Law & Human Rights

December 1, 2022

2023: Some INEC staff working for politicians to sabotage elections — Ede, SAN

By Davies Iheamnachor

In this interview, Mr. Tuduru Ede, SAN, spoke on the 2023 general elections, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, preparedness and what Nigerians can do to hold the electoral umpire accountable.

Excerpts:

With the position of INEC that the 2023 election would be transmitted electronically but collated manually, do you think the poll will still be credible, free and fair?

I believe that the 2023 elections will be transparent depending on whether INEC is prepared to do what is right. INEC as we speak has not made very clear how it is going to collate the next year’s general election results. In one breath, it says it is going to be electronically transmitted, in another breath, it says there will be manual collation and everyone of us know that manual collation has been the bane of our elections. It has always impacted on the integrity. When INEC conducted the Osun State election, it relied on Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS. That meant that what they recorded in the form EC8A, the result sheet and BVAS should synchronize. But as we speak, there appears to be some inconsistency. Allegations are being made that INEC tampered with the BVAS after the election to make a declaration of the result. We don’t know how credible that information is but if INEC can go back to tamper with the BVAS, that tells you that a lot of things can still go wrong. The good thing that happened in that election, understandably is that one of the parties is in possession of that result as at the time the Certified True Copies were issued. Then INEC has also now gone ahead to issue two different CTCs.

I often say that the fault is not in our stars, but in us. If the electoral umpire is prepared to do what needs to be done, we won’t  have issues. For example, in Rivers State, when parties have submitted names of their candidates to INEC in line with the law, a political party is busy in court fighting to disqualify other political parties.

During the primary and congress process, a particular political party in Rivers State prevented INEC staff from going to monitor congresses and primary election as required. People in a department they call EPM were busy issuing directives, meanwhile, that same political party that wanted the congresses and primary elections to be conducted had already in line with the requirement of the Electoral Act 2022 issued INEC the requisite 21 days notice, informing them of the timing.

Remember, election is not about the last day of voting. It starts from the preparation to the announcement and when we go to court, since in Nigeria ,court judgement is part of the electoral system.

So, the problem is with the INEC people. They have vested interest. I tell you that in a place like Rivers State, all Electoral Officers are compromised. They are compromised in favour of a political party; that is the challenge we have. Ordinarily, they could have good intentions, but some are already compromised. They are already determined to follow a course of action which is not in the best interest of Nigerians.

The election will succeed if INEC says it will be successful. But it will fails, its because a great majority of INEC staff members are already working for a group of politicians to sabotage the system.

You mean that all INEC staffers Rivers State are compromised?

Of course, we know that very clearly. That is the reason some politicians are going around boasting, that the election is concluded.

What do you think needs to be done at this point?

Every INEC official in Rivers State, from the messengers to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, should be removed. They have already taken sides. That is why some politicians of a particular party are busy boasting. They are not even prepared to go for the election.

Do you think that if this change is not done that the result that will come from Rivers State will be credible?

It will never be credible. Has it ever been credible? It will not. We are seeing documents in the public domain. There are documents relating to inconsistencies of several candidates of a particular party, what has INEC done about it?

What is your view on INEC’s decision to open its portal for employment of Ad-hoc staff in December?

That is a red flag. The fact that by now INEC has been unable to get adhoc staff to conduct the election is red flag. Red flag in the sense that, one, you need time to train these people. But that is not in place. You need time to identify this people before even the training. You have not recruited, your have not appointed and you have not selected. By even making it too open and well publicized, soon politicians will infiltrate  that system with their preferred persons. So, even before you start the process, it has been compromised.

 At any point in time, INEC has never been serious or prepared. They know and I think there is something they gain from it and that is the reason they don’t want it to work.

What do you think Nigerians should do to get INEC ready for the polls?

Nigerians need to get over primordial considerations. Nigerians need to go beyond ethnicity. They need to go beyond “my brother syndrome.” When a Nigerian enters office, his community tells him, “this is our turn.” If any other person criticises him, you have evoked ethnic sentiment. Politicians are in one class, the electorate are in another.  Politicians identify their interests, voters don’t. It is like teachers and politicians. Teachers will always go to  deliver every politician, then the next thing you hear after the politician has entered office, instead of giving education a share in the budget, the politician will say education has taken the lion share, at least to be on the colloquial, every time, a governor raises budget, education has taken the lion share.

The same voters who are aloof, who don’t know what to do, will go about collecting N5000, and N10,000 from politicians to allow them have their way. When they get into the office, they forget the same people. Now, there is no electricity, should we be complaining about electricity at this point in Nigeria, about health services, about education? For over eight months, children were out of school. The universities were shut. But the same lecturers will fall over themselves to serve as Returning Officers to call the results they give to them. It is a shame.

What is your view on the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket?

