*As NUJ asks for more credible polls
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it is now legally empowered to implement the use of electronic voting in future elections
The commission’s acting Chairman, AVM Ahmed Muazu, who made the disclosure, said the new Electoral Law had granted the body powers to adopt any electoral process it deems fit, including electronic voting system.
This was as the Commission reiterated that it would commence Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in the first quarter of next year, starting with the Anambra state governorship elections .
Speaking at a meeting with Media Executives in Abuja, the acting Chairman of INEC, AVM Ahmed Mu’azu, said that the previous Electoral Act had in Section 52 (2), banned the Commission from adopting electronic voting in the conduct of elections, but that the new Act, which was passed and signed into law, “expunged Section 52 (2)” and granted the commission full powers to “adopt any procedures it deems fit” in the conduct of an election.
With the new Act, INEC is set to implement Electronic Voting, which it had already started experimenting during the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, when it deployed its Card Reader Machines in a parallel result collation process, monitored real-time-online by journalists and other accredited stakeholders.
According to Mu’azu, the commission had put in place, logistics to recommence CVR to take care of people who have attained 18 years, those who had not registered in the past, people who wish to transfer their voting areas, as well as delete the names of deceased voters.
He also gave an updates on 15 on-coming bye elections to be held in 12 states across the country, and sought media advise on the best dates to hold the elections.
He gave the states as: Lagos, Bayelsa, Borno, Cross River, Enugu, Imo, Kogi, Katsina, Plateau and Zamfara, stressing that the commission was mindful of not organising elections that will clash with on-coming yuletide and end-of-the year activities.
The acting INEC chairman in response to a comment by the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo, said concerns about security in the North-East and North-West zones were not much of a problem since the security agencies and affected people were anxious for the election.
He also said that referring flood in Bayelsa and other flood-prone states has made it easier for them to conduct election in the riverine areas.
Mu’azu said: “INEC will resume Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in the first quarter of next year, 2021, which will include the cleaning up of the Voter Register, because we believe it has to be cleaned up.
“The planning for the CVR is on-going and will entail a complete overhaul of the system and processes, including registering new voters (transfers and missing Voter Cards), updating existing voters, and deleting deceased voters from the register”.
He also commented on the costs, the ability of voters to adapt to technology, stressing that the most recent amendment on the Electoral Act gave INEC the prerogative to determine whether to use electronic or manual voting processes unlike in the past.
The National Commmissioner on Enlightenment and Voter Education, Barr. Festus Okoye, who buttressed this fact, invitee media executives to avail themselves of the amended Electoral Act and assist the commission disseminate appropriate information about the commission and it’s status on electoral issues.
He also advised the media against disseminating unverified information picked from the social media, stressing that most of the information to be sought on the commission had been uploaded on the INEC website, while he and staff of the Department are always ready to provide answers to media enquiries, where such could not be found on the website.
“We appeal to you, media executives, to assist block off fake news. The mainstream media should continue to practice the time honoured role of checking and cross-checking the veracity of news stories before publishing such.
“We are ever ready to cooperate with you in this regard. We have effective communication with the INEC accredited reporters. They can be of much help to verify some of these stories before re-publishing such, especially stories picked from the social media.
“Our website is also there which can be assessed. If there are information you can’t find there, feel free to call us. We shall attend to you. The information we don’t have, we shall escalate and get appropriate response immediately for you, “Okoye stressed.
The President of NUJ, Comrade Isiguzo on his part, advised INEC to liaise more with security agencies who have the intelligence and other information about where there could be problematic issues and ensure that areas where the integrity of the commission has been raised are resolved on a permanent basis.
He had expressed concern on the activity of insurgents and bandits in the North-East and North-West zones, which he said could affect the conduct of elections in those zones.
On his part, the Editor of The AUTHORITY, Malachy Uzendu, wondered why voters in places ravaged by insurgents and bandits always escaped with their PVCs, such that rather than voter population thinning down in those areas, they even increased in numbers returned at the end of elections.
He advised INEC to make CVR a permanent feature of their activities to be less stressful as with banks to customers that lost their ATM cards to new customers, so as to minimise electoral fraud in the country.