August 12, 2018

On the march again : 2019 election cycle kicks off this week

Mike Igini, INEC, Akwa Ibom

inset: Akwa Ibom INEC REC, Hon. Mike Igini, explaining the EPP to stakeholders in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, last week

•INEC suspends Continuous Voter Registration, CVR
•Work begins on 2019 Election Project Plan

Inset: Akwa Ibom INEC REC, Hon. Mike Igini, explaining the EPP to stakeholders in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, last week

By Olalekan Bilesanmi

The Akwa Ibom State Office of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, last week, held an expanded engagement meeting with key stakeholders at the Ibom Hall, in Uyo, the state capital. It was full beyond capacity, with many others standing by the window.

Addressing the stakeholders,   in what many in the hall described as a riot act to all politicians, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Hon. Mike Igini, informed the crowd, made up of eminent and distinguished citizens and residents of Akwa-Ibom, including current and past leaders from all the arms of government – the governor, chief Judge of the state, elder statemen in the state as well as the media, civil society and traditional rulers – that the   Commission in the state was ready to implement the INEC national Election Project Plan, EPP, with a domesticated version tailored to the context of Akwa-Ibom State; and this will be in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, Electoral Act and Guidelines of INEC.

As part of preparations towards the implementation, Igini stated that the Continuous Voters Registration, CVR, that commenced   since April 27, 2017, in the state, would be suspended temporarily as from August 17,   and would resume after the 2019 election.

The REC, however, expressed disappointment over the low rate of PVCs’ collection in the state.

Using power point slides, he explained that only about 17% of those whose PVCs were ready had collected their PVCs, stating that of the 145,737 PVCs that have been made available, only about 24,420 had been collected, and a breakdown of local government collections showed that most local governments had only collected less than eleven percent (11%) of their PVCs. He reminded all stakeholders that campaigns and endorsements by electorates who do not have PVCs to vote is meaningless because it’s a matter of ‘No PVC, No Voting’ in 2019.

But the high point of the address came when the REC disclosed that  19 polling units that were located in places which did not meet the   guidelines for locating Polling Units have been relocated and renamed; but no new polling units were created. Elaborating on this issue, Hon. Igini stated that some of the previous polling units were located in former public buildings which were now private residence or private facilities.   Interestingly, some were hotels and private homes, because the government offices which previously occupied them had been relocated to newly built government structures, hence some of the polling units were relocated and renamed to open spaces or public places, which underscores the need for the stakeholders to be informed of these changes.

Additionally, stakeholders were informed by that ballot papers and result sheets would be delivered to the 1,980 polling units, and shall be audited by party agents and accredited observers before voting, adding that several changes have been introduced in the INEC EPP to bring about additional integrity and transparency to the electoral process.   One of those changes is the Election Monitoring Support Centre (EMSC), tracking of personnel and election materials, transmission of Polling Unit results in real-time to control centers to ensure that collated results are congruent with declared polling unit results of which party agents will have duplicates, through the duplicate Form EC8A.

He assured all stakeholders that under his watch as the REC of INEC, no force or forces and might within the state or outside the state will influence or determine both the process and outcome of the 2019 election except the votes of the people of Akwa lbom State.

Also speaking on the occasion, the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee for Election Security, ICCES, The State Police Commissioner, CP Ogunlesi, assured stakeholders of their security before, during and after the elections, insisting that all structures of violence will be destroyed or brought down before the elections and that those who will not be law abiding will be compelled to enjoy “free accommodation and free police food” in security incarceration, to allow law abiding citizens enjoy a peaceful election ambiance.

Several goodwill messages were sent to the gathering by some senior citizens who were unable to attend, chiefly, a former governor of the state, Architect Victor Attah, who commended the Commission and   the REC, for organizing the engagement.   He stated that the REC’s “integrity and commitment to   the conduct of proper elections are qualities that are well known and acknowledged in and out of this country,” urging him to bring these qualities to bear in the conduct of the next set of elections in Akwa-Ibom State.   Attah further added that the REC should make it abundantly clear to all Akwa-Ibom people that whatever evil may have attended our electoral practices in the past is now history.

The REC concluded the engagement by advising parties to acquaint themselves and their members thoroughly with the INEC monitoring template for the forthcoming party primaries to nominate candidates for the 2019 elections, so as to avoid intra-party members’ wranglings or disputes that would undermine their electoral fortune. Moreover, he added that parties must be very careful with how they conduct their primaries as faulty primaries have been known to cause political parties many setbacks, and that he will deploy staff to where these primaries would be conducted and use the template to write report that, if required by the court, he would make available, saying, to be “fore-warned is to be fore-armed”.  He concluded by urging all stakeholders to further assist in mobilizing people to collect their PVCs.

On his part, the state governor, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, who also attended the event, commended INEC and the REC for conducting the event, the first of its kind with lots of information made available to the public and urged all stakeholders to continue to ensure peace in the state and to help drive the mobilization of registration and PVC collection, to show that Akwa-Ibom, being a leading state in Nigeria, has more than 2 million active voters.

When Sunday Vanguard sought further explanations from the REC on the importance of some of the issues raised, he explained that a significant issue was the misconception by some politicians who think that money answereth all things, that the umpire should be given orders.

“That”, he said, “is a big and very grave notion because election managers are not errand boys but they are like football referees. As the umpire, the task of INEC is merely to ensure that political groups complied with the rules of the game, in this instance, the provisions of the constitution and the Electoral Act that should be enforced fully, fairly and impartially, to create a level-playing field. By complying with the rules all competitors will be assured that each has an equal opportunity and equal uncertainty to win or not”.

He added that in Akwa-Ibom State, people should discountenance all side talks or rumours, and feel free to concentrate on selling the message of how they can deliver the benefits of democracy to voters, so as to get their votes because no might or power within or outsidee the state, under “my watch as the commissioner of   elections in the state, would be allowed to stir the process to aid any group unduly, as victory at the polls can only come from the votes cast by voters”, he concluded.