INEC Unfolds Plans Towards 2015

No Comments » February 24th, 2014 posted by // Categories: Elections 2015



 

GUARDIAN

INEC Unfolds Plans Towards 2015

  • Written by Gbenga Akinfenwa

Voters• Over 60 Million Permanent Cards Produced, Awaiting Distribution

• We Have Prosecuted About 200 Electoral Offenders

As political activities gather steam, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is confident that it will deliver free, fair and credible elections in Ekiti and Osun states, as well as in 2015. At an interactive section with the media last week in Lagos, the commission, represented by Dr. Chris Iyimoga, national commissioner and acting chair, Information and Publicity Committee and Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, director, Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and CSO Liaison, unveiled the Commission’s programmes for 2014 and 2015. Gbenga Akinfenwa reports.

On Continuous Voter Registration (CVR)

AS we prepare, we have scheduled the distribution of the Permanent Voters’ Card for Osun and Ekiti for March 5th – 7th in both states, we also have scheduled the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) for both states on the 12th through the March 17th and before this, there will be displays. This is part of the problem we have in Anambra for instance, when we are moving into any state and we say we are doing voters registration, we go to each poling unit (PU) and display, so what people are expected to do is to go and verify if their names are there or not. Since the permanent cards are ready, these will be given out and those who don’t have will get theirs during the CVR.

On holding all elections in one day

We all recall that during the 2011 elections, we had three separate days, the first was for the National Assembly, the second for the Presidential, the third was for the governorship and the state Houses of Assembly, but we decided to cluster this into two for the 2015 General Elections. One of the reasons we did that is, we considered that doing the elections in one day would be too daunting a task for the commission. We do realise that the level of illiteracy will make it cumbersome for most electorates to be able to make their choices when you have to select five separate candidates in a particular Polling Unit in a day.

I think we should put that question back to ourselves, how long will we wait for the level of literacy to increase so that people become more enlighten and not get carried away with candidates making promises which they don’t fulfill; next time they come again and when they cannot give reasons why they want to be there, they come with thugs to disrupt election and people blame INEC. We have a collective responsibility; we must show passion as citizens of this country to ensure that the process becomes not just INEC’s but the responsibility of this country, because if we allow any politician or interest to mar the process, it also affects our generation and us.

On preparations for 2015

Immediately after the 2011 General Elections, we had a number of lessons, which we learnt. We needed to consolidate on the few gains we made and we also noticed a number of lapses and with that, the commission looked at three basic areas; the structure of the commission, the policy and the need to plan properly.

In terms of the structure, we hope that we develop policies that will help guide us as we work towards 2015. We also realized that the key thing for any election is to have very credible voters register, that is why we went through the use of the biometrics we use in 2011, to consolidate these details and ensure that multiple registrars were eliminated and could make a perfect register – without a prefect register, there cannot be credible elections and that is why we are ensuring we live up to this challenge.

Very soon we will be going on with the CVR, and we believe that the nationwide process will commence as soon as we have all the gadgets and facilities around. In 2011 we had a near failed situation when we started with the DDC machines and then we realised that the batteries didn’t last for a certain period as against the number of voters that we had, so before the commencement of the nationwide CVR, we want to ensure that we take care of every detail so there will be no cause for alarm when we commence and citizens who turned 18 years and others who did not have the opportunity to exercise their rights in 2011 or who had to relocate from one state to another can tidy up their registration processes.

We also plan to issue all the permanent voter cards to all the citizens who have registered before the 2015 general elections because then, the commission is going to put to use the card readers – what we intend to do is that with your permanent voters card as you come to the queue to cast your vote, your card will be taken, swiped on the card reader and that will show whether you are the authentic owner of that card, it will act as a form of verification of the authenticity of your card.

We also developed a number of regulations and guidelines on the electoral process, this we think will give us better output.

Finally on the 2011 experiences, we have made a number of recommendations to the National Assembly; this has to do with the legal framework. There are certain parts of the electoral processes, which we think is a hindrance to the proper conduct of our activities. The National Assembly has assured us that this will be done and we believe this will be done by July this year.

Despite arrangement for preparations, we do have a number of challenges. Key among them is the issue of security; we all know that if you have visited an election poll, you would have noticed some element of thugery or violence, there are stories of ballot box snatching and all sorts of illegalities; this is a problem to the process. When we came in, we established an inter-agency consultative committee on election security and that means from the police, to the army and air force, we all came together as a team to put resources, heads and intelligence together towards security issues before, during and after elections. This has worked out perfectly for us; we also have them at the state and local levels.

Funding is another matter. When INEC sets a budget people talk about the billions budgeted, of course the doors are open for people to make contributions, ask questions and verify what these funds are meant for. The language our politicians use can some times not be accommodating and friendly and you find out that there is a bandwagon effect where you have supporters literarily imitating them and this brings up the kind of violence that surfaces during elections. There is also lack of internal party democracy – the choice of candidates is usually not within the ambit of the electoral management body and a section of the constitution says it is the duty of INEC to monitor from the primaries till when the candidate is shown as the one that represents the party. On the other hand you find out that the party selects who represents them before giving the name to INEC and they do so within 3-4 days before elections and you cannot tidy your ballot papers till you get papers from the party headquarters.

