By Jide Ajani
This is the firstÂ ofÂ aÂ two-part report on Anambra governorship electionÂ scheduled for February 6. It focuses on the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and its preparations for theÂ poll.
As living witnesses to the shambolic toga that elections in Nigeria have become, Nigerians are again expressing scepticism as the electionÂ for the governorship of Anambra State gets closer.
But the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, continues to shout itself hoarse that it is not going to be business as usual. The INEC boss, Professor Maurice Iwu, says the environment has changed and Nigerians must change with it.
Typically, INEC hasÂ held one stakeholdersâ€™ meeting in Awka.Â The other meeting billed for last week in Abuja between the candidates and the leadership of INEC could not hold. But the electoral bodyÂ insists that with what it is putting in place, everything should go as planned for a free and fair election.
In fact, INEC has constituted a monitoring team which it has also saddled with some responsibilities. The commission also claims that it has overhauled its mechanisms for detecting and taking care of irregularities.
And in what appeared to be a novel move, INEC has declared that votes would be counted at polling units immediately after election andÂ results declared. But with all these, there are those who still do not trust INEC to deliver.
And they point to many factors.
Take, for instance, the preparation INEC said it put in place before the 2007 general elections.Â During the National Council of States, NCS, meeting inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa, the seat of government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Iwu made a presentation to the NCS.
During his presentation, Iwu told his audience of INECâ€™s preparedness for the 2007 elections â€“ his audience was made up of the former president and commander-in-chief, Matthew Okikiolakan Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo, past Heads of State who are statutorily members of the NCS, Chief Justice of the Federation, state governors and a handful of other members.Â After his presentation, some of the members were taken on a tour of facilities of
INEC, preparatory to the 2007 elections.Â This was meant to achieve a number of objectives.
First was to let it be known to the whole world that INEC was indeed ready and prepared for the elections. Second, it was meant to provide a first hand assessment to this group of Nigerians whose views carried hefty weight. Arising from and in addition to the assessment, at the end of the tour, comments bordering on reservations or other such sentiments would be made with a view to assisting the electoral body conduct credible elections in 2007.
It was after the exercise that General Yakubu Gowon, a one-time military leader, showered INEC with effusive encomiums, saying the election management body was more than ready to conduct the 2007 elections successfully, at least based on what he had seen on ground.
But Gowon, a man of discernment, was quick to add a caveat:Â That with all these elaborate designs of INEC at having free and fair elections, he hopedÂ Nigerian politicians would not foul everything.
Indeed, Gowonâ€™s statement was to become prophetic when politicians turned the 2007 elections into a messy drama. In the end, INEC was blamed for everything.
But in a country of clashing socio-political and economic interests, those who hold the short end of the stick were bound to complain.
To be fair, in some instances, they may be right.
Even the electoral umpire has had cause to acknowledge some of the flaws in the processes.
For the Anambra election, INEC has set up a monitoring team comprising the following:
1. Mr. Ikeazor Akariwe â€“ 1st National VP, Nigeria Bar Association
2. Mr. Mike Ozekhome â€“ Mike Ozekhome Chambers
3. Mr. Wale Fapohunda â€“ Former Chairman, Electoral Reform Network
4. Mr. Faruk Umar-Secretary, Transparency in Nigeria
5. Mr. Festus Okoye-Human Rights Monitor
6. Mrs. Chinelo Iriele-President, Global Association of Female Attorneys
7. Mr. Bello Fadile-Justice and Peace Consultants
8. Mr. Olufemi Aduwo-President, Rights Monitoring Group
9. Anselm Okolo- Chairman, Election Monitors. Com
The terms of reference given to them are:
*Monitor the preparations, organisation and conduct of the Anambra State gubernatorial election.
*Consider and point out any factor that may affect the conduct and credibility of the electoral process as a whole.
*Propose to the Independent National Electoral Commission such action on institutional, procedural and other matters as would assist in advancing the electoral process.
*Determine if the results of the electionÂ reflect the wishes of the people.
*Submit its report to the chairman of the commission at the end of the election and publish same for public consumption.
And barely two weeks to the electionÂ in Anambra State, INEC has sacked 10 members of its staff, while placing another 10 on interdiction, for manipulating the votersâ€™ register in the state.
The manipulation came in the form of inflation of figures in the votersâ€™ register in some local government areas of the state.Â A top source in INEC told Sunday Vanguard that â€œthe affected staff were found guilty of conniving with some unidentified politicians to make wrong entries into the register of voters in some local government areas of Anambra State.â€
According to the official, â€œthe sacked staffers were discovered to have entered fictitious names in the votersâ€™Â register.â€
â€œThe official went on: â€œThe cooked up names were accompanied by either images of clearly under aged persons or blank photo spaces. The criminal action of the indicted staff led to the bloating of the votersâ€™ figures in some areas of the stateâ€. The commission, it was gathered, discovered this fraud when it sent a technical team from its headquarters to vet and clean the votersâ€™ register. INEC was said to have set up a panel to investigate the matter and try the accused staff.
A number of them confessed to have acted to insert fictitious names and details in theÂ registerâ€, the source said.
INEC said to be considering not allowing any person with voters card but whose name is not on the votersâ€™ register to vote in the election, since it is no longer sure of those who have genuine cases and those who were part of the undermining of the votersâ€™ register in the state.
The commission had, in a surprise move, last month, at its stakeholdersâ€™ meeting in the state, redeployed the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Chief Rowland Uwa, a move which, the source hinted, made â€œone of the political partiesÂ very crossed the commissionâ€.
