INEC Blames Non Signing of Electoral Bill, for Failings

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Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Almost 21 months after the 2019 general election in February, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday adduced reasons why the outcome of the election was poor.

According to the commission, the non-passage of proposed amendments to the electoral legal framework (Electoral Act) operational, logistical and funding issues were responsible for the poor outcome of the 2019 general elections.

The Commission in the report explained that general impact of the actions of other electoral stakeholders, especially the political parties and candidates, the judiciary and the security agencies were responsible for the shortcomings experienced in the last year’s polls.

According to the report, the complexities of coordinating the logistic delivery and receipt of sensitive election materials were amplified by the numerous contentions surrounding the nomination and submission of candidates by political parties, most of which ended in the courts against the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010.

INEC said that these shortcomings made it impossible for the Commission to finalise the production of the over 4,000 tons of sensitive materials required for the election as these materials could not be produced until the required submissions were either made by the political parties or the disputes over the such submissions adjudicated upon and settled by the courts.

According to the report “In effect, the available production window for sensitive materials was just about 30 days. This was far too short a period for the production, inspection, transportation and deployment of the materials, especially in cases where such materials were to be produced outside the country.

“Another challenge was the shortage of operational vehicles for the deployment of election materials and personnel. Up to 90,000 vehicles were required for the movement of personnel and materials for the 2019 General Election at the cost of about N10 billion. This amount excludes the cost of hiring airplanes, helicopters and leasing of boats to deploy personnel and materials for the conduct of the elections in the riverine areas and areas with a difficult terrain that were not easily accessible by road.

“Other challenges include sabotage by partisan groups in various links of the logistics chain. For example, some boat and vehicle owners hiked prices of services on the eve of the election or withdrew their services altogether, after receiving part payments as provided for in their contracts with the Commission.

“Another challenge arose from errors in naming, coding and serialisation of a number of Polling Units across the nation. The Commission set up a Sub-Committee of its ICT and Voter Registry (ITVR) Committee with membership drawn from the ICT, VR and Electoral Operations Departments to address the challenge,” the report said.

According to the report, the conduct of the 2019 General Election had raised a number of issues and challenges that were well documented in the reports of the States and FCT, including instances of violence, the snatching/diversion/vandalisation of election materials, intimidation of election personnel, and difficulties with service providers such as the owners of procured vehicles and boats in some states, who, having signed agreements.

The report stated that while the Commission was able to address some of these daunting challenges by dexterously harnessing its human and material resources, its latitude for action was constrained in several other areas.

The report said that the commission had to resort to proactive engagement with the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, deployment of critical national assets, and the support of critical stakeholders, including Civil Society Organisations, the Media, the international development partners and the understanding of the citizenry to successfully conduct the 2019 General Election.

INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu said that the second report “the Review of the 2019 General Election’’ was based on the outcome of the commission’s retreats and stakeholder engagements.

“The aim was to evaluate the Commission’s actions, processes and procedures before, during and after the election.’’

The INEC chairman said that the report presented in 16 chapters, identified the main issues discussed in the review exercise.

He said that the report also provided detailed assessment on the opportunities and challenges associated with each of the issues as well as actionable proposals for resolving them.

Yakubu said that the report contained 180 recommendations that either require administrative action by the commission or amendments to strengthen the existing electoral legal framework by the National Assembly.

“Some of the recommendations that require administrative action by INEC are already being implemented resulting in improved management of the electoral process as seen in the recent off-cycle Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.

“We are similarly engaging with the National Assembly on aspects of the recommendations that require legislative action,’’ he said

Yakubu noted that the strength of any public institution lay in its ability to ask critical questions, review its processes, strengthen its procedures for better service delivery and engage with stakeholders.

“It is my hope that making the two reports public will promote a better understanding of the issues and challenges associated with the conduct of the 2019 General Election and as important resource materials for research.

“It is my hope that it will serve as the promotion of a broader national discourse on the necessary reforms required for the continued delivery of peaceful, free, fair, credible, inclusive and safe elections in Nigeria,’’ he explained.

He assured Nigerians that the hard copies of the two reports would be widely disseminated while soft copies would be uploaded on our website on Monday next week.

INEC National Commissioner in-charge of Electoral Operations and logistic Committee, Prof. Okechwukwu Ibeanu, said that the two documents covered the chronicle works of INEC, views of the commission and those of stakeholders on the 2019 general elections.

Ibeanu said that in drafting the document INEC was guided by a number of principles including openness driven by a genuine consultation, sound knowledge informed by good science and good collaboration based on partnership.

He said that the reports revealed five key lessons including that fact that election could not rise above the structure and the infrastructure of the society.

“It is the same roads washed off that the commission has to use to conduct elections. It is the same airlines that run late that we have to use.

“The second lesson is that trust is at the heart of every election and that is why the commission has placed a lot of emphasis on openness and transparency in building trust,’’ he admonished.

He said that the reports also revealed that elections were too serious to be left in the hands of 30,000 election manager alone.

Ibeanu added that the report also revealed that while INEC played key roles in the conduct of elections, the actions of other stakeholders including CSOs, security agencies and media were also important in determining the quality of the election.

He said while technology in election had also become inevitable, it was not the end, as the use of technology in an election without trust would complicate matters.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Country Director for Nigeria, Mr. Hermann Thiel, said that the reports represented an institution willing to reflect on its processes, learn from them and improve on the process.

Thiel said that the development in the ongoing United States elections revealed that elections processes around the world were faced with challenges.

“Every country in the world is going through the processes. The world in changing, technology is being introduced.

“New processes and principles that were not there in the last decades were being introduced and they are presenting challenges to elections around the world and each election authority around the world has to learn.’’

Thiel added that one of the ways to learn was to look at what others had done, adding that the reports would be of great benefits to INEC and other electoral bodies around the world.

Mr. Manji Wilson, the Electoral Administration Expert for the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), commended INEC innovations implemented towards improving the country’s electoral system.

Wilson expressed hope that the lessons learnt from previous elections documented in the reports would contribute to meaningful and improve processes in the next electoral cycles in Nigeria