Why INEC needs a Youth Strategy

Inclusive participation in the electoral process is essential for measuring the quality of elections. An inclusive electoral process is an indicator of a country’s democratic development.

Election management bodies must ensure the principles of inclusion and representation are guaranteed in their operations. If youth participation must be enhanced, then youth engagement must be seen to be interesting and meaningful.

Historically, youth between the ages of 18-35 years in Nigeria (estimated to constitute about 60% of the population of the country) have been playing active roles in deepening democratization in Nigeria. The huge milestones Nigeria and the Independent National Electoral Commission recorded with the successful conduct of the 2015 elections would have been impossible without the contributions of the youth demographic.

Therefore, it is imperative to have avenues in which the youth are able to be a part of electoral processes rather than against it, having an inclusive system by encouraging participation via voting, contesting, election management among others. Strategic and intentional youth engagement throughout the electoral process also reduces the risks related to political exclusion. A youth strategy deliberately aimed at young people especially from a young age will help in building appreciation for the democratic practices and electoral process. Ultimately, a youth strategy will strengthen INEC’s sustained efforts for conducting free, fair and credible elections.

The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) recommends that electoral management bodies (EMBs) should begin to integrate the youth into their organizational structures, and make use of their largely untapped skills, especially in the use of technology.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in partnership with YIAGA as part of efforts to strengthen youth voices for advocacy and increase youth participation in the electoral process with hold strategy development meetings, regional consultations, campus tours, online engagements and validation meetings towards the development of a strategy to guide INECs youth engagement throughout the electoral process.

“We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Isn’t it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?’” — Hans Bernard

PRESS STATEMENT ON THE REVIEW OF THE 2018 APPROPRIATION BILL FROM A YOUTH PERSPECTIVE

Introduction

In line with constitutional stipulations and governance practice, President Muhammadu Buhari submitted a budget proposal of N8.612 trillion to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017 as 2018 Appropriation bill. The budget tagged Budget of Consolidation is expected to consolidate on the achievements of previous budgets and strengthen the administration’s Economic Growth and Recovery plan (EGRP). The budget is one of the most important instruments of governance because it provides guidance on how government intends to spend public funds to meet the needs of citizens. It is therefore inherent on citizens to participate in budget process to ensure transparency, equity and accountability in the allocation public resources.

The YIAGA Centre for Legislative Engagement undertook an analysis of the 2018 Appropriation bill from a youth perspective. The objective of the review was to ascertain the following;

  1. The Federal government’s priority for youth development based on the budget proposal
  2. The responsiveness of the 2018 budget to the needs and priorities of young people
  3. General Observations and Gaps in the ministry’s budget and
  4. Recommendations for a youth responsive budgeting

 

The approach adopted is mainly a desk review of key social and economic sectors with relatively high responsibilities for youth development in the proposed 2018 Federal Government budget and a review of policies and macroeconomic plans for youth development in Nigeria. The following sector were reviewed in the analysis Agriculture, Education, Health, Industry Trade and Investment, the National Directorate of Employment, the Social Investment Program and the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development.

Findings and Observations

The review of sectoral budgets especially Federal Ministry of Youth and Sport Development budget indicates that most of the agencies did not apply the principles of good budgeting like adequacy, equity, transparency and efficient allocation of resources. The budget as proposed by most of the agencies like the FMYSD are unrealistic given the magnitude of the youth demography and challenges youth face in Nigeria.

 

General observation on the FMYSD budget

Generally, it is observed that the FMYSD budget is very lean when compared to the role it is expected to perform. Five percent (5%) of the budget was earmarked for capital expenditure covering programmes and infrastructure, while 95% of FMYSD budget will be spent on recurrent expenditure. Most of the expenditure lines are administrative in nature. In other words, priority is placed on procurement of items such as vehicles, computers, furniture fittings, repairs of offices etc. In the proposed budget, the ministry introduced too many new projects, which are underfunded and this may lead to incomplete projects thus adding to the growing number of abandoned projects. Details of budget line were not explicit to ensure transparency and fiscal responsibility. For instance, budget items in the FMYSD – HQ and the Nigeria Football Federation budget for sporting activities within the recurrent budget were not clearly stated. Both agencies could end up expending public resources for same activities if the type, location and beneficiaries are not clearly stated.

