With less than two weeks to the Edo State governorship election and barely 31 days to that of Ondo, stakeholders are raising fresh concerns regarding appropriate deployment of card readers, distribution of election materials; movement of ad hoc staff and general safety of Supervising Presiding Officers by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Making these observations, stakeholders who preferred to remain anonymous said the electoral management body should be commended thus far, but indicated that the commission should desist from allowing some of its officials to compromise the integrity of the elections.
A critical point according to the stakeholders is that the EMB should not allow some national commissioners, who would do anything to be reappointed, to compromise the integrity of the Edo State governorship election. According to the stakeholders, the planned meeting of INEC, billed for tomorrow should not be turned into an occasion designed to convince the appointing authorities that they are ‘loyalty’ enough to do whatever it takes to manipulate figures.
The fears are that the committed chairman should not lose focus to allow ugly plans to be hatched through laxity in critical procedures, which will affect the conduct of a free and fair election.
Also, the stakeholders encourage INEC not to give in to fear, especially among its top officials, who are willing to stick to the rules.
The noted that, if allowed to thrive, such plots could set the electoral institution many years behind, in terms of conduct of free, fair election and credible election. The concerned stakeholders say the blemish of the last Osun guber election is still fresh among international observers and members of the civil society who witnessed the charade.
According to findings, the tenure of national commissioners will end in a few months, with some of them may have yielded themselves to panic mode about whether or not their appointments will be renewed. But the stakeholders urge such commissioners not to fear, but to discharge their service without agreeing to undermine and compromise processes in Edo. They are enjoined to write their names in gold and shun deals that could tarnish their hard-earned good image.
Such deals, the stakeholders fear, could involve INEC removing its feet from the procedural pedals that border on integrity of election and effectiveness of the system, in the sinful belief that politicians can influence their reappointments. Politicians are said to have dangled this poisonous carrot in lieu of appointments to be made before the end of the year.
Of all the national commissioners, only the re-appointment of Mrs. Amina Zakari, who has already served two terms, stands out.
The reappointments of all other commissioners, except two from the North and one from the South East, are said to be unsure, a development, which stakeholders fear could lead to temptation.
Stakeholders also beg INEC to pay serious attention to protecting biometrics of voters during verification Operations Officers, to stem an embarrassing decline.
Information from the commission indicated that the operations. The stakeholders fear that in order to address the challenge of biometrics, some have pushed for the commission to agree to complement the verification process, by adding facial recognition and/or Iris scan at polling units using a z-Pad tablet.
At a previous meeting, the stakeholders fear INEC thrown out the z-Pad procedure, which means that the procedure will not be used in the Edo State election next week.
Another headache for stakeholders is the polling units public results viewing portal demonstrated in the Nasarawa by-election three weeks ago, a very important feature to enhance election integrity. Stakeholders do not want INEC to tamper with this when they meet tomorrow. They do not want INEC to throw this out, so that international observers will not laugh at the commission. The procedure made the Nasarawa election successful.
They also pray against another procedural weakness, which besets INEC so easily. They want INEC to use biometric Smart Card Readers, which helps to improve voter verification and, consequently, election integrity. They want this INEC to surpass previous EMB on use of Smart Card, which helped Professor Atahiru Jega in the conduct of the 2015 that brought the APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to power, even though the card was discarded in remotes parts and became all comers affair. By 2015, compliance level with Smart Card Reader was above 50 percent. Of recent, it’s hardly up to 30 percent.
They advise INEC that the only measure that will make Edo election credible and later Ondo, is to insist on the facial recognition or Iris scan at polling units, using its z-Pad tablets, and introduce other technical innovations.
The implication of the rejection of the z-Pad procedure, stakeholders hinted, is that anyone with a PVC will be able to vote without authentication, even if the Smart Card Reader is unable to match the bearer of the PVC with the data or biometrics.
Stakeholders do not want Edo State governorship election to be in jeopardy with plots to alter some aspects of the manual for election to be handed over to ad hoc staff.
Provisions, including the deployment of the z-Pad should be deployed. The document to give legal backing to the election, is the election manual, which also serves as code of operations for ad hoc staff. This is not the time to carry out last minute amendment or alteration, stakeholders warn.
Stakeholders say another area INEC should watch is its list of Supervising Presiding Officers, SPOs. This may be a source of disquiet at the commission headquarters, with the strategic importance of SPOs being their oversight of distribution of election materials, particularly ballot papers and election result sheets.
Stakeholders are warning INEC not to succumb to plots by influential politicians hijack the process of appointing SPOs, so that they do not infiltrate and make unwholesome inputs into the names of those to be appointed.
Even though some top officials of the commission have been accused of being in cahoots with the politician to perpetrate the on-going adulteration of personnel list of nominees to play critical roles in the election, stakeholders say critical and sensitive election materials should be effectively distributed to cater for all areas within the voting jurisdiction.
No SPOs should do the bidding of politicians, so as not to cause chaos in Edo and later Ondo. Stakeholders are urging INEC not to allow politicians to infiltrate and compromise the list of SPOs, in order to leave a good name for the commission and improved image for the country.