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INEC And The Burden Of Credible Elections

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Waking up with a big
burden could be quite uncomfortable. The burden, as it were, was not personal but concerns the task ahead of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in next month’s general elections in Nigeria.
Reflecting on the burden of INEC, there are more questions begging for answers. Have the electoral body learnt any lesson from her previous outings? Can INEC make the 2015 elections the best in its performance? Will the Attahiru Jega-led INEC conduct election that will herald the formation of a parallel government? Or will the 2015 polls mark the end of Nigeria’s corporate unity? Even more, is it not possible that INEC can disappoint all prophets of doom and failure concerning its conduct of the February polls? What do Nigeria and Nigerians stand to gain if INEC fails in this national assignment?
Emerging from those questions, is the realisation of how great the burden before the electoral body is to conduct a free, fair, non-violent and credible elections. To accomplish this task, INEC says it has planned and believed it will work. One of the INEC’s plans is the distribution of the permanent voter cards (PVCs) to eligible electorate. Less than four weeks to the February polls,  reports say about 25 per cent of  Nigerians are yet to collect their PVCs.
According to a coalition of 100 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) under the aegis of Love Your Country Initiative, the complaints over inadequate distribution of permanent voter cards will make the forthcoming elections less credible.
In a statement by its Chairman and Life Patron, Eze Maxwell Kanu and Vice Chairman, Mr Funmi Omosule, the 100 NGOs said about two states in the North and many people across the country have not collected their PVCs less than a month to the election, wondering what magic INEC would perform.
The concern of the 100 NGOs is that “if INEC could only distribute 75 per cent of the PVCs in more than one year, certainly INEC will not be able to distribute the remaining 25 per cent in just three weeks”. The fear is genuine, though it is not enough to justify the demand by the coalition on INEC to shift the February 14 general election by 30 days. Rather than solve the problem of what it called the “kangaroo election”, the poll shift by 30 days will not only justify the claim by the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the Peoples Democratic Party-led federal government plans to shift the electoral date for fear of losing the poll, but also heat up the polity, the consequences of which is unpredictable.
“Section 25 (6) of the Electoral Act 2010 states that any election to the office of the President shall be held on a date not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of the term of the office of the last holder of the office”. The section therefore makes it clear and possible for election to be held between 30 and 150 days before the swearing in of the next administration.
From all indications, the provisions of the Electoral Act on the subject matter is unambiqious, but attempt to shift the scheduled election dates will certainly cast doubt in the ability of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible polls. To avoid the fear of the unknown, INEC should work round the clock in ensuring that all eligible voters that are registered get their PVCs before the D-Day.
Equally worrisome is the reports of names of registered voters  allegedly omitted from the accreditation list. A situation where registered voters can not find their names on the accreditation list or wrongly misplaced from one polling unit to another as recorded in previous elections is not healthy enough. Such cases are most likely to disenfranchise legitimate voters from exercising their civic responsibilities.
Although every election has its challenges, on the accreditation list or misplacement of voter names, it is expected that the electoral body would have learnt its lesson from previous conduct of elections and garnered enough experiences to right the wrong of the past. Attahiru Jega and his team at the INEC should not waste time in rectifying the problems of for hitch-free elections.
One crop of individuals who services are indispensible in the conduct of the elections are members of the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC). Cases are bound where priority attention were not given to the welfare of the corp members recruited for the  elections. To leave the welfare of NYSC members involved in the elections in the hands of the political parties and their candidates make them (corp members) vulnerable to corrupt practices, which if not checked could mar the outcome of the polls.
It becomes necessary therefore that INEC must make adequate arrangement for the welfare of NYSC members and other ad-hoc staff for the election. Also important is the need for the electoral body to streamline properly the remuneration, the process of payment and the office(s) responsible for the welfare of the NYSC members so that they can be held accountable if they do not live up to expectation in the discharge of duties.
Getting the election well invariably starts with adequate welfare of the personnel involved in the polls, and that is why INEC should not only recruit credible hands from the NYSC fold but also be committed in catering for their welfare and security before and after the polls.
INEC cannot forget in a hurry the embarrassment it faced when the printing vendor(s) failed to deliver as at when due. Opinions may be divided that INEC suffered such fate because the process of awarding the printing contracts was not transparent or the electoral body failed to meet its side of the bargain.
Whatever the reason for the inability of the printing vendor(s) not to deliver on time in the past, Nigerians, this time around, would not accept any blame game in event of failure to deliver sensitive materials meant for the elections. Both the commission and the printing vendor(s) should work in synergy to rectify relevant issues on printing of sensitive election materials on time.
Another aspect of logistics that have given bad name to INEC is inadequate ballot papers at the polling units; late arrival of vote materials at some polling units; errors in the printing of some ballot papers where in some cases, some party logos were either omitted or blurred etc. INEC, in a manner that suggest that it is determined to raise its credibility status, should put all logistics in place now.
However, INEC could create, if it has not done so, a special information technology platform through SMS whereby Nigerians could communicate challenge(s) faced in any given polling unit for INEC to address speedily as the need arises. Interestingly,  the mobile (social media) has become a critical technology for election monitoring and coordination.
For instances, the creation of Ushahidi-com in Kenya, a social media platform eventually became a crisis reporting platform for the public to contribute information and comments on unfolding crisis in the land. Since the inception of Ushahidi.com in 1982, the platform has become a critical component in monitoring elections and other challenges in Kenya.
In Nigeria, the nation’s network operators therefore have critical role to play in the success of the elections. A lot good will come the way of election stakeholders if they are able to communicate freely during the election period.
The problem of poor funding of INEC remains a source of concern.  It is not clear how much funds have been made available to the commission ahead of next month’s general elections, going by previous experience and coupled with the downturn in the economy.
Of course, the problem of bad eggs in INEC has often questioned the integrity of the electoral body to conduct  credible polls. In some cases, INEC has demonstrated enough courage to weed out bad elements in its rank.
But “merely transferring crooks within its ranks from one state to another as had been the practice does not solve the problem, rather it lends credence to the argument that INEC colludes with certain persons to influence election results especially in favour of the highest bidders. INEC’s determination to identify all the bad eggs in her system and weed them out will send a good signal that it is no longer business as usual in the work of the commission.
The INEC chairman admitted the myriads of problems including insecurity, poor funding, attitude of the political class and parties, apathetic and inactive citizenry, police complicity in fraudent elections, prosecution of electoral offenders etc facing his commission. “These challenges are not insurmountable and we will spare no efforts to ensure that the aspirations of Nigerians for fee, fair, credible and peaceful elections are actualised in 2015, “Jaga assured.
While many may doubt the sincerity of Jega’s INEC to live up to expectations in the conduct of a credible elections, it stands to reason that the commission’s credibility is about to be put to text once more. Apart from the commission, political parties and their supporters, security agents, the judiciary, the media and of course the electorate have enormous role to play to assist INEC raise its peformance score card in the conduct of free, fair, peaceful and credible elections in Nigeria.

