By: Vincent Ikuomola and Faith Yahaya
VOTERS can witness the sorting and counting of ballot papers, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Attahiru Jega said yesterday
“The results are to be announced to the hearing of all,” Prof. Jega said.
The duo spoke in Abuja yesterday during the INEC National Stakeholders Summit on the general elections, where Jega unveiled the procedure for the elections and launched the official app “myINEC”. This is the second time in one week that the INEC is overruling the police chief on the issue. The elections will hold on Saturday.
The Inspector General of Police, who noted that he was only advising the electorate and politicians to stay away after casting their votes, said waiting behind could contravene the Electoral Act, especially the one that bothers on loitering.
Abba relied on Section 129 of the Electoral Act, which lists some of the actions which could result in electoral offences. Section 129(1)(i) lists, amongst others, “loitering without lawful excuse after voting or after being refused to vote” as some of the actions, which could be seen as electoral offences.
He, however, assured the people that the police would be civil in their dealings with the public.
Abba’s speech was greeted with an uproar – a sign of rejection. “ I advise, cast your vote and go home and relax,” he said.
Abba, who was replying to the question raised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) representative, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, Deputy Director-General General, Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation, if waiting behind to protect votes constitutes loitering, said there would be time to distinguish protection of votes and loitering.
He also stressed that waiting behind under the provision of “lawful purpose” expires immediately one finishes casting one’s vote. The law provides for those who are to wait to protect the ballot, he said.
“There are lawful people assigned to protect your vote,” Abba said.
Noting that the advice also affects the candidates who are standing for elections, Abba urged them to educate their followers on peaceful conduct during and after the elections.
On the deployment of soldiers for the elections, the police boss noted that the military will play a supportive role as stated in the constitution.
Though he noted that he was yet to see the High Court judgment on the issue, he, however, said the military will be deployed to provide cover about 300 metres from the polling units.
Jega reassured Nigerians that the commission “has done its best to prepare adequately for the 2015 general elections, so as to make them better than the 2011 elections, and so as to ensure that they meet the aspiration of Nigerians for free, fair and credible elections.
“Let me also reassure that INEC and all field officials are determined to be impartial and non-partisan in the conduct of these elections. We will continue to do everything humanly possible to ensure a level playing field for all parties and candidates. And we call on all stakeholders, especially voters, candidates and their supporters, to contribute positively to ensuring that the elections are fraud-free, peaceful, as well as free, fair and credible.
“It is also significant to note, that INEC has put plans in place to improve the transparency and credibility of the process of collation of results.”
Jega went on: “Hard copies of result sheets from polling units would be scanned, converted to PDF format and put in database, which would be made accessible for viewing and downloading via the INEC website. Every voter or stakeholder will hence be able to confirm the accuracy of results from the PUs, which have been conveyed to the collation centres.”
Three ballot boxes will be used in each polling unit/voting point. The box with the red cover/lid will be used for presidential election. The box with black cover/lid will be used for the senatorial election and the box with green cover/lid will be used for the House of Representatives election.
The INEC boss, who insisted on the use of the card readers in Saturday’s election, said the commission was satisfied with the security and accuracy of the technology, especially as it has proven to be very reliable.
Identifying issues that stakeholders must pay attention to in the elections, Jega said “accreditation for the elections would start at 8am and end at 1pm while voting would start at1:30pm and end when the last person votes”.
The INEC Chairman stated that ballot papers in the wrong boxes would be sorted and put in the right boxes, but some political parties present at the event opposed the idea on the grounds that it was against their agreement with INEC.
While promising that hard copies of the result sheets would be scanned and published on INEC’s website after the elections, Jega noted that the commission was doing its best to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.
”INEC is determined to be impartial. We will continue to do all that is possible to ensure a level-playing field for all political parties,” he said.
The police chief, also yesterday, clarified his statement that voters should not remain at the polling unit, after casting their votes.
He said he did not ban them but advised Nigerians against remaining at the units after casting their vote.
He said his advice is based on the provision of Section 129 (1) of the Electoral Act.
The IGP made the clarification in Abuja when he met with 59 Police Mobile Force (PMF) Squadron, 19 Counter Terrorism Units (CTU) and 12 Special Protection Unit (SPU), as part of preparations for the election.
He said: “Police did not ban anybody from staying after casting their votes. Rather, what I said and I stick to it is this, ‘we advice voters to go after casting their votes’. Provisions in Section 129 listed activities that constitute crime .”
Highlighting the functions of the special forces, Abba said: “The challenges that will require your assistance on the election days include the escort of the election materials and INEC officials a day before the election to the place where the materials and the officials will be kept before they are moved the following morning to various polling centres.
“After the conduct of the election, you will be needed to provide necessary back-up to conventional police as well as providing security for those who have exercised their rights by protecting their votes.”
The IGP also urged politicians to go the right way in case they are not satisfied with the outcome of the result.
“All necessary measures are being to taken to prevent violence especially when results are announced and I want to urge the politicians to go the normal process in challenging the result rather than go the way of violence.”
The police chief said the Force had enough men to deploy in the 150,000 polling units.
Abba said: “We have about 150,000 polling units and there are enough deployments arranged for each of the polling units and in collaboration with all stakeholders, they will do everything possible to prevent the commission of crimes and the eruption of violence.”
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