AGAINST the background of the controversy surrounding calls by some Nigerians that the February elections be postponed, investigations have shown that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may truly be grappling with more problems that can mar the conduct of the polls.
Sunday Tribune’s investigations revealed that less than two weeks to the elections, serious logistics issues within the commission’s operations are yet to be convincingly taken care of.
According to some INEC commissioners who spoke with our reporter on condition of anonymity, there is serious concern over whether or not the commission could conduct unassailable elections starting from two Saturdays from now.
It was learnt, for example, that as many polling units have now been expanded to have between 1,000 and 2,000 voters. Such units, according to inside sources in INEC, are required to be broken down to more accreditation points, a development that would require double the four officials planned for such units.
Sources said INEC would eight persons instead of four to successfully man units with more voters in the existing 120,000 polling units. According to insiders, “the commission may need to recruit about 960,000 ad hoc personnel nationwide within the next two weeks and train them on normal electoral processes.” But investigations revealed that INEC is yet to conclude its recruitment in many parts of the country.
Another area the commission is said to likely encounter hiccup is the effect of introduction of card readers at voting points as a way of verifying the authenticity of presents Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and the added technical challenges related to the card reader that has been highlighted above.
It was discovered that much as the ad hoc and permanent personnel the commission would deploy for the elections may have increased, training of personnel on the use of the card readers and other election activities have not begun.
“INEC is yet to commence training of Election Day personnel for the polling unit activities. And this is more serious when it is considered that a new technology, the electronic card reader authentication, is being introduced to the process.
“This means that thousands of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), post-NYSC, federal civil servants a lecturers that are to be deployed for the exercise have less than 15 days to be recruited, indoctrinated and technically trained to handle these devices and possible contingencies that may arise if there are technical failures when using this new innovation,” another source said.
One INEC commissioner from a North-Central state confided in Sunday Tribune that though INEC had placed orders for the production of ballot papers, there were legal issues tied to the outcome of the party primaries and the window for substitution of candidates which only terminated on the 30 December 2014.
“After these were done, the commission had to compile these outcomes and confirm with the parties, as indicated by development of 26 January, only last week, through a press release, in which some party candidates were dropped for not meeting the legal requirements of Section 187 of the constitution, with reference to nomination of running mates for the governorship election.
“By that development, it was clear that INEC’s final list of parties involved in the election and their candidates was only just being finalised. Therefore, could it have ordered for definitive ballot papers without such crucial information?” queried a stakeholder.
With the development, it is being suggested that critical material for the election, ballot papers, might just have been contracted out for production after INEC had sanitised and/or scrutinised the list of candidates for the elections.
An Abuja-based top official also corroborated the development in a telephone interview with Sunday Tribune, saying, “caught between these legal constraints from the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution, as well as the technical challenges from contractors engaged with the production of ballot papers, result sheets, electoral forms and envelopes that are currently being customised, to enhance the fidelity of the process, and the inability of politicians to move them from one polling area to another, INEC may currently be faced with a heavy burden to meet the 14 February commencement date, without organising a shambolic election.”