Stakeholders task INEC on credible polls
•Warn against inadequate, delayed budgeting for elections
Following some of the inconclusive elections that were recorded during and after the 2015 general elections and the cynicisms trailing the ability of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2019, some group of civil society organisations have tasked the electoral umpire on the need to explain in details its plan on the next polls.
The group, which comprises of CSOs, observer and monitoring groups under the auspices of the Election Roundtable Expert Group (EREG), might have hinged their positions on the controversies that surrounded the elections in Rivers state, Kogi state, among others and urged that the commission should educate Nigerians on what it proposed to do.
The acting executive director of Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), Faith Nwadishi, in her presentation titled: ‘INEC: Beyond 2015, Overview, Challenges and Prospects’ during a stakeholders meeting with the commission in Lagos concurred that though elections were generally peaceful in 2015, the Rivers, Bayelsa, Kogi, Kano, and Imo states exercises were problematic and the repetition of such must be prevented in future exercise.
As a matter of fact, some observers of elections conducted by the Yakubu-led INEC in the last two years, have expressed concern over future polls in the country.Nwadishi said the civil society organisations are looking into INEC’s challenges and successes, which is the reason it is taking the commission to task.
“The integrity of any electoral process depends on the individuals handling it,” she stated adding that though idea of the e-voting system proposed by INEC is welcomed, the issue of network in remote and local areas might constitute a big challenge.
In another observation, the chairman of Partners Electoral Reform, Ezenwa Nwagu harped on the need for the electoral umpire to create awareness through voter education.
While he noted that conducting elections in the country has always been a serious challenge with the attendant dangers of desperate politicians and other logistics problems, Nwagu said, “Nigerians need to be updated now on the changes and development in the umpire’s electoral activities.”
In a communiqué, which was signed by ISDMG and other CSO leaders including Ledum Mitee, Emeka Ononamadu, Abdul Mahmud, Oluajo Babatunde, Lanre Arogundade, the stakeholders expressed satisfaction over the courage so far exhibited by the current INEC in the discharge of its duties, particularly its recent prosecution of corrupt staff of the commission.
The communiqué reads: “the participants support the stance of the current INEC on corruption. This is highly commendable. His zero tolerance to corruption led to the suspension and prosecution of 202 INEC staff found complicit in electoral malpractices in addition to the collaboration with EFCC to mitigate corruption in the electoral process.”
While they posited that the commission is doing its best, they observed that the introduction of E-Tracking and E-Collation of results by INEC for a more credible electoral process was commendable and would help in conducting better polls in future.
They however expressed reservation over late budget passage and poor funding; hate speeches and war mongering of politicians during elections; collusion of collation officers to manipulate election results; coordination and welfare of security personnel; interference of security personnel in the electoral process as witnessed at the Edo State elections; and vote buying, voter apathy, violence during elections as some of the challenges of the commission.
They also condemned the compromise of security agencies, which they claimed is dangerously becoming the driving force in the electoral process.According to them, “Communities through conspiracy, padded voter’s registers especially in rural areas are indications that election security is weak and not properly coordinated”, saying people’s perception of INEC is poor judging from the conduct of INEC’s ad hoc staff which has been far from complimentary.
The stakeholders therefore recommended that any present and future amendments to election legislation should be enacted sufficiently in advance of elections to provide political parties, candidates and voters adequate time to be informed of the new rules of the election process.
Meanwhile, the commission, through one of its National Commissioner, Prof. Anthonia Simbine assured that INEC has taken notes of all the observation and would do the needful to conduct free, fair and credible exercise.He revealed that the commission is prepared to capitalise on the success of the 2015 elections and to also find ways of solving the problems encountered during the process.
Simbine stated that the major challenges facing INEC was the negative attitude of the political class, financial constraint, weak political citizenry, security, and weak technological backbone among others. He continued: “Our politicians are too desperate for power thereby using electoral violence during elections which result in threats on lives of agents, bribery and corruption which hampers electoral activities.”
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