The election stakeholders comprising of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Observer and monitoring groups under the auspices of the Election Roundtable Expert Group (EREG) has called for improved security in the conduct of elections in the country.
The EREG at the end of one-day round table on Thursday in Lagos on the overview of elections in Nigeria post 2015, resolved to support the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in meeting its mandate and delivering a credible, free and fair elections in 2019.
This was contained in a communiqué reached at end of the event was organised with the support Independent service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) with the stakeholders passing a vote of confidence on INEC led by Professor Yakubu based on his performances so far and his zero tolerance to corruption.
The communiqué signed by ISDMG executive director, Dr. Chima Amadi; ISDMG director of mobilisation, Faith Nwadishi; Ezenwa Nwagu for Partners for electoral reforms, others top CSO leaders Ledum Mitee, Emeka Ononamadu, Abdul Mahmud, Oluajo Babatunde, Lanre Arogundade amongst other participants.
The stakeholders also lauded the courage exhibited by the current INEC Chairman and his commissioners in the discharge of his duties, citing the recent prosecution of corrupt staff of the Commission, saying such action has further restored more confidence on the preparedness of the Electoral Management Board led by Professor Yakubu in achieving a transparent poll.
The communiqué reads partly, “the participants support the stance of the current INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu on corruption. This is highly commendable. His zero tolerance to corruption led to the suspension and prosecution of 202 INEC staff found complicit in electoral malpractices in addition to the collaboration with EFCC to mitigate corruption in the electoral process.
“INEC has done well by the engagement of stakeholders by its quarterly meetings with stakeholders, engaging stakeholders in the development of the INEC’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan.
Participants observed the introduction of E-Tracking and E-Collation of results by INEC for a more credible electoral process and therefore, support the process.
“The successful passing into law of the electronic voting system by the Senate is a welcome development. We hope the House of Representatives will do same.”
The stakeholders meanwhile noted late budget passage and poor funding, hate speeches and war mongering of politicians during elections, collusion of collation officers to manipulate election results coordination and welfare of security personnel, interference of security personnel in the electoral process as occasioned at the Edo elections, Vote buying, voter apathy, Violence during elections as some of the challenges bedeviling the Commission and the electoral process.
They also expressed concern that security agencies are becoming the driving force in the electoral process, adding that communities through conspiracy, pad voter’s registers especially in rural areas.
The stakeholders concluded that Inter-agency committee on election security is weak and not properly coordinated; saying people’s perception of INEC is poor judging from the conducts of INECs adhoc staff as they see INEC from the perspectives of the conducts of those adhoc staff.
They recommended that any present and future amendments to election legislation should be enacted sufficiently in advance of elections to provide political parties, candidates and voters adequate time to become informed of the new rules of the election process.
It reads further, “INEC should immediately commence arrangements to reorganize constituencies and polling units in Nigeria, as this is long overdue. The process of reorganization should be made as systematic and as transparent as possible and must be completed well before the 2019 elections as well as clean up the voters registers remove deceased voters, to ascertain exactly the numbers of voters that have been transferred and the authentic registered voters in the on-going continuous voters registration exercise.
“Stakeholders so far commend the INEC leadership in the string of successes recorded and pray for its sustainability through continuous consultations, collaborations and partnership with the media, and the citizenry while making amends where and when necessary.
“The House of Representatives should follow in the steps of the Senate to ensure the passage of electronic voting in the electoral process and all other positive amendments to the electoral act
Quick harmonization of the findings from the national assembly and the Ken Nnamani led electoral reform committee in preparation for the 2019 general elections.
“Politicians who heat up the polity before, during and after elections must be prosecuted. Hate speeches from politicians should be penalized and perpetrators punished to reduce incidence of electoral violence. INEC should engage the media in this aspect.
They urged INEC to put in place more transparent processes by engaging adhoc staff that have integrity and make the process of engagement of adhoc staff public and on time before elections are held.
They urged CSOs to deliberate on how to confront the challenges enumerated by INEC and work towards collaborating with other stakeholders to curb the meddlesomeness of the security agencies in election.