Paul Osuyi, Asaba
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday in Asaba, Delta State said the desperation of politicians to win elections at all costs resulting in do or die mentality is a serious threat to the 2019 general election.
Besides, the commission said the growing epidemic of vote buying, incendiary speeches by contestants and the atmosphere of mistrust resulting in security challenges were threatening the credibility of the forthcoming poll.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Yakub Mahmud raised these fears while delivering a keynote address at the on going 14th All Nigeria Editors’ conference with the theme: ‘Credible Elections, Sustainable Democracy and the Nigerian Media.’
Represented by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, Mahmud said the do or die mentality remains a major source of concern and worry ahead of the 2019 elections, adding that vote buying constitute violations of various of provisions of the laws.
He said hate speeches had already charged the political atmosphere, noting that stakeholders must avoid actions that would bring about breakdown of law and order.
“The general election is more complex. The commission has been engaging various security agencies under the auspices of ICCES for cooperation in securing the election environment and for absolute neutrality in the 2019 elections,” he stated.
He, therefore, charged the media as the watchdog of the society, to protect public interest against abuse by those entrusted with power and resources of state, as well as hold election manager to account to ensure that electoral rules are obeyed.
Mahmud tasked the media to educate voters on their democratic rights; report development on campaigns; provide platform for political parties and candidates; provide platform for the public to communicate their concerns; report election results; and scrutinize the electoral process.
On the preparation for the elections in 2019, Prof. Mahmud said the commission “has improved on the deployment of personnel for elections, addressed some of the intractable challenges to the functionality of new technological innovations for elections and able to collate, transmit and declare results of elections more accurately and speedily.”
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He said in 2019, INEC will consolidate on technological innovations in the electoral process, noting that the current electronic register of voters “is the most robust so far.
“The electronic accreditation of voters using the machine-readable and chip-based Permanent Voters Card (PVC) complemented by the Smart Card Reader (SCR) introduced in 2015 has brought integrity to number of accredited voters and total number of votes cast in elections.
“The commission has been pioneering the electronic collation and transmission of results. In all, we can say that the best elections around the world are not necessarily technologically driven but they are technologically assisted.”
According to him, the Commission started planning for next year’s election since 2015, adding that between April 27, 2017 and August 31, 2018 when INEC embarked on the Continuous Voters’ Registration exercise, a total of 14,551,482 fresh registrants were registered.
Prof. Mahmud disclosed that the voting population for 2019 is projected at over 80 million comprising of the existing 67 million voters as at 2015 and the fresh registrants.
He said there are 91 registered political parties but that the commission will disclose the number of parties that will be participating in the 2019 general election at the end of submission of candidates by the various parties.
The INEC chairman stated that the election will be conducted in 119,973 units across 8,809 Registration Areas (wards) of the 774 local government area of the country.
He said, “Elections will be held in 1,558 constituencies in 2019, made up of one presidential constituency, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 991 state constituencies and 68 area councils in the FCT.
“It should be noted that the FCT is the only part of the country where INEC is constitutionally empowered to conduct local government elections. The end of the tenure of the council chairmen and councillors coincides with the 2019 general elections.”