Specific observations

  1. The priority needs of young people in Nigeria include but not limited to gainful employment, Education, political participation and representation and Sexual Reproductive Health Services. Being gainfully employed is not only based on availability of jobs but also employability of young persons. The ERGP states that 3.5 million jobs will be created annually while the N- power programme will employ 500,000 graduates annually.Based on the scope of this analysis, the allocations within the various sectors targeted at youth training, skills building, entrepreneurship or empowerment are very insignificant in contributing to the realisation of 500,000 jobs.
  2. The quality of budgetary allocations is also worrisome for instance SMEDAN intends to provide tricycles and buses to empower youths. Handing tricycles to individuals is a very unsustainable strategy for youth empowerment. The model should be better designed to create a transportation business that does not revolve around individuals rather a transport fleet that is well managed by a cooperative to ensure proper maintenance and continuity.
  3. Poor access to information on/and access to reproductive health services for urban and rural youth has led to devastating impact on HIV prevalence, drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions including rape among youth. It is tragic to find that there are no targeted programmes to address these needs among youth within the health sector.
  4. Allocations within the Education sector are focused on infrastructural development, teacher training and curriculum development. There is no gainsaying that the need for our educational system to provide the right training at the right time is crucial to the employability of our youth. Training could be informal – vocational, skills building, entrepreneurship or formal training offered within the formal institutions. There is a huge challenge engaging youths who are unable to get into the higher institutions due to the inability of the country’s institutions to absorb them.
  5. Generally, the allocations in the budget focus hugely on constructions-building structures like class rooms, hostel etc, but did not give high priority by allocation adequate funds to the soft skills such as Information, Communication Technology which is the gateway to 21st century development and comparative advantage for Nigerian youths.
  6. The N-Power programmes integrated into the budget are difficult to isolate. Thus the 500,000 jobs annually attributed to N-Power cannot be tracked from within the sector budgets
  7. National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEDAN), FMYSD all have allocations for skills acquisition, empowerment, training, construction of skills acquisition centre etc which are similar in nature. Too many actors in the same field may lead to duplication, waste and promotes corruptible practices.
  8. Allocations to youth programmes should be strictly for young persons. Lumping budgets for youth with women was seen across most of the sectors. Although both are vulnerable groups their needs are surely different.

Recommendations

  1. It is therefore recommended that the MDAs adjusts the pattern of allocation to the 70:30 percent rule for Recurrent and Capital budget respectively, reflecting the policy on public finance management which the Federal Government has adjusted to.
  2. New projects within agencies should be reduced to a manageable number that will allow for optimal funding of project and possible completion within the medium term, depending on the size of the project.
  3. Projects on entrepreneurship, vocational skills should be adequately funded or left to specific ministries with direct functions such as NDE. There is need to harmonize youth programmes to ensure synergies and reduce duplications – a guideline on responsibility and budget priority for youth within federal agencies should be produced by the FMYSD.To avoid duplications of activities across sector, details on type, location, number and target audience should be provided in the budget. This will ensure a more transparent and efficient allocation of resources.
  4. To avoid duplications, budgets for Sporting Activities in FMYSD-HQ and the Nigeria Football Federation should provide details on type, location and target audience. This will ensure a more transparent and efficient allocation of resources.
  5. Youth training on Leadership is very important. The Citizens and Leadership Centre’s budget should be increased to provide at least 6 zonal leadership programmes yearly. The agency should also reflect it revenue generating capacity within its budget.
  6. Public private partnerships for the provision of entrepreneurship and sporting activities through the relevant agencies should be encouraged and such budgets captured within public funding to ensure accountability
  7. The MDA’s should budget separately for youth activities from that of women and children. Since this is an area of intervention that needs strategic approach, it is important that allocations are separated; this will also enable tracking of funds and oversight of budget.

Signed

Samson Itodo

Executive Director

Political parties too many, may cause problems in 2019 –INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission says the growing number of political parties may pose challenges for the commission in the 2019 general elections.

The Chief Technical Adviser to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla, said this in Abuja on Monday at a retreat organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

While delivering a keynote address at the event, which was titled, ‘The Dynamics of Managing Political Parties Professionally,’ Eyinla said so far, 68 political parties had been registered.

Eyinla, who represented INEC, said with over 100 political associations seeking registration, the number might increase before the elections which could cause logistical problems, including the production of ballot papers.

The INEC official said if 68 parties participated in the elections, it could also mean that a total of 68 party agents would be at each polling unit, which could cause the elections to be rowdy.

