•Why we use academics as collation officers, by Yakubu
THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suspended 205 officials over various unwholesome roles in the 2015 general elections.
INEC’s Chairman Prof. Mahmud Yakubu made this known yesterday in his keynote address at a national colloquium organised by the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) in Abuja.
He said the interdiction, recommended by INEC’s Appointments, Promotion and Discipline Committee (APDC), was the highest so far.
Mahmud said constructive criticisms from the public had helped the commission to get better in delivering its mandate vis-a-vis conducting credible elections.
Mahmud said that the commission had conducted elections in 179 constituencies so far, adding that only five had been challenged in court, which attested to the credibility of the elections.
He said at present, INEC had received over 100 additional applications for new political parties, while nine had met the criteria.
The INEC chairman gave an assurance that the 2019 elections would be better than that of 2015.
Yakubu said the determination to make outcomes of elections credible informed the engagement of tested and trusted members of the academic community as collation officers.
Revealing that an additional seven million Nigerians have registered through the window provided by the Continuous Voters Registration Programme, he reiterated the electoral body’s stand that there was no legal encumbrance stopping the commission from proceeding with the sequence of election as entrenched in the existing electoral law.
Reacting to allegations made by some members of the civil society group that some of the collation officers have been found to have either connived with certain political interests or abdicate their responsibilities in some cases, Yakubu noted that the selection process of the university dons has always been thorough with the full participation of the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“On how what we are doing to prevent the connivance of collation officers in rigging of results, we still believe that the university community is still apolitical and we can rely on them largely for the job at hand. It is for that reason that the commission has always worked with ASUU to recruit credible persons for us. We have now changed the strategy of recruitment as we now move outside the immediate environment where an election is taking place to recruit collation officers. And to endure minimal contact with them, you will see that we no longer publish names of the collation officers as we used to do in the past”, he said.
On the seven million additional voters, the INEC chairman noted that Rivers State tops the list of states with the highest registered voters followed by Anambra, Borno and Delta. Others include Lagos, Cross River, Osun, Enugu, Kano and Plateau.
He said the commission is in talks with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to help in liaising with telecoms service providers to assist in sending bulk messages to millions of voters who are yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards, which are still in the offices of the electoral body.
On the controversial change in the sequence of the 2019 elections by the National Assembly and the ongoing case at the court, Yakubu noted: “There is no legal encumbrance on the sequence of election as far as INEC is concerned. There is an existing law and whatever is happening is inchoate. There are no legal lacunae and we have been working based on the existing law. If the proposed amendment is passed, we would look at it. If not, we go ahead with the existing law.”
The book reviewer and popular human rights activist, Mr. Ledum Mitee, said the 69-page report aptly captures the drama surrounding all the 167 elections conducted by INEC after the 2015 elections, noting that particular attention was paid to the activities of some collation officers who allegedly “colluded with one party or the other or absconded from their duty post and also some security officers who gave security cover to political thugs and colluded with one party or the other”.
Executive Director, ISDMG Dr. Chima Amadi said INEC had been the most responsive of all government agencies involved in the election value chain.
He said that INEC had been taking advice and constructive criticisms and adjusting its activities to reflect same while such could not be said about others within the chain.
The highlight of the event was the unveiling of a book/report titled: “INEC Beyond 2015, Overview, Challenges and Prospects.”
The report was written by Amadi, Faith Nwadishi, MacDonald Ekemezie, Abdul Mahmud, James Ugochukwu and Atambi Ade.