National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voters Education, of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Festus Okoye, has opened up on real reasons the 2019 general election was postponed on the eve of the polls.
Okoye said external influences, rather than internal forces, were responsible for INEC’s inability to conduct election as scheduled.
While speaking on the topic: “Dynamics and Mechanics of Free and Fair Elections,” in Kaduna, yesterday, as guest speaker at 6th Catholic Men Organization (CMO) and Fathers Day celebration, Saint Joseph Catholic Cathedral, Okoye faulted some impressions that the Federal Government influenced the election postponement.
The INEC national commissioner said if the election had not been shifted, the country would have been plunged into chaos, and pointed out that the only option left for the electoral umpire to save the country from violence was to swallow its pride and apologised to Nigerians over the postponement.
Okoye further gave a run down of reasons behind the postponement.
“The amended electoral bill was transmitted to the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria close to the election.
“Planning in uncertainty. The Electoral Management Body did not know whether electronic voting would be used and there were provisions in the new bill that needed to be explained and mastered.
“Procurement issues and non-delivery of few materials to the end users created uncertainty, in terms of the security of materials and the capacity of INEC to deliver credible elections. Ballot papers and result sheets were printed outside the country and their delivery on good time became huge issue.
“Rescheduling of the 2019 elections on account of logistic challenges and the backlash that followed the rescheduling: Political parties incurred costs, INEC incurred costs, the Nigerian people incurred costs. Some travelled long distances to vote. Some just disengaged from the electoral process.
“Opaque Party Primaries and political uncertainty: Some of the political parties breached clear provisions of the law in the conduct of party primaries and inundated the courts with cases arising therefrom.
“The burning of INEC offices, facilities and equipment procured and packaged for the 2019 elections created setbacks and the Commission was forced to rationalise or do emergency procurement.
“The intimidation, maiming and killing of INEC staff and the collation of false and procedure results and declaration of unintended winners.
“The desperation of the political elite in corrupting INEC staff, buying votes, by-passing of, not using the smart card readers and other unwholesome electoral malpractices (also affected the election). In some instances, INEC could not deploy or deploy on time and voters disengaged from the process.
“Some security personnel performed creditably while some jumped into the muddy waters of partisan politics and assisted their preferred candidates.”
However, Okoye suggested some ways forward for the electoral process, when he said that condition for registration of political parties must be altered because the present framework is inadequate to guarantee credible political parties.
He said: “Section 285 of the Constitutio,n relating to the conditions for de-registration of political parties must be altered as it is ambiguous and leaves room for multiple interpretations, considering the staggered nature of our electoral process and the different layers of contest.
“Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act should be altered, giving INEC the power to reject the nominated candidates of political parties that did not conduct party primaries or breached the intendment of section 87 of the ElectoralAct.
“The Electoral Act should be amended giving the Commission the exclusive right to determine when to apply certain types of technology in the electoral process.
“A gradual and graduated process of imputing technology in the electoral process will enable pilot studies to take care of bling spots, cyber security, training of personnel and deployment of technology.
“The Commission will review its result sheets and results transmission mechanism; to make them more user-friendly and more transparent.
“The Commission will continue to deploy technology for the purpose of improving the credibility of the Voters’ Register and Nigerians must assist the Commission in reporting multiple registrants, under-age registrants and persons who have passed on, especially during the display of the voters’ register; for claims and objections.
“The Commission will make the continuous voter’s registration a truly continuous voters’ registration, enabling those who turn 18 to be registered.”
Earlier, CMO Chairman, Mr. George Igwesi, said the health of his members was among the primary focus of the organisation, hence, the the event was organised to raise funds for a medical endowment fund.