Tony Osauzo, Benin
The National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has made arrangements for the conduct of the Edo State governorship election holding next Saturday, September 19, Commission Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu announced Monday.
Prof Yakubu, who made the announcement at the meeting of the Edo State Governorship Election Stakeholders in Benin City, said the Commission has carried out 12 of 14 scheduled tasks contained in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election.
He explained that the Commission’s ultimate objective is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Edo State is entirely in the hands of the voters.
‘I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election. The Commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures. Nothing more.
‘To underscore our commitment to a credible and transparent electoral process in Nigeria, the Commission is determined to deepen the deployment of technology in elections. It is for this reason that the Commission recently built portals for the nomination of candidates by political parties as well as the accreditation of election observers and the media. We have used the portals seamlessly in preparing for the Edo Governorship election. The same applies to the Ondo Governorship election. We will deploy the same platforms for all subsequent elections, including the forthcoming bye-elections in 15 constituencies across 11 States of the Federation scheduled for 31st October 2020. We are working to ensure that in future elections, even the accreditation of polling agents nominated by political parties will also be done online,’ Prof Yakubu said.
He disclosed that the most critical of the recent innovations introduced by the Commission is the use of a tablet now popularly called the z-pad, saying that it is a new innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using the facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader.
According to him, the camera on the tablet will be used to take a picture of the polling unit result (EC8A) and to upload same on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV), adding that this will enable all those interested in viewing the results to do so in real-time.
The INEC Chairman, however, explained that the z-pad tablet will not be used for the Edo election because the Commission encountered hardware and software issues which needed to be fixed, adding that unlike the 44 polling units of the Nasarawa Central State Constituency, where the technology was deployed, the Edo Governorship election involves 2,627 polling units.
‘The Commission decided that since this technology is work in progress, we should carry out a further test-run in some of the smaller constituencies during the bye-elections scheduled for 31st October 2020 and thereafter engage with stakeholders before it can be deployed in major elections. The atmosphere in Edo State ahead of the election this weekend is already charged. We cannot afford to complicate it further by introducing a new technology we are not yet fully satisfied with.
‘However, the uploading of polling unit level results in the election on Saturday will proceed as planned. The z-pads have already been delivered, configured and ad hoc staff trained on its deployment on Election Day. Enough chargers have been provided to address the power problem identified during the Nasarawa test-run. We envisage that there will be high traffic of persons interested in viewing the results in real-time. Consequently, the Commission has dynamically expanded the result viewing portal to accommodate almost two million viewers at the same time without clogging. To view the uploaded results, please visit our website (www.inecelectionresults.com) to register and create an account,’ he said.
Prof Yakubu stressed that the Smart Card Readers will be used for voter verification and authentication during the election, saying that it is a mandatory requirement and where it is deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines.
He said that, as with previous elections, the Commission is deploying magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to vote unaided.
On the concern expressed in some quarters about the neutrality of INEC staff, in particular, the ad hoc staff engaged for election duty, the Prof Yakubu explained that the Commission in response deployed two National Commissioners who reviewed the process for strict compliance with the guidelines for such recruitment.
‘I want to assure you that all categories of ad hoc staff have been vetted. The integrity of the process will not be compromised and there will be no partisan infiltration.’
He appealed to eligible voters, all political parties, candidates and their supporters to ensure peaceful conduct at the polls, assuring that their votes will count.
‘Polling unit level results will be uploaded for public view. However, this will not happen where the process is disrupted by violence or malpractices. The Commission is determined that no one will benefit from impunity or rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote-buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results. The people of Edo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment. We have been assured by the security agencies that thugs and their sponsors will not have the freedom to move around freely to disrupt the election or collation of results,’ the INEC Chairman warned.