By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned its staff against conniving with politicians to promote the culture of vote buying in the 2019 polls, saying any staff caught shall be dismissed from service.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ekiti State, Prof. Abdulganiy Raji, said while INEC staff should not be blamed for the malfeasance but politicians, he added that many of the commission’s staff do compromise to perpetrate the offence through polling booths arrangement that could aid the unwholesome practice.

On the inability of Nigerians in diaspora to vote in the 2019 elections, Raji said there was no legal framework backing such policy for now, pointing out that this could only happen if the existing constitution and the Electoral Acts are amended to accommodate
electronic voting.

The REC said these in Ado Ekiti on Saturday while delivering a lecture entitled: ‘Women Participation in Electoral Process in Ekiti State: What Exists, Challenges and Benefits’, at a workshop organised by New Initiative for Social Development (NISD) with support from Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room.

Speaking at the forum, Raji said apart from the impediment associated with vote buying, what could serve as clogs to the success of the next polls is the confusion caused by litigation on the guidelines to use for the polls.

He stated that many of the new innovations injected into the electoral process by INEC were being challenged by some parties in courts, adding that these may create confusion for the commission.

“The commission can’t deny the fact that there was vote buying in the system, but this was being done by politicians by way of manipulating the placement of the polling booths so that those voting can be monitored for financial inducement.

“In most cases, some party leaders do coerce or manipulate our staff so that they can be favoured in such arrangement which INEC did not support. INEC is not in support of any action that can affect the actual outcome of elections and that we had told our staff, who are  foreigners in most cases,” he said.

Raji warned that parties may end up having high void votes in the coming elections if INEC staff are stampeded to circumvent the use of smart card readers.

“INEC is no longer using Incident Forms. Whatever votes that will be counted as being valid must be verified and authenticated by smart card readers. So resorting to other means will not be tolerated by our commission.

“If the smart card readers are not working as expected, call for another one because any votes not authenticated by the machine will be regarded as invalid,” he said.

He urged political parties against erecting pillars that could manipulate the internal democracy against women emergence for political positions, saying doing so would infringe on their rights and affect the society negatively.

“For our electoral system to get it right regarding women’s rights, the constitution must take cognizance of our culture. Women and aged people must be given the rights to vote first, but the present Electoral Act did not take cognizance of such,” he said.

The convener of the programme and NISD Executive Director, Mr. Biodun Oyeleye, said the dialogue was organised to sensitise women on the need to form a common front to fight for their rights for them to remain relevant politically in the country.

Oyeleye lamented that Nigerian men always manipulated the internal democracy of their party to relegate women during primaries, describing this as an ill-wind that will blow the country no good.