With two weeks to the general elections holding in Nigeria, the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has made a powerful announcement concerning the menace of vote buying as they revealed that they have adopted fresh strategies to check vote buying during the forthcoming general elections even as they insist that they would not collate and transmit the results via an electronic channel because there was no place for that in the 2010 Electoral Act.
Festus Okoye, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education of INEC, made the announcement on Sunday night while interacting with select media executives in Abuja.
The elections for both Presidential and National Assembly will hold first on February 16, while March 2 is the date set aside for the governorship and State House of Assembly elections and INEC will be keen on eradicating the menace of vote buying which reportedly plagued the governorship elections which held in the country in 2018.
According to reports during the governorship elections which held in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and Osun States, voters reportedly turned their votes to commodities of trade and boldly struck deals with party agents willing to pay the highest price.
Mr Okoye, during the interactive session, lamented the increasing vote buying incidences said the electoral commission was doing all it can to prevent the nefarious act but would not reveal the exact strategies because they claim that the people involved always find a way to thwart their efforts. He has since promised that the new strategies would shock all vote buyers and their sponsors come election day.
In his words, “The other strategies we have designed will not be made known so that they will not go ahead of us.”
Mr Okoye said the commission had enhanced the Smart Card Reader in readiness for the poll, adding that it had eliminated the use of incident forms and revealed that the election results would be collated and transmitted manually. He explained that though it had conducted pilot of electronic transmission of results and would continue to do so, it would not use the method because it was not recognised by the Electoral Act.
“We are collating and transmitting manually in accordance with the law. Everything is manual collation and manual transmission of results. INEC is aware that there is a bill before the National Assembly that may likely lead to the amendment of the law. It is important for INEC to pilot in e-collation and transmission of result so that any day the National Assembly amends the law, we will be ready to do that.
Mr Okoye further explained that some advanced democracies do not collate and transmit election results and those that were doing it had to revert to manual because they do not trust the technology. He said INEC was presently fine-tuning its preparation for the conduct of the two strands of the election and that the national commissioners had just returned from states where they went to assess the extent and levels of preparation for the polls.
He explained that the election would involve the 91 registered political parties and a total of registered voting population of 84,004,084. He added, “The election will take place in 1,558 constituencies and 774 local government areas. The collation of results will take place in 8,809 registration areas/wards and in 119,973 polling units and 57,023 voting points nationwide.”
Mr Okoye said the presidential election would be contested by a total of 73 candidates while the governorship election would be contested by 1,068 candidates in 29 states. He also said the 109 senatorial seats would be contested by 1,904 candidates while the 360 seats in the House of Representatives would be contested by 4,680 candidates and the 991 state constituencies by 14,583 candidates. He said the 68 area council seats in the FCT would be contested for by 806 candidates.
Mr Okoye said INEC had concluded the identification and recruitment of over 814,453 AC-DC hoc staff for election and that their training had commenced in all the 36 states. According to the national commissioner, INEC had also accredited 116 domestic observers and 28 foreign observers for the elections.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in FCT, Yahaya Bello, who was present at the event appealed to the media to partner with the commission for the success of the elections. He said INEC was committed to the policy of inclusiveness and delivery of free, fair and credible elections.
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