The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Monday expressed optimism that electronic collation and transmission of results would be achieved for the 2023 election.
Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, disclosed this during a national stakeholders’ forum on elections held in Abuja
The event was organized by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room convener and Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, Clement Nwankwo, with support from the United Kingdom Department for International Development.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), represented by his Special Assistant (Ethics and Justice), Juliet Ibekaku: and the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, gave undertakings that the government would ensure early passage of the amendments to the Electoral Act and the Election Offences Commission Bill into law.
Okoye said the commission was committed to the enhancement of the power of the Smart Card Readers as the dominant procedure for verification, accreditation and proving over voting in the electoral process.
He said, INEC would seek the incorporation of the Smart Card Readers in Section 49 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
He said, “We believe that electronic collation and transmission of results are possible and achievable in the 2023 election. The commission will continue to improve the electoral system through the adoption of new election technologies where feasible and relevant, and will, in all cases, examine the viability and relevance of such technologies before adoption.
“Towards these, the legal framework for the adoption of such technologies would be the first most important step before any other steps. We acknowledge the introduction of a bill to establish an Election Offences Commission and Tribunal and state unequivocally that we support it.
“Our country must break the cycle of impunity in the electoral process and bring to justice the violators of the sovereign right of the people to clean elections.”
Okoye also responded to the concerns raised by Omo-Agege over the frequent issuance and withdrawal of certificates of return by INEC while obeying court ruling on pre-election matters, saying that the commission’s hands were tied by the law.
He said INEC would continue to obey court orders in such instances, unless there was an amendment to the Act to the contrary.
While declaring the event open, Omo-Agege acknowledged that some aspects of the electoral law were deficient and required retooling to bring about the desired improvement in the conduct of elections in Nigeria.
He said part of the problems associated with the elections in the country was because some of the guidelines being implemented by INEC were not backed by extant laws and as such were being flouted by politicians.
“It is for these reasons and much more that we are coming up with very clear provisions amending the principal Act to give unambiguous effect to electoral guidelines, regulations and manuals duly issued by the commission in strict compliance with Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution(as amended),” Omo-Agege said.
While faulting the use of university teachers as returning officers in elections, he claimed that they have not exhibited the required honesty and integrity in the electoral process.
He said the National Assembly had proposed the enactment of law to impose a jail term of 20 years for ad hoc staff involved in malpractices during the election.
According to him, there was need to propose further sanctions against INEC workers that allowed themselves to be used to perpetrate electoral malpractice.
With the laws in place, Omo-Agege said non-compliance with INEC guidelines, regulations and manuals would carry “clear consequences for people who think that violating electoral due process is a rewarding exercise.”
He listed other proposed constitutional amendments to include provisions focusing on resolving issues surrounding the introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters and ensuring that the Act clearly forbids members of political parties from taking up employment in INEC.
Malami said the Federal Government was committed to ensuring an early passage of the amendments to the Electoral Act and the Election Offences Commission Bill into law.
The AGF said the government had set up the Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee in 2016 to review the laws governing the electoral process and also took steps to actualise recommendations proffered by the committee, beginning with the approval of the recommendations of the committee by the Federal Executive Council and subsequent transmission to the legislature.
Malami however said the amendments recommended by the committee fell short of the expectations of majority of Nigerians, and thus, was not passed into law.
“This administration is already working with the 9th National Assembly with a view to ensuring an early passage of the amendments to the Electoral Act and the Election Offences Commission Bill into law.
“The Executive is committed to working harmoniously with the National Assembly through continuous engagement and systematic coordination in the passage of bills,” he said.