From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has lauded the National Assembly for empowering the agency to determine and deploy appropriate technology in future elections.
The commission also appealed to the National Assembly to make broad provisions of laws to empower it to continue innovating without restriction to a specific technology.
INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this at a meeting with the Senate and House of Representatives Conference Committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 in Abuja, yesterday.
“Understandably, the issue of technology in elections has dominated recent public discussions in Nigeria. The commission appreciates the decision of the National Assembly to empower INEC to determine and deploy appropriate technology in future elections. For us in INEC, this is one of the progressive decisions by our National Assembly. As you finalise on the Electoral Amendment Bill, I urge you to continue to endow the commission with power to determine what technology to deploy in our elections at the appropriate time.
“One way of doing so is to make broad provisions of the law that will empower the commission to continue to innovate without restricting us to a specific technology, such as the Smart Card Reader, which could in due course become obsolete, inapplicable or irrelevant as is already the case, following the recent introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) by the commission. The commission looks forward to the conclusion of the process without which we cannot make the regulations and guidelines to give effect to the provisions of the law. Without the regulations and guidelines, we cannot finalise on the manuals for the training of officials that will conduct elections. There are extensive provisions in the current Bill that require clear guidance by the commission. With only 484 days to the 2023 general election, time is of the essence.”
Yakubu said in addition to the Anambra State governorship election holding on November 6, the commission had already scheduled three major elections to be conducted next year.
“First is the Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) holding on February 12, 2022, followed by Ekiti governorship election on June 18, 2022 and Osun governorship election a month later on July 16, 2022. The Commission also has five pending bye-elections made up of three federal constituencies and two state constituencies to contend with.
“The Electoral Act is one of the most important laws in any democracy. Election is a process anchored on a legal framework. First is the constitution, followed by the Electoral Act. In all jurisdictions, the Electoral Act provides more detailed provisions to govern the conduct of elections and the electoral process. One of the unique aspects of the current amendment of the Electoral Act is that it started well ahead of the forthcoming general election, unlike previous exercises which came too close to elections. The importance of starting early is that it allows for a thorough debate by citizens on aspects of the Bill long after the conventional public hearing as witnessed recently. Clearly, the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021 is one of the most extensively debated Bills in Nigeria,” he said.