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INEC in the last three years – Part 3

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Hon. Chairman INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and Members of the Commission in a regular Quarterly Meeting with Inter-Agency Consultative Committee On Election Security (ICCES) ahead of the #NigeriaDecides2019 elections.

It is easy to take that decision for granted until one realises that in taking it INEC faced daunting financial and logistical obstacles. The ideal level to have conducted the VR was at the PU.

At roughly 120,000 PUs in the country and with five staff per PU each required for the exercise, the Commission would have needed over 600,000, mostly ad-hoc, staff and over N1.20 billion per day for their emoluments alone. INEC’s entire budget for the year was 45.5 billion.

The next best option would have been the ward level, or what we call Registration Areas (RAs). We have 8,809 of these. The cost at that level would have been over N20 billion for the period, i.e. nearly half our annual budget.

Thus, we were left with no choice but to conduct the exercise at the level of the 774 local governments in the country. Though this cost was affordable, it was by no means chicken change.

We then commenced the registration of Nigerians who came of age (18) last year and presented themselves at the registration centres, from April 17 and ended it on August 31 this year, altogether a little over 16 months.

In addition, we recorded those who had lost their PVCs and those whose cards were defaced or whose particulars were wrongly captured from the 2014 exercise.

We also captured those who wanted their PVCs transferred from where they voted in 2015 to their new areas of residence.

Consequently, the exercise captured over 14.5 million new voters.

Added to the roughly70 million captured in 2014, we are likely to have a gross total of over 84 million in the country by the time all the back-end cleaning up processes would have ended well ahead of the February 16 election.

This would make our register of voters by far the single biggest data on adult Nigerians in the country, probably on the African continent.

The PVCs of virtually all these voters have been printed and distributed to the states for collection.

What has made all this possible is, as I’ve said, the Commission’s watchwords of inclusiveness, courage, openness and transparency, watchwords that derived from its adherence to the dictum that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

It is this dictum that explains why INEC, for the first time in its history, opted to defend its budget for next year’s General Election, line by line, at a public hearing before the National Assembly.

Hopefully, this decision to let the sunlight shine on its budget would, among other things, enable the discerning public see that more than 60% of the commission’s election budgets go to emoluments for election personnel and logistics.

This is as a result of the politicians’ notorious lack of trust in each other and lack of commitment to democratic values.

If, for example, our politicians have kept faith with each other and with the democratic value of freedom of choice, INEC would never have needed to print its ballot papers to the quality of currencies, store them in Central Bank of Nigeria vaults and distribute them to our wards only a couple of days to elections, with virtually all the security arrangements with which the CBN escorts our currencies to its branches.

The cost implication of all this is mind boggling. The most recent manifestation of the politicians’ lack of faith in each other and in democratic values as a class were the just concluded primaries of their parties.

With hardly any exception, but particularly with the ruling APC and the leading opposition PDP, these primaries have been the most acrimonious in recent history.

As at the time of this writing, INEC had been joined in over 560 court cases challenging the outcome of the primaries.

It had also received 52 petitions and over 300 applications for Certified True Copies (CTC) of the reports of its staff who monitored the primaries in an apparent prelude to even more court cases.

Since the last general election nearly four years ago, the political landscape has changed tremendously.

Today the number of political parties has increased from 28 in 2015 to 91. As a result, the numbers of contestants for the country’s 1,558 constituencies – consisting of one presidential, 29 governorship (seven have since become off-season due to court orders), 109 senatorial, 360 House of Representatives, 991 Houses of Assembly and 68 FCT Area Councils – have exploded exponentially from those of 2015 to 73, 1,068, 1,886, 4,634 and 14,643 for the Presidency, Governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly, in that order.

As at the time of this writing we had not finalized the tally for FCT Area Councils, the only local government whose elections INEC is mandated to conduct.

As we’ve seen, the number of voters has increased following the CVR from about 70m in 2015 to over 84m at present, as has the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from three states in 2015, all in North Eastern geopolitical zone, to 15 states at present, virtually across all the country’s six geopolitical zones as a result of communal and religious strife and this year’s record flooding.

All these and more – security at the PUs which is outside INEC’s remit, the do-or-die attitude of politicians and their impunity exemplified by the scourge of amplified vote buying – will confront INEC with formidable challenges as it conducts next year’s General Election.

In spite of these and other challenges, INEC, composed of 13 of the most accomplished Nigerians, with their records of integrity and courage at stake individually and collectively, stands ready to deliver an even fairer, freer and more credible general election than it did four years ago.
Concluded.

Haruna is national commissioner, member, Information, Voter Education and Publicity Committee of INEC.


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