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.
N’Delta Leaders Insist On Resource Control, Self-Determination
The leaders, who lamented that the people of the Niger Delta had been talking and agitating for resource control and restructuring of the country through conferences but to no avail, said the time had come for them to take their destiny in their hands.
In a keynote address at a conference by the Niger Delta Alternative Convergence (NDAC) to endorse the eight-point demand in the “Niger Delta Manifesto for Socio-Ecological Justice” in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, former Chairman, Editorial Board of The Guardian, Prof. G. G. Darah, said: “From the challenges we are facing in the Niger Delta region, we seem to assume that the Federal Government is on our side whereas the Federal Government is the number one enemy of the Niger Delta.
“Today, people are anxious to be the president of Nigeria because there is the Niger Delta oil for them to squander. What this means is that the political system is all organised for taking control of the oil money, to share it among the friends of the president. All the parties are organised gangs to loot and plunder the Niger Delta resources.
“That is the country we are in. Therefore, we must assume that whatever government that comes to office in 2023 will not be different from the past ones since 1960. Nigeria has been designed to steal our resources and share. They gather monthly in Abuja to share the money. All our presidents, now and past, occupied office for the purpose of plundering our resources, otherwise our own son would have done something. Jonathan, when he was president, had no capacity to touch any bad section of the constitution against the Niger Delta”.
According to Darah, “Nigeria exists today because of Niger Delta oil and Nigeria is the only country in the world that has colonised its people.
“Now, we are pleading that the Federal Government should implement the manifesto. We have to do it by ourselves because if you look at history, it is not today that our people have been fighting against injustice. Jonathan called for a national conference and all the issues raised could not be implemented. So, what we are doing now is the authentication of the national conference for Nigerian people.
“The structure of Nigeria is against us and to build a new Nigeria will take time. We need a Niger Delta that will be in charge of its own resources and aim to be a country of its own, a sovereign country. Some ethnic groups in the Niger Delta are bigger than some European countries and our ancestors in their grave will not forgive us that we succumbed cheaply. We are well populated”.
Prof. Lucky Akaruese of the Ishekiri nationality aligned with the position of Darah, noting that many countries of the world like East Timo and Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, Denmark and Norway, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union that split into many countries are products of negotiations, so the Niger Delta and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
A prominent traditional ruler from Rivers State backed the demand for a sovereign state.
“I agree with Prof. Darah that we should clamour for Niger Delta Republic, and the manifesto we are signing today, we should speak with one voice. We have been talking and now it is only action that will bring result. There is nothing the Niger Delta has gotten without struggle.
“The manifesto will remain a document if we do not put it to action. The Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) presented a 16-point agenda but only two were implemented. So, we need to take a deliberate action on some of the issues we raise here.”
The convener of NDAC and Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Comrade Nnimmo Bassey, said: “The convergence also aims to produce an inclusive Niger Delta Manifesto for Socio-Ecological Justice highlighting needed alternatives for transformation and social mobilisations for resource justice. It is hoped that NDAC will provoke a platform for convergence of communities in the region to galvanise action for needed changes for re-source access, including through demands for legislative changes, debates on the Petroleum Industry Bill and for critical attainment of re-source democracy – defined as the right of a people to live in harmony with nature and to retain a right to use, or not use, the gifts of nature.”
He stated that 64 years of oil extraction had brought untold misery and cut life abysmally low in the region.
“Things cannot continue this way. We have demands and resolves in the proposed Niger Delta Manifesto shared to delegates. Let’s all rise to be counted, demand that politicians declare their environmental plans before they gain our votes. Let us demand real climate action, including a halt to gas flaring and a restoration of our ecosystems. Let us demand action to stall the washing away of our communities. After 64 years of a nightmare, it is time to wake up, it is time to demand socio-ecological justice. We are not calling for charity, we are calling for justice”.
Former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, and the National Chairman of PANDEF, Senator Ibok Essien, clamoured for restructuring and total control of resources.
They pleaded with the people of the region to get their PVCs to vote people that will carry out restructuring of the country.
Nwuke Dismisses Wike’s Alleged Plan To Dump PDP
There have been insinuations that Wike might join either the Labour Party or the New Nigeria Political Party (NNPP) ahead of the 2023 general election.
This is coming after the governor met with the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi; and the presidential candidate of NNPP, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in Port Harcourt, last week.
While speaking with newsmen in Port Harcourt,Nwuke said Wike has no plans to dump the PDP for any other party.
He further stated that the Rivers State governor would not defect considering the large followership he has built across the country.
Nwuke said, ”It just tells you who Governor Wike is. This is the first time he is playing national politics. But you can see that Wike has entered the minds of a lot of Nigerians. They are taking him seriously. Even the performance at the convention where the North rallied behind the scene to stop him, did not end in disgrace.
“So, if you look at the outcome of the convention, you will know that Governor Wike controls a sizable number of PDP members. A huge segment of the party is behind him. When you look at the gap between him and Atiku Abubakar and the gap between him and the rest, that should tell you something that the one we have been talking about has become notable when it comes to Nigeria’s politics.
“Frankly, he has followership in the North-Central; followership in the South-West; followership in the South-South and followership in the South-East. So, I am not surprised that a lot of people are coming to Port Harcourt, and saying, ‘Governor, why not come fully into the campaigns?’ They need him in the PDP house, and I am glad that Governor Wike has said ‘I am not going anywhere’.”
2023: Guber Candidate Faults INEC On APC, LP Placeholders
Recall that some presidential flagbearers picked vice Presidential candidates as placeholders, prompting reactions from cross sections of Nigerians.
Odefe said INEC erred by discrediting the candidates that picked placeholders in the build up to the general election in 2023.
He said, “As a political activist and a former three-time governorship candidate, I am compelled to react to the recent claim by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through its National Commissioner, Barr. Festus Okoye, that there exists no place in Nigerian Constitution and Legal Framework for what is now described as “placeholders” in Nigeria’s electoral process specifically as it concerns submission, change or substitution of names of candidates for general elections by registered political parties.
“This claim by INEC is a fundamental falsehood deliberately made by it to mislead Nigerian voters and to cast aspersion on some political parties like APC and Labour Party which publicly disclosed that the names they submitted to INEC as their Vice Presidential Candidates were meant only to beat the June 17, 2022 date set by INEC but which they may change or substitute within the window provided by the sections 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2021, as amended to do so.
“Contrary to INEC’s claim, I wish to state unequivocally that actions taken by APC and LP are constitutional and in line with sections 29, 31 and 33 of the Electoral Act 2021, as amended. The use of the word, “Placeholder” is merely misinterpreted by INEC. “Placeholder” simply means that it is not substantive but temporarily standing in for something or someone else. The word is used in solving Algebraic Expression and Equations in Mathematics.
“Let me also inform Nigerians that this idea of changing or substituting candidates for general elections have been in our electoral laws of 2006, 2010 and now 2021, as amended.
“Furthermore, it is imperative for me to inform Nigerians that changing or substituting candidates for elections is not limited to only Vice Presidential Candidates as we now seem to focus on. In fact, all names so far submitted by Political Parties to INEC as Presidential, Vice Presidential, Senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly Candidates are all “Placeholders” and can be changed or substituted before the 90 days to date of election, after which, no change or substitution is allowed except in case of death of a candidate.
“In conclusion, APC and LP have not acted against the Constitution and Electoral Act of Nigeria”.
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