The source said the acts â€œwere calculated to sabotage the commissionâ€™s efforts to conduct a credible election in AnambraÂ State.â€
ItÂ added that the leadership of the commission is â€œthoroughly disgusted at the development in which politicians do everything to undermine the electoral process and turn round to lead the condemnation of INECâ€.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that whereas â€œthe replaced Resident Electoral Commissioner in Anambra state was not indicted by the panel that investigated the fraudulent activities of the staff who set out to corrupt the votersâ€™ register, that it happened under his watch was enough for the redeployment;Â â€œThere was no good evidence to indict the Resident Electoral Commissioner in question and in any case he has been posted out of Anambraâ€.
INECâ€™S PROPOSED ANTIDOTEÂ TO MALPRACTICES
*Zonal Store close to AnambraÂ for the election
*MonitoringÂ team, made up of eminent pro-democracy activists, in place to monitor the election
*No use of ad hoc staff for the election
*Votes to be counted at every polling unitÂ immediately after voting in the presence of agents and voters
*Sacking of 10 staff found to have been involved in manipulating the votersâ€™ registerÂ in the state
*Suspension of 10 staff believed not to have been fully involved but with knowledge of what was going on regarding the manipulation of the votersâ€™ register in the state
*Redeployment of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in the state
* Randomisation of ballot papers
* Colours of voting papers different
* NYSCÂ members to be used as they have fixed addresses and can be held responsible for their actions
* Decentralised storage system in the zones of the country
* 6 data centres being built for voter registration
* Reform of election monitoring
What You Should KnowÂ About Anambra
Federal Constituencies: 11
State Constituencies: 30
Local Government Areas: 21
Polling Units: 4623
Resident Electoral Commissioner: Josiah Uwazuruonye Esq.
Procedure for elections according to theÂ Electoral Act, 2006
The question most Nigerians would want the Independent National Electoral commission, INEC, to answer is: Have relevantÂ steps beenÂ followed to the letter preparatory to next Saturdayâ€™s elections in Anambra State?
* Issuance ofÂ notice of election
8th September, 2009
Section 31 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2006, provides that this be done not later than 150 days before election.
* Collection of Form CF 001
(Affidavit/Personal particulars of candidates) and Form CF002 (Partyâ€™s list of Candidates) from National Headquarters of the Commission commences 25th September, 2009).Â There was no provision for this in the Electoral Act. Date for this was fixed by the Commission.
Last day for registration of voters28th September, 2009.Â Section 10 (5) of the Electoral Act provides that Continuous Voters Registration stops not later than 120 days before the election.
* Last day for collection of Forms CF001 & CF002 from National Headquarters of the Commission – 6th October, 2009.Â Again, there was no provision in the Electoral Act. Date for this was fixed by the Commission.
* Last day for submission of Forms CF001 and CF002 at the National Headquarters of the Commission 9th October, 2009.Â Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act provides for not later than 120 days before the election.
* Last day for publication of personal particulars of candidates. (CF001) 16th October, 2009. Section 32(3) of the Electoral Act provides that within 7 days of the receipt of the form CF001
* Display of Voters Register for purposes of claims and objections
26th October – 7th November, Section 20(1) of the Electoral Act 2009 provides a period of not less than 5 days and not exceeding 14 days for the display of the Voters Register.
* Campaign by Political Parties in public commences, 8th November, 2009
Section 101 (1) of the Electoral Act provides 90 days before polling day.
* Last day for withdrawal by candidates
28th November, 2009.Â Section 36(1) of Electoral Act provides not later than 70 days to the election.
* Time for publication of official voters register for the election; 7tn December, 2009 Section 21 of the Electoral Act provides not later than 60 days before the election.
* Last day for change/substitution of candidates by Political Parties; 7tn December, 2009.Â Section 34 and 36(2) of the Electoral Act provides that not later than 60 days before the date of election.
* Last day for publication of personal particulars of substituted candidates (CF001).
l5th December, 2009. Section 32(3) of the Electoral Act provides that within 7 days of the receipt of the form CF001.
* Collection of Nomination forms from the National Headquarters of the Commission commences 8th December 2009.
There was no provision in the Electoral Act; but INEC fixed the date.
* Verification of candidatesâ€™ particulars
14th -16th December, 2009.Â No provision in the Electoral Act – fixed by the Commission.
* Last day for the collection of Nomination Forms.
l7th December 2009.Â No provision in the Electoral Act.Â Fixed by the Commission.
* Last day for the submission of Nomination forms by Political Parties
18th December 2009.Â No provision in the Electoral Act, fixed by the Commission.
* Publication of list of nominated candidates.
7th January, 2010. Section 35 of the Electoral Act provides at least 30 days before the election at the constituency.
* Publication of Notice of poll
22nd January, 2010Â Â Â Â Â Section 47 of the Electoral Act provides that not later than 14 days before the election.
* Submission of names of Party Agents to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC.) Anambra State.
29th January, 2010. Not later than 7 days before the election (Paragraph 10 of the Guidelines and Regulations for elections.)
* Last day/time for campaigns
5th February, 2010 (8.00 am)
Section 101 (1) of the Electoral Act prohibits broadcasts or campaigns 24 hours prior to the day of election.
Date of election
6th February, 2010
Section 178 (1) and (2) Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria 1999 and Section 26 of the Electoral Act. The date is to be appointed by the Commission.