By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja.
AS the 2023 general elections draw nigh, the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to ensure competence and integrity of all ad hoc staff to be deployed during the elections.
This, the group said if the competency and integrity of all ad hoc staff were ascertained, electoral miscalculations and the replica of what happened after the Osun gubernatorial elections would be forestalled.
The group stated that the call was coming on the heels of its observations during the Osun state gubernatorial election, stating that the confusion that plagued the state months after the elections, was as a result of poor handling of the Bimodal Voter Registration System, BVAS, by ad hoc officials of INEC.
VANGUARD reports that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ademola Adeleke, was declared winner of the governorship poll held on July 16. But, Gboyega Oyetola, former Osun governor, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, claimed that there was overvoting in 749 polling units across 10 LGAs of the state.
Their argument was upheld by the election petition tribunal and Oyetola was consequently declared the winner of the election.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, Sam Amadi, the CSO’s director, said there was no over voting in the election in the “typical sense”, saying the technology required good personnel management to ensure the success of BVAS.
He said: “The real failure in the Osun election was not BIVAS. It was the personnel that managed the BIVAS. As a matter of fact there was no overvoting in Osun in the typical sense. What happened in Osun with a very costly oversight of a presiding officers, Supervisory Presiding Officers and INEC officers.
“There was a practical failure in the implementation of Section 60 (4) and (5) of the Electoral Act. The relevant officers ought to be vigilant and ensure that the BIVAS accreditation results were fully loaded before ending the process.
“Even when the losers in the election demanded for the report of the BIVAS relevant INEC officials should have ensured that the full report was sent or if there was extreme urgency they would have accompanied with a letter to indicate its interim nature. All these failure reinforce the critical importance of the technical and ethical competences of persons who supervise elections in 2023.
“We have moved to the stage where it matters the quality and character of those who manage technology on election day. I make two important recommendations to INEC:
INEC should be careful in selecting ad hoc staff. In requesting for staff of sister agencies, INEC should not take the any list from such agencies except the Nominal List backed up by recent salary slips to verify that those persons are real staff of the agencies.
“We fear that politicians will like to infiltrate the ad hoc staff list to use the staff to manipulate elections. INEC has to ensure that these ad hoc staff are selected and vetted through a rigorous process in order to avoid the Osun debacle in a large scale in presidential and gubernatorial elections. Imagine the crisis we will have if Osun happens on a large scale in a highly competitive presidential election where the incentive for violence will be very high.”
He also advised INEC to, as a matter of urgency, start strategic public engagement to acquaint Nigerians with the workings of the BIVAS, adding that the commission must ensure transparency in other to avert judicial interventions.
“We recommended also that INEC start strategic public engagement to acquaint Nigerians with the workings of the BIVAS and to assure voters and party leaders on precautionary measures it has developed to ensure effective and credible performance of its technological innovations.
“We do not want our elections to be determined by courts. It is a tragedy that Nigerian voters do not know whether their votes determine who wins the election. It is not democracy for courts to determine of over 50% of elections. Court should rarely be involved in determining who becomes president, governor or legislator. We are now in a sorry situation where courts determine the winners of election.
“Nigerians are going to the polls in next three weeks not being sure who will ultimately be a candidate because the courts will continue to invalidate and impose candidatures. The only answer to the judicialization of politics in Nigeria is to make the process of election management more transparent, credible and efficient.”
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