Another challenge is inactive participation of the citizenry; there is this situation that after people have been selected, there is a cry that some people forced the candidates on them, which would have been prevented if citizens participate actively.

 

For the prosecution of electoral offenders, for now, INEC is saddled with the responsibility to handle such and it is a huge task. Usually, when you visit PUs, you find one fracas or the other, INEC cannot handle it all; when there is an electoral crime, it is the responsibility of the police or army to take full process of that and once you don’t have them documented and the processes legally taken, there is no way you can prosecute offenders and that is why if we don’t have a body to take care of these issues in future, the fear is that they will continue to happen.

On permanent voter cards

It is possible for us to deliver the permanent voters cards before 2015, we have the go ahead to produce these cards and as we speak, we have captured over 72.5 million people in 2011 after the checks and balances, the figures have dropped to a large extent. In each of the elections we conducted, if we say 1.3 million people registered in 2011 at the end of the day after these processes you find a situation where we have about 60 – 70,000 double registrations of those who were captured and were not supposed to be captured twice or more. I want to assure you that over 60 million of these cards are produced and are awaiting distribution.

During the CVR, if you register two weeks before the elections, those are few cases where we may not have permanent voters card and then you can use your temporary card, but if you did register in 2011, you will have your permanent card, this is an assurance. The distribution of these permanent voters’ cards will be done very soon.

If a citizen who resides in Lagos is registered in one of the PUs in Ikeja and by September he was posted out of Lagos to Plateau, he should still be allowed to vote because it is his right. What he will do is to approach the resident commissioner in Plateau State with his card which he registered in Lagos, whether permanent or temporary, he will be given a form to fill and data captured, (remember there is CVR going on). When his data is captured in Plateau, the one in Lagos is deleted and so he submits the old voter card to the Plateau commission and he is issued a temporary card pending when the permanent one is produced for you, this is to make sure that if your duty or schedule warrants your moving around the country, you still have the right to vote.

Dealing with electoral malpractices

Ballot papers are going to be codified and given in accordance with the total number of people in every PU. For instance, we talk about 120, 000 PUs nationwide, we have seen that in some PU’s we have had about 2,000 people coming to vote, that will not work and so at the end of the day we are splitting these to about 150,000 PUs. So for every PU we know the total number of people and ballot papers are going to be given in accordance with the number of voters for each PU. In other words, if a PU has 18 people, we can’t send 200 ballot papers to that PU. We are carrying along a number of lessons we have learnt which are very bitter lessons. When we talk about INEC, INEC is part of Nigeria but we do not say who are the Nigerians causing this – if we as citizens take it as a point of duty to check some of these elements that generate violence, it is our responsibility to know that our votes count and that the they must be protected. We should also assist in the process so that it is not just INEC that must be present everywhere, but to ensure you that if there are 18 voters in a particular PU, we do not have 50 ballot papers there.

Permanent voters cards for Osun and Ekiti like I said earlier are ready and must be distributed when the time comes, in the case of Anambra, like one of the voters said that he used the addendum register in 2011 and when we went for the CVR, instead of going to check, he had his voter card in his pocket, he did not go to confirm where these things were pasted, if indeed he was captured for the biometric process. You don’t wait for the election moment to do so, this is the moment people should go and confirm. It is true that not all those who did the CVR will have permanent voter cards, but for the over 73 million people who did, these will be distributed before the 2015 elections.

On monitoring campaigns

We are not here to defend the commission, naturally once I am elected for instance, as a member of the Senate, it is obvious that the activities I carry out from the day I am sworn in should indicate to my constituency that I am really representing them. If I am giving them clean water, building schools and roads, all these activities are technically campaigns, but when you have a situation where people mount billboards or place adverts, it is not INEC that says don’t do that, it is within the provisions in the Electoral Act that campaigns proper cannot commence until 90 days to the elections and ends 24hours before elections.

The use of the social media for campaigns is a very interesting point and one, which no one can control as of now, apart from the self-regulators by the owners like facebook, but no law can. We should campaign in accordance with the rules set by the law, if we don’t like the law then it should be amended but campaigns in public outside the law is not allowed.

Discipline for erring INEC Staff

INEC has no right to investigate, we can carry out disciplinary measures on officers we see engaging in actions that are wrong. For instance, the Anambra case is being handled by the security agencies and as investigations are going on, it is through such that those involved will be prosecuted. I don’t think in the history of this country, people have been prosecuted for electoral offences, but we can proudly beat our chest that as small as the number sounds, we have prosecuted about 200 people which no other commission has done. The police must carry out investigations properly and then offenders taken to court, we cannot do it alone, the law has its own input and we have ours.

On tenure and discipline of INEC commissioners/electoral officers

Their appointment is constitutional, and they can only be removed before their tenure expires if they are found guilty or wanting in the discharge of their duties. That can only be done by 2/3rd of the Senate making an address and sending to the president, the president cannot do it on his own.  If you have any evidence against any commissioner, please let us have it, we will either move him around or get him out. The electoral officer that was found wanting in discharge of his duties is presently being prosecuted by the commission, based on the investigations. INEC has been in the fore of calls for establishment of electoral offenders’ commission.

Situation in Northeast

We understand the security challenges in Yobe, Borno and others, but the commission cannot sit down and determine, we just have to remain optimistic that issues will be resolved before 2015.

 

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