“Currently there are 68 registered political parties in Nigeria. As of today, there are more than100 associations that have applied to INEC to register as political parties. This raises a number of questions which we want this retreat to address,” he said.

Eyinla further stated that he did not know whether INEC would be able to monitor the congresses, conventions and primaries of all parties contesting over 1,000 elective positions each across the nation.

He added, “We are also going to be challenged if these 68 political parties and counting continue this way. We are just a commission. I cannot begin to imagine even as the technical adviser, how we will divide ourselves to monitor party conventions and primaries of 68 political parties across the length and breadth of this country.

“Already we have envisaged some of these challenges and we are coming up with strategies to deal with them in our election project plan.

“Ancillary to this is the fact that political party agents will also increase. I can imagine 68 political party agents in a polling unit. I think these are issues that we have to manage; but most importantly, how do we manage the ballot for 68 political parties?”

Eyinla said if any registered political party is mistakenly omitted from the ballot paper, it could lead to the total cancellation of the exercise.

The INEC official said, “I think perhaps one of the largest ballots that I have seen is that of Afghanistan where the ballot paper is nearly the size of a prayer mat.

“Given our level of literacy, I think that is going to be a major challenge and as we know, the question of exclusion is a major issue in the electoral process.

“The chairman was literally sleeping and waking with the ballot for Anambra State election to ensure that no party was excluded; to ensure that the names and logo of the parties were correct because any slip could nullify the election. So, I think there is a challenge with managing the ballot that will come with the increasing number of political parties.”

The INEC official called on the National Assembly to make necessary changes to the electoral legal framework before July, saying doing so less than six months to the elections would be in contravention of ECOWAS protocol on democracy.

In his address, however, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the multiplicity of political parties was good for democracy.

Saraki, who was represented by Senator Abdullahi Sabi, called on political parties to ensure that neglected groups, including women and persons living with disabilities, were integrated into party structures.

In his remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said there was a need for parties to have ideologies as this would strengthen democracy and engender good governance.

Reps ask INEC to submit poll budget in 30 days

Members of the House of Representatives on Monday directed INEC to submit the estimates for the 2019 general elections to the National Assembly within 30 days.

The lawmakers said INEC appeared to be foot-dragging on preparations for the polls despite releasing the timetable.

They spoke at a 2018 budget defence session with the Chairman of the commission, Mr. Yakubu Mahmud, at the National Assembly, Abuja.

He appeared before the House Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters.

The committee is chaired by an All Progressives Congress member from Gombe State, Mrs. Aisha Dukku.

Mahmud came to defend INEC’s regular budget of N45.5bn for 2018, but excluded the budget for the 2019 polls.

He told the session that the commission would come up with the 2019 budget as soon as all possible expenditure heads had been factored into the plans for the polls.

But, members, taken back by the statement, warned that a lot of things could go wrong if INEC kept delaying, considering the fact that it had to deal with 68 registered political parties.

They also did not rule out the fact that more political parties would be registered before 2019, a development that could add to the electoral umpire’s headaches.

A member from Rivers State, Mrs. Betty Apiafi, told Mahmud that they had expected that the 2019 polls would preoccupy the commission ahead of other considerations.

She said, “The elections are almost here. There should be a budget. The commission should come up with the budget within 30 days.

“It is better to come up with a budget to work with and if there are other issues later, INEC can still forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly.

“If we leave everything the way it is, I am afraid there will be problems that INEC may find difficult to address. This is not the time to take chances.”

However, Mahmud assured the members that he hoped to comply with their directive before the expiration of the 30 days.

He explained that part of the delay was caused by the ongoing amendments to the Electoral Act by the National Assembly.

Mahmud appealed to lawmakers to conclude the amendments so that the commission could begin to make realistic plans for the polls.

On the N45.5bn proposed as INEC’s regular budget for 2018, Mahmud said N21.4bn was for personnel cost; 4.1bn for overhead; N18.9bn for electoral expenses and N927.4m for capital projects.

The chairman added that the upcoming governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun states in July and September respectively would be funded from the N18.8bn.

He also said other “unforeseen” elections like bye-elections, cancelled or repeated elections on the orders of courts would be funded from the sub-head.

Mahmud, who also spoke on the ongoing continuous voter registration, said four million voters had so far registered, adding that the number was insignificant compared to the huge number of Nigerians, who were ripe for voting.

