Be fair to smaller parties, group urges INEC

a prof. mahmood yakubu
a prof. mahmood yakubu

A socio-political group, Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure fairness to political parties who are not frontrunners in the forthcoming general election.

The advocacy group alleged that INEC had been carrying out its regulatory functions in favour of the ‘Big Four’ parties in the preparations for the elections.

The Director, ASSPT, Dr Sam Amadi, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, urged the electoral umpire to be fair to all the 18 registered parties before, during and after the polls.

Amadi said from the group’s interactions with some of the parties “outside the major ones, namely the PDP, the APC, the LP and the NNPP,” there were reports of difficulty in uploading party agents on INEC’s portal due to various reasons including difficulty of using the portal for some of them and the number of Polling Units to be uploaded.

“Some of the officials of these parties informed us that INEC officials did not notify them that their method will only provide online forms suitable for self-service and not for enterprise use cases. Some of them have also complained that the task requires more time than INEC allocates,” he said.

According to him, some of the party officials are requesting INEC to adopt the Enterprise Data Upload Method, which they believe will be easier and faster to enable them to quickly upload their agents and, therefore, be in a position to monitor and defend their votes.

Amadi said, “While commending INEC for its responsiveness to issues that we and other credible stakeholders in the 2023 elections have generated for its attention, we urge the commission to recognise its constitutional obligation as a regulator to always insist on fair procedures that do not disadvantage any party or voting population.

“Specifically, we commend INEC for extending the deadline for collection of PVCs but urge it to ensure that all administrative changes required are made to ensure all registered voters who want to vote are able to collect their PVCs. INEC should recognise that any Nigerian citizen of voting age who has registered to vote must be accorded the opportunity to vote. By Section 47 of the Electoral Act, this means such a registered voter must receive from the INEC a Permanent Voter Card.

“The implication is that INEC is under a constitutional obligation to deliver a voter card to all registered voters who have made efforts to collect the same. We urge INEC to improve its delivery system and overcome some of the managerial shortcomings recorded in the past weeks in this regard.”

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On the uploading of party agents for the elections on February 25, Amadi urged INEC to work hard and simplify its digital processes to enable efficient and timely upload. “INEC should recognise the comparative disadvantage of the less established parties and grant them ample opportunity to meet the deadline,” he stated.

Amadi added, “Furthermore, if INEC is not able to be flexible with its system to enable smooth upload, then it should, within its conveniences and schedule, consider to extend the deadline to enable effective participation by the less established parties, outside the ‘Big Four’, to ensure fair participation in competitive election.

“These suggestions are made to provide fair and effective participation in the INEC process and to avert any resort to litigation that may damage the schedules and the credibility of the electoral management body and the entire process.”

The ASSPT boss noted that ASSPT believes that the most important aspect of the electoral process is not the actual voting but actions taken by the electoral management body to make voting free and fair. He also noted that the body was not engaged in election monitoring but in observing and analysing the processes and procedures that guarantee fairness and credibility of voting and declaration of results.

Amadi stressed that the ASSPT would be having weekly press briefings to highlight challenges and offer solutions to ensure the conduct of the 2023 elections remain free, fair and credible.

He commended INEC for some of the decisions taken by the electoral body, which he said had “reinforced faith in its determination and capability to effectively manage the electoral processes.”

Amadi noted that one of the steps was to extend the deadline for the collection of the Permanent Voters Card for registered voters who had not done so. Another, he said, was the decision to use INEC staff to conduct the election rather than academics outside its control.

“By establishing a committee of its senior management and taking ownership of the process, INEC is proving that it is learning from the failures of the past and is determined to conduct more efficient and reliable elections in 2023.

“This decision underlines a recognition of the need to standardise the procedures and processes of the elections. This is more so as the returning officers make decisions that at times are arbitrary and capricious to undermine the fairness of electoral outcomes,” Amadi partly said.

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