 

Samuel Eleonu

Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman

Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC Chairman

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Yiaga Africa Blames Govt For Voters’ Apathy

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Independent election observer group, Yiaga Africa, has expressed worry that increasing voters’ apathy as witnessed in the Anambra governorship election may not have been caused by insecurity but increasing loss of confidence in government.
A board member of the group, Ezenwa Nwagwu held the view in Awka during a post-election reflection meeting with leaders of Civil Society Organizations.
Nwagwu reiterated that the ugly trend was not necessarily occasioned by insecurity that had always heralded elections in the past, but growing disconnect between the government and the masses, saying it is time populace held government to account to bridge the gap.
He said: “Election is over. Now we have to watch governance and the only way to do that is to clearly design pathways through which we can hold the government accountable.
“One of the ways is for the citizens to engage the government with budget process. Government every year estimates what it uses the people’s resources to do for them.
“Unfortunately, the people involved don’t show any interest, and four years later, the same people will start complaining that government has failed, even when there was nothing to track.
“We need to see how the Media and Civil Society groups can collaborate and produce what I call a citizen charter demand that they can hand over to the new Governor-elect.
“They can liaise with other professional bodies to conduct infrastructural assessment in the state and use that as a document to organize a town-hall meeting to engage government officials.”
Nwagwu also identified what he termed “fear and complaint industries” as major impediments to the growth and development of the state, insisting that the two factors must be shut to enable people of the state enjoy democracy dividends.
He added: “We need to close up the two industries of fear and complaint that have gripped the state, especially after the election so people can leverage the benefits of governance.
“If we continue with this scare-mongering and complaints, we will only succeed in having few persons taking over the government and dictating the pace.”

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CVR: Fresh Registrations Hit 4.2m

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that fresh registration in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) has hit 4,297,494.
The commission disclosed this in the second quarter, week seven, weekly update released by the commission in Abuja recently.
The commission said that as at 7 a.m. on Monday, November 22, 1,856,771 persons have completed their online and physical registration.
According to statistics provided by the commission, 1,856,771 persons who completed their registration, include 941,098 males, 915,673 females.
It also added that 741,183 persons completed their registration online, while 1,115,588 completed it through physical registration.

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Saraki Visits Benue Over Presidential Ambition 

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A former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, has visited Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State over his ambition to vie for President in 2023.
Saraki, after a close door meeting with Governor Ortom, also met with the State Working Committee members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to familiarise them with his intention to kick start consultations for his ambition to rule the country.
He said that the nationwide defection of party loyalists from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the PDP was an indication that there might not be anyone left in the party before the next election.
“A party that cannot organise its affairs has no business leading this country. A party that has organised its affairs is ready in leading this country and that is the PDP,” he said.
Saraki added that the North Central Zone has paid its dues by working so hard in keeping the country together as one united entity just as he pointed out that, “this time we must stand for our own and charity begins at home.”
The ex -senate president, who was accompanied on the visit by former Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, former National Chairman of the PDP, Kawu Baraje, Senator Suleiman Adokwe and Prof Iyorwuese Hagher, Chairman of Council, Saraki for President Campaign, thanked the Benue governor for standing out for the zone.
Earlier, Governor Ortom, eulogised Saraki for being one of those Nigerians that had contributed immensely to the development of democracy.
Ortom said it was time to rescue the country from bottom, a position it was placed by the APC government, to the top, adding that Saraki deserves the presidential seat to enable him salvage the country from its current mess.
On his part, the State Chairman of the PDP, Sir John Ngbede, represented by his deputy, Isaac Mfo, said the party in the state had remained intact even as he assured the presidential hopeful that they would back his ambition to rule the country.

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