Mahmud also dispelled the speculation that the exercise would be closed on January 31, 2018.

He said the registration would close 60 days to the elections.

“We will continue until 60 days to the date of the next general elections. So, disregard the claim that it will end on January 31,” he said.

He spoke on some of the challenges INEC had faced, conducting the exercise, particularly finances.

For example, Mahmud said while it would cost INEC N1.2bn to pay employees in 120,000 polling units across the country in one day alone, the commission had a budget of N1.2bn for all of its operations.

According to Mahmud, it would have cost INEC N130bn for take-off alone, but the commission had just N1.2bn.

To address the funding gap, he said the commission considered an “Option B,” which was to use a centre in each of the 774 local governments in the country and “still be within the budget of N1.2bn.”

Besides the wage bill of INEC’s 16,000 members of staff, Mahmud told the session that the commission conducted 178 different elections in the last one year.

He added that the commission made over 1,135 court appearances from 2015 to January this year.

On the security of election results, Mahmud said the commission was working on an innovation to transmit results directly from polling units to its data centre, using information generated by card readers.

He said INEC had been discussing with the Nigerian Communications Commission and major telecommunications service providers to agree on a secure technology to be deployed for the polls.

“We have another meeting with the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC tomorrow (Tuesday).

“Telecoms service providers will be there. We are looking at how we can get the results electronically and cut out all the risks along the road in transmitting results from point-to-point,” he added.

As the session wound down, Dukku spoke about the importance of the 2019 polls, asking INEC to brace itself for the task ahead.

She promised the support of the House and its readiness to work with the commission to ensure the “conduct of a free, fair poll next year (2019).”

Source: The Punch

Major highlights of Electoral Act amended by Senate

The Senate recently passed the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2017 into law. The passage of this Bill in the Senate is a bold, innovative and common sense step on Electoral Reforms designed to guarantee free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. Without much ado, these are some of the highlights of the Bill:

1. There shall now be full biometric accreditation of voters with Smart Card Readers and/or other technological devices, as INEC may introduce for elections from time to time.

2. Presiding Officers must now instantly transmit accreditation data and results from Polling Units to various collation centers. Presiding officer who contravene this shall be imprisoned for at least 5 years (no option of fine).

3. All Presiding Officer must now first record accreditation data and polling results on INEC’s prescribed forms before transmitting them. The data/result recorded must be the same with what they transmitted.

4. INEC now has unfettered powers to conduct elections by electronic voting.

5. Besides manual registers, INEC is now mandated to keep Electronic registers of voters.

6. INEC is now mandated to publish voters’ registers on its official website(s) for public scrutiny at least 30 days before a general election and any INEC staff who is responsible for this but fails to act as prescribed shall be liable on conviction to 6 months’ imprisonment.

7. INEC is now mandated to keep a National Electronic Register of Election Results as a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling unit results for all elections conducted by INEC.

8. Collation of election result is now mainly electronic, as transmitted unit results will help to determine final results on real time basis.

9. INEC is now mandated to record details of electoral materials – quantities, serial numbers used to conduct elections (for proper tracking).

10. A political party whose candidate dies after commencement of an election and before the declaration of the result of that election now has a 14-day window to conduct a fresh primary in order for INEC to conduct a fresh election within 21 days of the death of the party’s candidate;

11. Political parties’ Polling Agents are now entitled to inspect originals of electoral materials before commencement of election and any Presiding Officer who violates this provision of the law shall be imprisoned for at least1 year.

12. No political party can impose qualification/disqualification criteria, measures or conditions on any Nigerian for the purpose of nomination for elective offices, except as provided in the 1999 Constitution.

13. The election of a winner of an election can no longer be challenged on grounds of qualification, if the he (winner) satisfied the applicable requirements of sections 65, 106,
131 or 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and he is not, as may be applicable, in breach of sections 66, 107, 137 or 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. [For example, a person’s election cannot be challenged on the ground that he did not pay tax, as this is not a qualifying condition under the Constitution.]

14. All members of political parties are now eligible to determine the ad-hoc delegates to elect candidates of parties in indirect primaries. The capacity of party executives to unduly influence or rig party primaries has been reasonably curtailed, if not totally removed.

