Transmission, public display of results may not be included in INEC’s Electoral Guidelines
How defects may compromise elections
By Jide Ajani
There are fresh fears that owing to pressures from some quarters on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, its Electoral Guidelines being prepared may suffer fidelity as two critical elements, among others, that would guarantee the integrity of the 2019 General Elections may not be included in the manual.
The critical elements include but are not limited to the TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS FROM THE POLLING UNIT TO A CENTRAL SERVER IN ABUJA, and the PUBLIC DISPLAY (PASTING/POSTING) OF THE RESULT AFTER CERTIFICATION BY POLITICAL PARTY AGENTS, AT THE POLLING UNIT for members of the public to have access.
These two elements, according to very dependable INEC sources in Lagos, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, specifically the INEC headquarters and Aso Rock Presidential Villa, are expected to guarantee the transparency of the 2019 General Election.
Firstly, having become very familiar with the shenanigans of Polling Officers, POs, who either swap, edit or re-write results en route to the Ward Collation Centres, the immediate Transmission of the result to a Polling Unit, PU, after certification by political party agents who are to counter-sign the result, would ensure that once the result is transmitted to a central server using the Card Reader, every other step of Collation of result from each PU must reflect the same figures in the result sent to the central server.
Also, the INEC officials at the Ward Collation Centre, the LG level as well as the Federal Constituency/Senate or state level would have simultaneously gotten an alert on their hand-held devices of the same result as transmitted.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that once the result is entered into the server, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible for it to be altered.
Interestingly, some political parties had alleged that there were plans by hackers doing the bidding of one of the leading politicians, to disrupt and corrupt the system. But there was no proof or evidence of such a possibility.
Secondly – and of equal significance – is the public display of result at the PU via the instrumentality of the new FORM EC60E.
FORM EC60E has provision for the imputation of scores of each candidate of the political parties that would have participated in the election.
It is after the correct scores, as certified and authenticated by the PO in the presence of and counter-signed on the FORM EC60E by the party agents, that the PO will display it for anxious voters who would have participated in the election at the PU.
Therefore, apart from the PO and party agents, members of the public across the country can also have records of the result of their respective PUs which can then be photographed for record purposes.
The intendment of INEC for this noble innovation is to ensure that the PO is made to be accountable regarding the authentication of the result he is presenting at the Ward Collation Centre.
This has already been done in Ekiti and Osun States.
In fact, in the case of Osun, an electoral officer had attempted to remove the displayed result at a PU because of the disparity between what the PO submitted at the Ward Collation Centre and the certified, counter-signed result of the PU.
Meanwhile, as INEC continues its preparation of Electoral Guidelines, it has been discovered that the pressure being mounted on the Commission may cause it not to include these two key elements. The Electoral Guidelines will be the manual for the 2019 elections and it would be used for the training of officers who would participate in the polls.
Any element or procedure that is not contained in the Electoral Guidelines cannot be introduced into the training of electoral officers before, during or after training.
The guidelines would also be an integral document that can be tendered in the event of any infraction on the process leading up to the declaration of results.
Whereas President Muhammadu Buhari explained that his refusal to accent to the Electoral Act, as amended, is as a result of the timing, Section 160 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, avails INEC the latitude to include any element it considers necessary for the integrity of its conduct.
Section 160 states that “… any of the bodies [Section 153 establishes the Executive Bodies] may with the approval of the President by rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its functions, provided that in the case of the independent National Electoral Commission, its powers to make its own rules or otherwise regulates its own procedure shall not be subject to the approval or control of the President”.
Inferentially, the onus is on INEC to institute a set of guidelines it considers appropriate in its discharge of the responsibility of conducting the 2019 General Elections without recourse to Buhari.
A source inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa suggested to Sunday Vanguard that “each time INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, speaks of the independence of the Commission, he appears to be conscious of the constitutional cover his Commission enjoys and, therefore, should be in a position to do whatever he believes is right for the country”.
Sources at INEC Headquarters in Abuja told Sunday Vanguard that the electoral body had carried out a testrun of these two elements with incremental successes in the over 100 off-season elections it conducted since after the 2015 General Elections.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that the very first step in compromising the integrity of polls on election day after voting and counting of votes is the swapping or editing or re-writing of results by POs.
Form EC60E is an improved version that the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, at various public engagements, had referred to as the people’s FORM EC8A that should be pasted at the polling units.
The Form EC60E allows officials at polling units to publish the results and scores of candidates at the units as they appear on the Form EC8 or the election result document signed by the agents of parties.
In the event that results are not transmitted and Form EC60E is not used, the 2019 elections may witness the usual commotion which attends collection centres and, in the chaos, an edited or re-written FORM EC8A may be smuggled in.