Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that it will, in the next two months, convoke a national stakeholders’ dialogue to discuss modalities for the management of electoral process in Nigeria.
Commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu, who made the disclosure during the routine meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) in Abuja, said that the dialogue, which would involve all stakeholders in the electoral process, will also include a critical review of the 2008 Justice Mohammed Uwais’ committee report, as well as reports of other committees instituted since 1986 on the conduct of elections in the country.
While itemizing 17 issues that will dominate discussion at the dialogue, Yakubu said: “We are convinced that, until we get our electoral process on the right, consistent and progressively positive trajectory, our efforts at nation-building and promoting peace and progress shall remain epileptic.”
Among issues to be discussed at the meeting, according to the INEC Chairman, would include the number of political parties and mode of party registration; election security; movement and security of personnel and materials; funding; the use of technology to deepen the electoral process; transmission of election results; electoral legal framework; personal conduct of politicians, especially the do-or-die attitude of politicians, among others.
The chairman further expressed hope that the national conversation would “be qualitatively different from what was done in the past and benefit from all previous efforts at reform.”
Yakubu, who noted that in the past 40 years, almost all elections conducted in the country had been accompanied by the report of one committee or another on electoral reform, said there is need to take into consideration the reports of previous committees on electoral reform.
While listing the previous committee reports to be reviewed during the dialogue to include “the Babalakin Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO in 1986), the Uwais report on electoral reform (2008), the Lemu Committee on post-election violence (2011), the Ken Nnamani Committee on constitutional and electoral reform (2017), the various administrative reports by INEC, investigation reports by the security agencies (the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army).
“Others are the independent studies by the National Human Right Commission (2015 and 2017), the judgements of the various election petition tribunals, the reports of domestic and international observers, record of public hearing for the amendment of the electoral legal framework by the National Assembly as well as confessional statements by some political actors.
“There is value in revisiting all these reports. The commission will work with stakeholders in undertaking such a comprehensive review in earnest. The commission hopes that the recommendations arising from the national conversation will feed into an enduring reform of our electoral process,” Yakubu assured.
He further noted that the meeting with the RECs was the first since the conduct of the 2019 general elections, adding that it would finalise the activities and timelines for the stakeholders’ dialogue.
“Over the next two months, the Commission plans to engage with all stakeholders, beginning with a root and branch review involving our own officials at Local Government and State levels, ranging from Electoral Officers (EOs), Administrative Secretaries (ASs), Heads of Department (HoDs) and representatives of ad hoc officials engaged for elections from Presiding Officers at Polling Unit level to collation and returning officers.
“We shall then follow it up with consultations at the national level with political parties, the security agencies, civil society organisations, the media, development partners, traditional and religious organisations, the national and local peace committees and professional groups accredited to observe elections. Details of the series of activities and timelines will be finalised at this meeting and made public immediately.
“We intend to structure the conversation around the following critical issues: Preparations for the 2019 general elections, looking in particular at some of the critical materials, staging posts such as the RACs and super RACs, storage facilities, the collation/declaration centres etc.
“Voter registration and collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs). Communication issues: voter education and publicity. Political parties: number, mode of registration, internal democracy, accreditation of party agents etc. Recruitment, training and deployment of election personnel. Logistics: movement and security of personnel and materials.
“ICT related issues ranging from the configuration and deployment of technology, including the recruitment, training and deployment of technical support. We also need an informed conversion on the use of technology to deepen the electoral process. Procurement and deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials,” he said.