recapture you immediately. So the incident form that was used to sabotage the card reader is no longer going to be used.
In any case, all the elections that we have conducted in recent times and we have conducted well over 190 constituent elections in the country so far in none have we used incident form. So, there will no incident form in the 2019 general elections.
In the US election we saw how quickly the result was announced, but why is our case different?
As a matter of fact we have made tremendous progress. Whether that of Anambra, Ekiti or Osun States that we conducted it wasn’t up to 24 hours when results were released. Can you compare that with the ordinary primaries of 1000 or little more delegates conducted by political parties that they used days or numbers of hours to count just few votes? No, within 24 hours we have released results. Will you be considered the regulator or supervisor of political parties?
No, we don’t want to micro managed political parties. We supervise and conduct elections.
But you were supposed to monitor political parties?
Yes, we do that by virtue of section 25 of the Electoral Act. The first duty of a political party in a democracy is the presentation of candidate for an election. As a matter of fact one of the fundamentals of liberal democracy is the fact the general election that we conduct is just an affirmation of the candidates of political parties.
And so we have developed a template to bring credibility and allow for internal party democracy. Unlike what us to happen before when an INEC Commissioner just said to be present when the parties are conducting primaries and he just relies on the opinion of the party.
Now, first you must show us that there is a proper panel for the conduct of your primaries as recognised by law, there must a venue, time and programme, we have about 14 items on the template which now forms the template of reporting what happened at elections conducted by parties for the selection of their candidates for the main or general elections.
It details on proceedings such as motion was moved. But the motion moved, was there voting, was there counting, was there a return? Who was returned? On the basis of that, having fulfilled section 27, that you can now go to section 31 of the Electoral Act to submit the list of your candidates or candidate. So to the extent that we are asked to do that we have done our best.
But the question really was, was INEC effective in monitoring the conduct of parties’ primaries?
Yes, of course. And what do you mean by effectiveness? First, INEC must be present to observe procedures and all the places these exercises took place we have our reports. All we need to do if we are called upon is to bring our report as regards what happened or what did not happened, that’s it.
The important this is we are not political parties, if they like let them bring anybody they want we shall meet in Philippi but they must follow due process.
What is the Phillippi?
It is the Election Day. You will swim or sink with your candidate on the day of the election because we have developed a robust process. Some of the errors you used to see you can’t see them anymore because you can’t manipulate or undermine the process the way it used to be before. The level of accountability process is strong. So we are waiting for all the political parties because we have midwifed a strong process and the process is very important because the process that we have developed is to meet what is called anticipated reaction.
What is the process of substituting a candidate?
Section 33 of the Electoral Act, having regard to our historical past have, made the points that parties shall not substitute a candidate except in an event of death or voluntary withdrawal.
Which one is voluntary?
That is if the party writes INEC.
What happened in a situation where the candidate writes to INEC denying that he had withdrawn his candidacy given the fact that it is the party that submits the name to INEC, how do you handle that?
Section 35 of the Electoral Act makes it very clear. It says in effect that a candidate whose name has been substituted by virtue of Section 31 by a political party and that wishes to withdraw shall do that in writing signed by himself and delivered by the party to INEC.
It is the party that sponsors the candidate that will have to submit the letter to us. However, no party can a write in this regard to INEC by virtue of Section 31 and it testifies that if you want to change a candidate without that coming from the candidate the action is null and void.
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