15. Parties can no longer impose arbitrary nomination fees on political aspirants. The Bill passed prescribes limits for each elective office as follows:
(a) One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N150,000) for a Ward Councillorship aspirant in the FCT;
(b) Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N250,000) for an Area Council Chairmanship aspirant in the FCT;
(c) Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500,000) for a House of Assembly aspirant;
(d) One Million Naira (N1,000,000) for a House of Representatives aspirant;
(e) Two Million Naira (N2,000,000) for a Senatorial aspirant;
(f) Five Million naira (N5,000,000) for a Governorship aspirant; and
(g) Ten Million Naira (N10,000,000) for a Presidential aspirant.

16. Relying on the powers of the National Assembly in Paragraph 11 of Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Second Schedule (Legislative Powers) to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Senate also passed measures reforming procedures regulating Local Government Elections. State Independent Electoral Commissions can no longer conduct elections that do not meet minimum standards of credibility.

17. Any INEC official who disobeys a tribunal order for inspection of electoral materials shall be imprisoned for 2 years, without an option of a fine.

Source: Daily Trust

INEC May Head to Supreme Court to Determine Election Sequence

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is considering heading to the Supreme Court for determination of its powers to fix the date for general elections, following fears that the National Assembly would change the order of general elections.

Changing the order of elections could force the electoral body to head to the Supreme Court for clarity on what is turning out to be a conflict between the Constitution, which empowers INEC to fix election dates and the Electoral Act.

The House of Representatives last week voted to amend Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which would see the National Assembly elections holding first, before elections into the state Houses of Assembly and governorship on a separate day, while the presidential election would be conducted last to complete the general election cycle.

Specifically, the House amended Section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new Section 25(1) which provides that the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly elections (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.

Similarly, Section 87 was amended by adding a new Subsection (11) on the order and timing for the conduct of primaries by political parties.

“The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence: (i) State Houses of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv) Presidential.

The proposed amendments, which came barely two weeks after INEC had released the final timetable for the 2019 elections, differ from the current order that provides for the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections first, and governorship and state assembly elections conducted afterwards.

Going by the INEC timetable, the presidential and National Assembly elections were slated for February 16, 2019, while the state assembly and governorship elections had been scheduled for March 2, 2019.

However, the proposed amendments have caused disquiet in the presidency, which considers them a deliberate ploy by the leaders of the National Assembly to influence the upcoming polls.

The fear in the presidency is that the bandwagon effect of the first set of elections into the National Assembly could affect the other elections.

Under the current order, the reverse is the case as the outcome of the presidential elections, in particular, has a bandwagon effect on the governorship and state assembly elections.

With the re-ordering of the primaries, the House has also made sure that the state governors minimise their influence on the conduct of primaries for the state and national legislatures, so that candidates vying for seats in the assemblies can in turn back them (governors) at their own primaries.

Also, the expectation is that the Senate conference committee which was empaneled last Thursday to reconcile the differences with the version passed by the House, would adopt the version of the lower legislative chamber.

But credible sources at INEC told THISDAY that if the amendments are adopted, it would cause a conflict between the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

“INEC is the body constitutionally empowered to fix election timetables. Now they are making amendments and they (National Assembly) want to make us conduct elections three times instead of twice, which is the current order, not minding the cost implications,” a senior official of INEC who did not want to be named, said.

Another source explained further that should INEC proceed to the Supreme Court, its argument would be based on specific sections of the Constitution, which empowers it to fix the election dates for the presidential, governorship, National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly elections.

Section 76(1) of the Constitution provides that “elections to each House of the National Assembly shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”.

Section 132(1) of the Constitution further states: “An election to the office of the president shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission,” while Section 178(1) provides that “an election to the office of governor of a state shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”.

“So if the Electoral Act is saying a different thing, because this is now the lawmakers making the amendments to fix the timetable according to their order, then it would be better for us to get the Supreme Court to decide on the matter,” the source said.

“We would argue that there is a conflict and in such instances, the Constitution is supreme. But of course we will have to go whichever way the court rules or decides,” the source added further.

The development confirmed a report last week by THISDAY that the proposed amendments were causing ripples in the presidency and the electoral commission.

The electoral body is miffed that the amendments are being considered just a few weeks after it released the 2019 general election timetable.

