Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has opened up on the real reason behind the one-week postponement of the 2019 presidential election, revealing that late release of budgetary allocation, vendors’ error in mixing sensitive and non-sensitive materials combined to shift the poll.
Sourced from the report on the review of 2019 general elections, the Commission’s leadership also blamed the postponement on the negligence of some states officials that failed to preserve some usable materials like ballot boxes.
INEC equally admitted that sorting and identifying the mixed printed materials was too challenging that some of the boxes had to be broken which unfortunately led to the diversion of materials to the wrong locations and consequently the late delivery.
Still blaming the state officials, the Commission lamented the failure on the part of some Electoral Officers (EOs) to release dedicated funds for proper activation of RACs/collation centres and to ensure the involvement of heads of schools in RAC management.
“The Stakeholders drew attention to some of the challenges in the build-up to the preparations for the elections as follows; In the course of clearing the state stores, some materials that were supposed to be preserved such as ballot boxes were all cleared without considering their usability for the conduct of future elections.
“Some states offices later requested headquarters for the same items. The Commission had to make emergency arrangements for their procurement and delivery to the states which added to the pressure on the eve of the elections.
“The delivery of sensitive materials for the 2019 general elections was to a great extent faced with challenges due partly to late budgetary approval and release of funds to the Commission, resulting in late deliveries by vendors.
“Mix up of some sensitive election materials during the course of delivery to states especially for the presidential election. There were mix-ups in the packaging of materials produced by the vendors in spite of supervision by Commission’s officials at the point of production in order to ensure correct packaging and labelling.
“This caused delays in the distribution of materials to the designated locations. Sorting of materials became a challenge due to the fact that it was difficult to identify some materials from the packages delivered. Some of the boxes had to be broken for proper identification of their contents.
“This led to the diversion of materials to the wrong locations and consequently the late delivery of same thereby necessitating the eventual rescheduling of the election by one week from Saturday, February 16, 2019, to Saturday, February 23, 2019.
“Distance between the zonal stores to some states offices, e.g Osogbo to Lagos, Sokoto to Jigawa, Port Harcourt to Uyo and Minna to Ilorin was identified as an encumbrance to speedy/prompt delivery of election materials,” the Commissioner noted.
Enumerating other challenges faced by the Commission, INEC in the report, emphasised: “Inadequate storage facilities at a different state, LGAs and RAC levels which necessitated warehousing of materials in zonal stores and the logistics required for moving them to the states. Poor carbonisation and over customisation/labelling of result sheets and quality of consumables such as ink, toner and other cartridges.
“On the state of public buildings used as RACs/collation centres and PUs, the Commission informed stakeholders that the matter was raised when it briefed the CS on the preparation on 2019 general election at the meeting, the governors were receptive to the idea. Effort was made to coordinate their intervention through the NEC of which all states Governors are also members. However, these efforts were overtaken by a myriad of activities in the run-up to the elections.
“Failure on the part of some EOs to release dedicated funds for proper activation of RACs/collation centres and to ensure the involvement of heads of schools in RAC management were other challenges,” the Commission noted.