Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that it is becoming difficult to protect result sheets from the polling units to the collation centres as armed gangs are getting more vicious when targeting result sheets of the commission.
The electoral body has also decried inadequate constitutional provisions for the registration of political parties, saying that accommodating over 100 political parties in the electoral process has become cumbersome.
The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, disclosed this at the weekend, while presenting Certificates to the Governor and Deputy Governor-elect of Benue State and the members-elect of the State Assembly in Benue State.
He stated: “INEC believes that the Nigerian people need a national conversation on the regime of political parties and their administration. The Nigerian people must on their own, through elected representatives determine whether we need, and can accommodate over a hundred political parties in our electoral process.
“We must decide whether the constitutional conditions for the registration of political parties are adequate to make for the registration of political parties that genuinely sponsor candidates and have something new to offer to the Nigerian people.
“The ballot papers are getting more complicated for the Nigerian people. Sorting, counting and entering the scores of candidates in Form EC8A series is becoming more cumbersome.
“Polls are closing late on account of the number of parties and the ad-hoc staff of the commission in remote areas and difficult terrains exposed to danger.
“It is also becoming difficult protecting result sheets from the polling units to the collation centers as armed gangs are getting more vicious when targeting result sheets of the commission.
“It is, therefore, imperative that Nigerians hold a national conversation on the number of political parties and the requirements for their registration.
“While the commission can deregister parties that fail to meet the constitutional threshold embedded in the 4th Alteration to the Constitution, it takes deregistered parties 30 days to make a comeback as a registered political party can reapply and get registered on the liberal conditions in the constitution. It is also imperative for the commission to proceed and implement the duality of manual and electronic collation and transmission,” he added.
Okoye noted that the media should focus their attention on the political parties in Nigeria and the various means and tactics they use in undermining the electoral process, stressing that political parties have constantly shifted the blame for their electoral malfeasance to INEC.
On supplementary elections, the national commissioner said that the country must not as a people and as a nation retreat or surrender its sovereign constitutional right of having good elections on the basis of contrived roadblocks deliberately erected to disenfranchise the Nigerian people and create an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and instability.
Okoye explained that the concept of supplementary elections and the application of the margin of lead principle in the electoral process are not alien to the country’s electoral process.
He added: “It is a constitutional provision that gives life and meaning to the vote and the sovereign right of the people to decide who governs them.
“The commission is of the firm opinion that it is unconstitutional and illegal to disenfranchise a whole community based on its inability to deploy materials and personnel on account of logistic challenges.
“It will be unjust and inequitable to disenfranchise a people based on a vicious determination by political opponent to reduce the votes from targeted communities through contrived mayhem and insecurity.
“The voice and votes of the people will be meaningless if the Commission is forced to retreat from conducting elections in certain communities. It will be inequitable to deprive the people of the power of the vote despite natural disasters or other emergencies that prevented them from exercising their mandate.”
Okoye stressed that it was against the law to reward people who deliberately undermine the use of the Smart Card Reader in the electoral process.
According to him, “The concept of margin of lead and the organisation of supplementary elections are constitutional and electoral safeguards deliberately inserted in our laws and constitution to give meaningful meaning to the concept of the vote and prevent serial electoral violators from undermining the electoral process.”
Okoye explained that what the Nigerian people need is a robust, honest, professional and ethical security architecture that secures the electoral environment and gives the vote the requisite voice.
“While constitutional and electoral reforms are inevitable, we must not become addicted to electoral and constitutional reforms at the slightest sight of contrived challenges and roadblock,” he added.