It is not an issue. Abiola with Kingibe ran joint ticket and they won. That was one of the popular elections in Nigeria. Our problem is not religion. Our problem is in choosing people with capacity and ability to serve and deliver. You go to some states, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, the ticket is Christian-Christian. Is there anything spectacular they are doing? Have they ever looked at the Bible and stopped stealing? You go to some states in the North, they have Christian-Muslim, Muslim-Christian tickets, have they done anything spectacular? Sometime ago, Christians in Kaduna made so much noise about El-rufai and not voting for him and the man dared them, that is why Christians are no longer Deputy Governor in Kaduna State.

Has he been loosing election? It is not about whether the ticket is Christian-Christian or Muslim-Christian. They have been sharing money at the National Assembly, have you ever heard that they fought because of Muslim or Christian faith? The issue is, can we have competent persons to work? Once the will to deliver is there, the issue of religion is irrelevant. Nigeria is a secular states, so why do we concern ourselves with Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian?

How do Nigerians begin to understand to vote credible persons and not political parties at polls?

One man comes today and talks much but in the end does not nothing. Another man comes and tells you they are doing this and that and they leave without much. Do we have people who are committed and not one man coming to read statistics from China? Is China practicing Democracy? It is an authoritarian government. You want to talk about Treaty in Nigeria you are going to Egypt. Should we be complaining about electricity in Port Harcourt? Remember, the issue of electricity supply and generation appears to have been deregulated. So Rivers State Government can decided to link Port Harcourt to PHED, and we gave adjoining areas. The gas is here instead companies are flaring it. There are so many flow stations even around the Port Harcourt Refinery area. It has not been the case of what to do but the will. Leaders just like packing money, filling their rooms with dollars.

How can power problem be resolved in Port Harcourt?

It’s just for the government to take over certain areas of the town. Sometimes, you can decide to supply power to local areas and leave the townships to PHED. Or you isolate certain parts of Port Harcourt, or you say the whole of Obio/Akpor, Eleme, Oyibo that are being supplied by PHED, should stop and you take over. But the state government is not interest. We spoke about will. There is no will. They prefer darkness and then running generator.

What do you make of the recent gale of defections by politicians in Rivers State

Political systems are run on ideological stands and parties evolve over time. Unfortunately, in Nigeria it has not been about ideology rather what they can get. That explains this detections and decamping. We have even lost the vocabulary to describe it.

The current situation I can describe as ‘Sheism’ in political parties is also better for them, so that they will know who actually belongs to where. If you are in APC and you are no longer comfortable you move over to PDP, and if you are in PDP and you are no longer comfortable you move over, soon, they will identify themselves and know who actually belongs to which political party. Tha way I don’t see anything too wrong in what is going on. I believe that it is an evolutionary system. It is a build up to having the proper persons in a political party. You can see in PDP, the way they are fighting is like fight to finish, but what is it about? It is about power and position. Very soon that will be sorted out. I think in APC they are resolving it internally. If Labour Party can put themselves together, it can also work out for them remember, initially there were some problems with Labour Party, but they have tried to solve it somehow now.

Don’t you think some of the security issues are as a result of political issues not being sort out?

Insecurity is largely as a result of failure of government. If we have a strengthened system of enforcement of law and order, then we will not have issues again. We are dealing more with physical security, instead of security based on intelligence. You do security in several ways. Sometimes they will confuse you with security architecture. Normally, some persons should be in the security services who don’t ware uniform. They only go about to gather intelligence in all spares of life, because one day one area of endeavor will be necessary to be looked into.

But in Nigeria the only security you know are those who are uniforms and carry guns. Before you carry gun and go to a particular place before you go out what are the sensitive issues? What is the background to what you are going to attend? If you solve that problem, then the issue of insecurity will be over.

Today, we are talking about community restiveness, Nigeria somehow appears to be itching towards a solution, particularly in oil-producing areas with the PIA and setting up of the Community Trust Fund. If the communities now become part of the ownership of the companies, with whatever percentage that is resolved for them, then the communities are likely to ensure that oil facilities are not tampered with because that will result in a drop in what comes to them.

Maybe, the community says they are getting N5m every month, youths organise themselves to go and secure the pipelines or the well heads. So anybody who now enters to go and cause trouble about these facilities will quickly be exposed. Because the community youths now know that anything happening there will deprive them of their take on the funding system. So there will be a tier of reporting, whereby the security services will have the appraisal the security systems in the community.

What is your take on the recent NNPC Limited?

Nothing changes. A man changed his name from A to B he has not changed, he is still a man. He is still the same person. Whether they changed to NNPCL or maintained the same nomenclature they are still doing the same thing. It was understood that so many persons were weeded out compulsorily and they only left a click. It is the same ‘cabal’. I do believe that it will be well.