Noah Ebije, Kaduna
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voters Education, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Cestus Okoye, has stated real reasons 2019 general election was postponed on the eve of the polls.
Okoye said external influences rather than internal forces were the bane of the INEC to conduct the election as scheduled.
While speaking on the topic “Dynamics and Mechanics of Free and Fair Elections,” on Sunday in Kaduna as the guest speaker at 6th Catholic Men Organization (CMO) and Fathers’ Day celebration, Saint Joseph Catholic Cathedral, he faulted some impressions that the Federal government influenced the election postponement.
The INEC national commissioner said if the election had not been shifted, the country would have been plunged into chaos, pointing out that the only option left for the electoral umpire to save the nation from violence was to swallow its pride and apologised to Nigerians over the postponement.
Okoye further gave a rundown of reasons behind the postponement, saying: “The amended Electoral Bill was transmitted to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria close to the election.
“Planning in uncertainty, the electoral management body did not know whether electronic voting would be used and there were provisions in the new bill that needed to be explained and mastered.
“Procurement issues and the non-delivery of a few materials to the end users created uncertainty in terms of the security of materials and the capacity of INEC to deliver credible elections. Ballot papers and result sheet were printed outside the country and their delivery on good time became huge issue.
Also was “the rescheduling of the 2019 elections on account of logistic challenges and the backlash that followed the rescheduling. Political parties incurred costs. INEC incurred costs. The Nigerian people incurred costs. Some travelled long distances to vote. Some just disengaged from the electoral process.
There was also “opaque party primaries and political uncertainty. Some of the political parties breached clear provisions of the law in the conduct of party primaries and inundated the courts with cases arising therefrom.
“The burning of INEC offices, facilities and equipment procured and packaged for the 2019 elections created setbacks and the commission was forced to rationalise or do emergency procurement.
There was “the intimidation, maiming and killing of INEC staff and the collation of false and procedure results and declaration of unintended winners.
“There was desperation of the political elite in corrupting INEC staff, buying votes, by passing of not using the smart card readers and other unwholesome electoral malpractices. In some instances, INEC could not deploy or deploy on time and voters disengaged from the process.
“Some security personnel performed creditably while some jumped into the muddy waters of partisan politics and assisted their preferred candidates.
There was also a “deluge of pre-election matters and the issuing of contradictory court orders.”
However, Okoye suggested some ways forward for the electoral process, saying that condition for the registration of political parties must be altered because the present framework is inadequate to guarantee credible political parties.
“Section 285 of the Constitution relating to the conditions for the de-registration of political parties must be alteration as it is ambiguous and leaves room for multiple interpretations considering the staggered nature of our electoral process and the different layers of contest.
“Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act should be altered giving the Independent National Electoral Commission the power to reject the nominated candidates of political parties that did not conduct party primaries or breached the intendment of Section 87 of the Electoral Act.
“The Electoral Act should be amended giving the commission the exclusive right to determine when to apply certain types of technology in the electoral process. A gradual and graduated process of imputing technology in the electoral process will enable pilot studies to take care of bling spots, cyber security, training of personnel and deployment of technology.
“The commission will review its result sheets and results transmission mechanism to make them more user friendly and more transparent.
“The commission will continue to deploy technology for the purpose of improving the credibility of the voters register and Nigerians must assist the commission in reporting multiple registrants, underage registrants and persons that have passed on especially during the display of the voters register for claims and objections.
“The commission will make the continuous voter’s registration exercise a truly continuous voters registration exercise enabling those that turn 18 to be registered.”
Earlier, the Chairman of CMO, Mr. George Igwesi, said the health of his members was among the primary focuses of the organisation, hence the event was organised to raise funds for medical endowment.