Source: This Day

Overcoming vote buying

One major slur on elections and indeed the democratic process in Nigeria is the practice of vote buying. It has become a recurring decimal in the nation’s elections, to the chagrin of right-thinking Nigerians and the international community. And not even the shadowy and powerful forces behind the uncouth practice can predict just how devastating its impact can be. It will be recalled that, disturbed by the monumental subversion of the electoral process that thrust him into office, a humbled President Umaru Yar’Adua had initiated some far-reaching electoral reforms. The quantum of litigations arising from competitive electoral contests, with some of the cases still pending in court since 2011, equally underscores the challenges posed by the worrisome trend.

In recent times, the impunity has graduated from what politicians call pre-paid to post-paid (vote buying), whereby voters are coerced to compromise their conscience and rights under the law. Before now, prospective voters were monetarily induced or settled, to use the common parlance, under oath, by opulent and influential politicians using stooges, surrogates and other categories of political jobbers, before casting their votes. This set of politicians and their gangs, in their inordinate ambition and desire to dominate the political space and strangulate democracy, have however upgraded their game, as voters now get paid only after having done their unpatriotic bidding. The political godfathers and demagogues are having a jolly good time at the expense of the nation’s democracy.

This latest strategy for undermining the secrecy of balloting requires that the voter display the ballot paper that (s)he has thumbprinted in favour of a particular party, so that the party agent standing strategically nearby can monitor, see and confirm compliance with the unholy contract as (s)he emerges from the cubicle at the polling unit. Having pleased the agent, the voter walks past the ballot box. Thereafter, (s)he is compensated in cash and kind, either immediately or at the close of balloting at an agreed spot and time, even before the result of the election is officially announced.

The practice, which is completely antithetical to the ethos and norms of democracy and the global standards, has added to the political lexicon of the country, such weird expressions as dibo ko se’be (Vote and cook a pot of soup) and cash-and-noodle, bordering on predatory and prebendal politics. This is a disservice to the less perceptible voter and, by implication, the electoral process. As such, we insist that major stakeholders must use the current opportunity provided by the National Assembly to raise the bar in terms of the rules of engagement in the electoral process. This is a crucial step in saving the system and protecting the long-term interests of the voter, and facilitating good governance and democracy.

The National Assembly should legislate to protect the people and guarantee the secrecy of balloting. Being a vital part of the strategic starting point to overcome voting buying, it should provide the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the needed legislation for electronic voting, complemented by simultaneous collation of results at the collation centres, whether at the zonal, state or national levels. This is the only way to deepen democracy and ensure that only popular candidates get elected. All persons and groups of conscience should mount pressure on the National Assembly members to do the needful, particularly as they are arguably interested parties in the current charade.

We urge the National Assembly to adopt further electoral reforms aimed at blocking extant gaps in the legal framework of the nation’s electoral process. The germane issues here include electronic voting and the use of technology in elections; regulating election expenses and increasing penalties for electoral offenders. Happily, INEC has enunciated plans to deploy a technology that would enable it to transmit election results electronically, directly from polling units to the state headquarters. No doubt, this will go a long way in eliminating rigging, electoral frauds and other irregularities. It will also enthrone credibility and transparency in the electoral process. The threat to the confidentiality of the process is real. It has a direct implication for the quality of leadership and governance.

Source: Nigerian Tribune

2019: Saraki constitutes conference committee on Electoral Act amendment

Senate President Bukola Saraki has announced a six-man committee of senators to harmonise the Senate’s version of the amended Electoral Act with that passed by the House of Representatives.

The Senate’s conference committee has the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Suleiman Nazif, as Chairman.

Other members of the committee include: Shehu Sani, Biodun Olujimi, Hope Uzodinma, Dino Melaye and Peter Nwaoboshi.

The committee is expected to meet with the House of Representatives to harmonise the version of the amended electoral bill before transmiting it to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.

The Senate had on March 30, 2017 passed an amended version of the 2010 Electoral Act, while the House of Representatives passed its version on January 23, 2018.

The lower house voted to change the order of elections in the country, thereby altering the dates and timetable recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the 2019 general elections. Lawmakers amended the Electoral Act by approving that the conduct of National Assembly election should comes first, to be followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections while the presidential election should be conducted last.

Highlights of the version passed by the Senate included the use of electronic voting for conduct and transmission of results, legalizing the use of Card Reader for accreditation, giving INEC powers to modify the voting process if there was any challenge among others.

The announcement by the Senate President comes 24 hours after the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, hinged the presentation of the 2019 elections budget on successful amendment of the Electoral Act.

