By Joseph Erunke
ABUJA— THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, told the Senate, yesterday, that it had no plan of incorporating electronic and diaspora voting in the the 2019 general elections.
INEC explained that until the constitution was amended and necessary logistics put in placed, it could not delve into such areas which it described as not only lacking constitutional backing but also expensive to execute.
The commission also disclosed that it would develop a strategic plan, with a view to coming out with the definite financial figure required to undertake not just the 2019 poll but also others pending for conduct within the ongoing year, including Anambra governorship election and the court-ordered Anambra Central Senatorial District by-election.
INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Finance to defend the commission’s 2017 budget, was responding to questions by members of the committee, who requested to know the preparedness of his organisation ahead of the general election.
A member of the committee headed by Senator John Enoh, Senator Yakubu Abubakar, APC, Taraba Central, had wanted to know whether the commission would key into the recently widely reported breakthrough by the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI, in the invention of electronic voting in the 2019 general election.
But responding, Yakubu said he had not been either formally or informally reached by the NASENI since the invention was made, adding that he only heard about it in the media like any other person.
He, however, said even if he was reached formally to adopt electronic voting in the election, it would not be possible, given that the device, apart from requiring to testing to certify its efficiency, would also need to be produced in very large quantity to cover the country’s numerous polling units.
Answering another question from Senator Umaru Kurfi, APC, Katsina Central, on whether INEC would incorporate diaspora voting in the election, the INEC boss emphatically said no, explaining that the country had not made provision for such.
He said the commission would not adopt the system because of its capital intensive nature, aside from the constitution which had to be amended
Prof. Yakubu added that adopting the method at this time of economic recession would deeply and negatively affect the nation’s treasury.
Yakubu, who noted that INEC’s annual budget had stood at N45 million in the last three years, said he was yet to know how much the 2019 general election would cost the country, disclosing that the commission was immediately embarking on what he called strategic plan to come out with actual financial figure the election would cost the country.
Yakubu regretted that INEC’s purse had been deeply drained, following what he referred to as “unscheduled elections” in the last one year caused mainly by deaths of 13 national and state assembly members.
“For instance, in the last one year, we have conducted 13 unscheduled by-elections caused by deaths of some members of national and state assembly, meaning that on the average, a member of the national or state assembly dies every month, “he said.
Earlier, chairman of the committee, John Owan Enoh, explained that the purpose of the session was to avail federal government agencies that come under statutory transfer the opportunity of interacting with the committee on their revenue framework before approval for their various committees.