Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
Speaking at an election stakeholders’ summit in Abuja, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu also disclosed that the Nigerian Immigration Service has been deployed to the voter’s registration centres across the country with more than 300 non-Nigerians apprehended for attempting to register.
He said that an estimated 9 million Nigerians had as at 24th May been added to the nation’s voters’ register bringing the total number of Nigerians captured to vote at an estimated 80 million.
He also revealed that the commission was working on a draft policy on Diaspora Voting even as he said the commission was collaborating with security agencies and formulating administrative procedures to check the incident of vote-buying at polling centres.
The election stakeholders summit organised by the Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, the umbrella body for more than 400 non governmental organisations in the country drew participation from a wide spectrum of civil society, the country’s election management body, the media among others.
TMG chairman, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi while welcoming stakeholders to the summit expressed the determination of civil society to collaborate with INEC and other election stakeholders towards improving the country’s electoral process.
The summit which drew collaboration from Christian Aid and the United Kingdom Department for International Development, DFID, drew election stakeholders from different parts of the country.
Noting the laws of the land, Yakubu said that there was nothing the commission could do to stop an association from applying to register as a political party saying that an estimated 138 associations had so far applied and a number of the applicants would be registered before the 2019 elections.
“As at the eight of this month, we have received requests from 138 associations to register as political parties to join the already 68 registered political parties, so we may have more than the 68 registered political parties before the 2019 General Elections.”
He, however, expressed concern that registering more political parties could have effect on the size of ballot paper, the ballot box and also have implications on the speed of processing the election outcome.
On when the ballot papers could be ready, he said:
“I am looking at November when we will have the sample of the ballot paper and by that time we would also have known the number of political parties contesting in each constituency.”
Giving reason why some intending voters may have had problems enrolling themselves into the national voters register during the ongoing continuous voters registration exercise, Yakubu said the commission had to cut down on cost as it would have cost the commission N1.2 billion daily to mount registration centres at every polling unit as demanded by some stakeholders. That he said, would have amounted to N131 billion naira for the whole exercise, an amount, he said was not available to the commission.
He said that mounting the registration centres at ward level would also have cost the commission N20 billion, a factor that prompted the commission to use the local government level for registration. He, however, said that the commission upon necessity created additional units in some Local Government Areas.
He said that presently, there were 1,146 registration centres nationwide.
On when the voter cards would be ready, he said: “we have been processing the cards and we will make sure that citizens collect their PVCs before the 2019 General Elections.”
The INEC boss affirmed that ongoing processes in the commission and the advance of technology had made it difficult or almost impossible for the will of voters to be turned around in the country. He thus sought the collaboration of civil society to educate voters.
“We can no longer hide the outcome of results. It is very, very difficult for an election management body to manipulate the results of an election these days. “Using simple technology like your phone you can take snapshots of results. We can no longer write the results of elections and you cannot say that incumbency at the federal or state level will determine who wins an election.”
Responding to accusations of bias by some stakeholders, notably the Southern and Middle Belt leaders, Yakubu said he was confident of his vision and his duties and was not often moved by criticisms of politicians.
“I know the job I accepted to do for this country. Being the chairman of an electoral management body in a developing country is one of the most difficult jobs that one can do.”
He said that the commission had gone far on a draft policy on Diaspora voting saying that it would become a reality once the Electoral Act and the Constitution are amended to give effect to it.
“Vote buying is a big problem and we have been working with the EFCC and the police on this. We have to look at the administration of voting process by ensuring increased secrecy at the voting point.”
He also revealed that electronic voting could in the near future be a reality in the country saying that the architecture for the process was increasingly being added to the present voting system in the country.
Yakubu lamented the delay in the provision of funds for procurements as he disclosed that as many as 20,000 card readers that failed the integrity test after the last elections needed to be replaced.