Yakubu stated this while appearing before the Senate Committee on INEC to defend the electoral body’s 2018 budget estimates.

Also on Wednesday, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room called on the House of Representatives to rescind the amendment of the Electoral Act, which altered the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections.

Specifically, Situation Room described the legislation as self-serving, noting that the action of the lower legislative chamber violates constitutional guarantees of the independence of the nation’s electoral body.

Convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, stated this at a press conference in Abuja.

“We are however concerned about the delays in the passage of the amendments to the constitutional and legal framework for the conduct of the 2019 elections. Of particular concern are proposals coming from the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to alter the timetable for the 2019 elections already announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The proposal by the National Assembly to alter the Order of Elections already set by INEC is an unwarranted interference in the Constitutional powers of INEC to determine the conduct of elections and interferes with the powers of INEC to carry out its electoralduties without directives or control from any person or authority, using the instrumentality of legislation. This is unacceptable and is hereby condemned.

“The National Assembly needs to backtrack from passing self-serving legislation that contradicts constitutional guarantees of the independence of INEC,” Nwankwo

Source: Business Day

Voter Registration to End Early December, Says INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) will be temporarily suspended in the second week of December to allow for the conduct of the general election starting on February 19, 2019.

In a statement issued wednesday by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Prince Solomon Soyebi, the commission said so far, it has registered over four million new voters under the CVR exercise.
The CVR exercise commenced on April 27, 2017 across the country.

However, the commission said going by the provisions of Section 9 (5) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the CVR would be temporarily suspended 60 days to the commencement of the next general election scheduled for February 2019.
It said the exercise would resume after the conclusion of the elections.

“The commission wishes to assure all eligible Nigerians that the CVR exercise is designed to continue indefinitely as envisaged by the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

“The commission hereby encourages all eligible Nigerians to register at our offices in all local government headquarters and other officially designated areas across the country between 9a.m. and 3p.m., Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. Full information about the designated areas can be obtained from our state offices,” it said.

INEC said the exercise was intended to afford all eligible Nigerians, 18 years and above who did not register in previous exercises the opportunity to do so at their convenience.

According to the INEC statement, “So far, over four million Nigerians have registered across the country”.
In a related development, INEC has disclosed that it would deploy new card readers for the upcoming governorship elections in Ekiti State later this year.

The Chairman of the electoral body, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said wednesday when he appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC, to defend the organisation’s 2018 budget estimates, where he added that the 85 staff, died of natural and unnatural causes in the outgone 2017.

“We ordered our ballot boxes in 2017 which cost N1.4 billion, we have been using same ballot boxes , INEC will no longer rely on other states for ballot boxes. So new ballot boxes will be used for 2019 general elections,” he said.
“We have been using same card readers but we are ordered for more card readers,” Mahmood added.

The INEC boss said the organisation is yet to conclude on a budget estimate for the 2019 general elections particularly as the National Assembly is still soldiering amendments to the Electoral Act of 2010.

“It is provisions of the amendment to 2010 electoral act after passage by the National Assembly that will show the commission how elections at primary level by the political parties would be conducted and monetary cost that would entail on the part of INEC, let alone the general elections,” the INEC boss said.

Speaking on the 85 deaths of staff recorded in 2017, Mahmood said the intense pressure which several of the workers are subjected to due to the nature of the job, led to high blood pressure for several of them, who also succumbed to heart attacks.
He made the explanation while defending the budget estimate for a sick bay at the national headquarters in Abuja

“In fact, last year alone, there was preponderance of the 85 staffers that we lost died through such circumstances hours or few days after being rushed to hospitals. This is the reason why we decided to have sick bays in our offices now for preventive measures,” he said.
In another development, the Senate Committee on INEC also screened eight nominees for Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of INEC.
INEC nominations are not affected by the Senate’s resolution to suspend considerations of nominees pending the clarification of its powers of confirmation on the appointment of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

INEC RECs are listed in the constitution as one whose members require confirmation by the Senate, where the EFCC is not.
Some of the nominees screened yesterday are Dr Usman Ajidagba (Kwara), Baba Yusuf Abba (Borno) Segun Agbaje (Ekiti), Yahaya Bello (Nasarawa) and Mohammed Magaji Ibrahim (Gombe).

Source: This Day

EFCC arrests former SGF, Babachir Lawal

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, says it has arrested the former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

Mr. Lawal was arrested Wednesday, Channels Television reported.

Mr. