With less than two years to the 2023 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has proposed to buy about 200,000 electronic voting machines to cater for the 176,846 Polling Units in the country.
As such, the agency’s Electronic Voting Implementation Committee has been reconstituted and has commenced work.
The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barrister Festus Okoye, said yesterday that a team of INEC’s in-house engineers were currently evaluating proposals submitted by 49 companies, both local and foreign, for the supply of the machines.
The commission said its engineering team would consider factors such as the machines’ ruggedness and design before short-listing any of the companies.
Okoye said, “As of today, we have 176,846 Polling Units in the country, and each polling unit must be serviced by at least one electronic voting machine. The commission must also acquire redundancies or backups.
“The decision on the number to acquire will be taken by the commission the moment a decision on the machines is taken and the constitutive legal framework amended to accommodate additional use of technology in the electoral process. But we are looking at and proposing around 200,000 machines.”
Asked how many companies had been invited to present supply proposals, Okoye said, “The commission has not invited and short-listed any company for the purpose of supplying the electronic voting machines.
“A total of 49 companies were invited for a Request for Information demonstration. Our in-house engineers are evaluating all the submissions made during the demonstration and will advise the commission on issues of design and ruggedness (fit for purpose),” he added.
The commission stated that companies that came for the RFI demonstration were from Nigeria, the Netherlands, China, the United States, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and India.
“At the appropriate time, the short-listing and selection of companies that may supply or fabricate the electronic voting machines will be subjected to due process requirements and the Procurement Act. As of today, no decision has been taken relating to the manufacturers or suppliers,” Okoye said.
Asked the reason for the delay in short-listing the successful companies, the INEC commissioner cited factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic, expansion of voter access to Polling Units, and the constitutive legal instrument backing up the deployment of e-voting machines in the electoral process.
Okoye said the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration exercise had taken a lot of the commission’s attention, adding that an Electronic Voting Implementation Committee had been reconstituted and had commenced work.
“A new timeline is being considered for the implementation of the project,” Okoye added.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had said during the 2021 budget defence before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters on November 4, 2020, that the commission would deploy the electronic voting machines “very soon,” possibly beginning with the Anambra governorship poll scheduled to hold in November this year.
However, the commission has been seeking an amendment of the legal framework that would enable electronic voting, noting that it remained committed to introducing electronic voting machines in the electoral process to replace the manual system that had put the commission under heavy logistics burden, including the printing of electoral papers and hiring of thousands of ad hoc staff, among others.
Although there had been divided opinions on whether Nigeria was ripe for electronic voting, Yakubu said at the inauguration of the 1999 Constitution Review Committee of the House of Representatives in October, 2020, that elections in the country were “too manual, expensive, cumbersome and archaic.”
He added that “the encumbrance of the deployment of full technology in elections should be removed.”
Yakubu also recently said at a public hearing on the Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari that the timetable for the 2023 general election would be released in November, 2021.
Meanwhile, ahead of the Anambra State governorship election slated for November 6, INEC said it had begun repairing its destroyed facilities in the state, and replacing some of its non-sensitive materials affected by the destructions.
Gunmen had in the past few months launched attacks on INEC and other government facilities, particularly in the South-East.
The gunmen burnt the INEC office in Anambra State on May 23.
During the attack, the commission stated that it lost its Collation Centre, seven utility vehicles, and 50 per cent of all non-sensitive materials.
However, INEC said it had started rebuilding its office to enable it to conduct the governorship election taking place in the state in less than five months from now.
Okoye, said, “The security situation in the country is fluid. The commission, in conjunction with the security agencies, will continue to evaluate the security situation of the country.
“We have started the process of rebuilding our burnt structures and facilities in Anambra State. We are also replacing some of the non-sensitive materials destroyed during the attack on the commission’s State Headquarters Office on May 23, 2021.
“Also, some of the communities have offered to rebuild or are already rebuilding some of our offices burnt or vandalised during the #EndSARS protest. We are evaluating and auditing the rest of the facilities and making projections relating to the cost for their repairs and or replacement.”
Asked if there would be Continuous Voter Registration in areas in the South-East where INEC offices had been burnt, Okoye said the commission would start the CVR with online registration, which he said would commence on June 28, after which the commission would begin physical registration in the state and local government offices on July 19.
In preparation for the online voter registration, the commission said it had acquired and launched the Voter Enrolment Device, noting that registrants with no legal disability would start their registration online and complete it at the designated registration centres, where their biometrics would be captured.
On whether the CVR would also hold in insurgency-ravaged areas in the North, Okoye said, “We have adopted a gradual and graduated approach to the challenges.”
“We will work with the stakeholders and the security agencies in all parts of the country to protect our personnel and equipment. We are conscious of the expectations of the Nigerian people and will work round the clock for the success of the exercise,” he added.
On general preparations for the 2023 elections, INEC said it had worked “hard” on its processes and procedures and “striving to build a democratic and independent institution.”
The commission also urged political parties to become more democratic and inclusive.
“The bulk of the matters in court relates to challenges with the organisation and practices of the different political parties. We must strive to clean up the party process and hold them to the same standards like the commission,” Okoye said.
‘41% Of Nigerians Living With HIV’
A report has revealed that about 41per cent of persons from Lagos, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Benue, Oyo and Kano states in Nigeria are now living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
This is even as Nigeria is reportedly the country with the second largest number of persons living with the infection totalling 1.9million, according to the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).
In a statement made available to newsmen by the Hacey Health Initiative, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund Youth Participatory Platform (UNFPA YPP), it was gathered that over 100,000 youths were empowered in four states in the South-West region through the “Beyond Treatment for Us” (BT4U) Project.
The BT4U project aims to raise awareness, train, and grant young people access to available sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services.
The statement further explained that globally, HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of mortality among young people and according to UNAIDS, adding that in 2020, 37.7million people were living with HIV, “and of these people, 36.0million are adults, while 1.7million are children between ages 0–14 years.”
The Coordinator at UNFPA/YPP, George Adjete, said, “Apart from reaching over 100,000 people through social media, the project provided Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and HIV/AIDS counselling services to 100 young people. In addition, BT4U trained over 300 adolescents on menstrual hygiene.
“The project also provided 63 young people with free HIV testing services.
“Fifty young people trained on evidence-based SRH policy advocacy, 100,591 young people reached with information and support via social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook).”
The project was initiated in July, 2021, in response to the new political declaration on AIDS 2021, and the emergence of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
You’re Mere Attention Seeker, PDP Govs’ Forum Blasts Umahi
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has described Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State as an attention seeker, floating in imaginary presidential interests.
A statement by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, since Umahi, out of his personal ambition, joined the All Progressives Congress (APC), while still sitting on the mandate of the PDP in Ebonyi State, he has become pathetically confused and disoriented, having realized that he joined a “one chance” bus, with strange and deceitful co-travellers.
According to him, it is clear that Governor Umahi is now politically floating and seeks to use an unwarranted attack on governors elected on the platform of the PDP to actualize his desperation for public relevance.
He said the PDP finds it very pathetic that, having mortgaged his conscience, over his self-confessed love for the oppressive administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, Umahi is manifestly accommodating the daily incidences of killings, wanton destruction of property, kidnapping and other acts of terrorism going on in Ebonyi State and the nation at large under the APC.
“The PDP charges Governor Umahi to show his claimed commitment to the South-East by jettisoning his personal ambition and summoning the courage to call out President Buhari for his divisiveness, injustice, incompetence, treasury looting and insecurity that have become the hallmark of his failed administration.
“On zoning, our party urges Governor Umahi to focus on his fizzling APC and leave the PDP alone. By now, Governor Umahi ought to know that the PDP is a party of due process and inclusiveness and that all interests within our party will collectively and peacefully take decision on zoning when the time comes,” he said.
According to him, Umahi is expected to take his stampeding agenda on zoning to his APC but he would not do so because he knows that Nigerians will vote out the APC and usher in the PDP in 2023 so as to bring an end to a life of misery, economic hardship, mass killings, terrorism and divisiveness brought to our nation by the APC.
Similarly, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum has revealed that a decision on zoning of political offices would be made by the party at the right time before the party’s convention scheduled for October 30.
PDP and its governors’ forum disclosed this in separate statements issued, last Saturday in Abuja, in reaction to a comment by Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State on the issue of zoning of presidency by the party ahead of the PDP national convention.
Umahi had accused the PDP of not being ready to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the southern region of the country.
The PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF), in a statement by its Director-General, Hon. C.I.D. Maduabum, said that the forum was outraged by Umahi, who left the PDP for the All Progressives Congress (APC), attempting “to turn truth on its head.”
Maduabum urged Umahi, who he alleged to have sabotaged PDP in the 2019 presidential election in the state, to continue his role in the APC and leave the PDP alone.
On the issue of zoning, Maduabum urged Umahi to face his issues in the APC and not drag the PDP and its governors into it.
“PDP is an independent political party with workable structures and method of doing things. It is not an appendage of the APC or indeed of any other association or group.
“The PDP will take its decision on the issue of zoning political offices at the appropriate time. Even the APC has not taken any decision yet on zoning.
“Different groups and interests are advancing arguments to defend their positions as is required in a democracy. At the end of the day, decisions will be taken by each political party.”
Maduabum stated that the PDP was single minded in its resolve to regain power in 2023 and would craft strategies to accomplish the same in the national interest and survival of Nigeria’s democracy.
Retirement: Teachers Demand Removal Of NUT Chairman In Rivers
Some public school teachers in Rivers State have staged a protest against the state Chairman of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Lucky Nkpogene, demanding his removal from office as the chairman of the union following his retirement from service.
The aggrieved teachers matched through the streets of Port Harcourt with some inscriptions like, “NUT is for serving teachers, not for retirees”, “Nkpogene respect the law”.
The protesters said they were angry that same Nkpogene who “chased out his predecessor from office on account of retirement” has continued to occupy the office of state NUT chairman even after his own retirement.
Some of the protesters, who spoke to journalists in Port Harcourt, called on the state Ministry of Education and Senior Secondary Schools Management Board to direct Nkpogene to “immediately vacate the office and handover the office to his deputy”.
They also called on “relevant authorities” and other stakeholders to urgently intervene while threatening to embark on a mass protest to the Ministry of Education and schools board to press down their demands if the NUT chairman does not leave office within seven days.
Addressing the protesters, a representative of the state government who received the protest letter, commended the protesters for their “peaceful approach”, and promised to submit the letter to appropriate authorities.
When contacted, the state Chairman of NUT, Comrade Lucky Nkpogene, said the union has precedent in a situation as such.
He said those against his removal were those “who contested election against me and lost.
“If there is anyone who should leave, it should be my deputy.
“I have told all of them, let them come together, let us build the union but they have ill-mind”, he claimed.
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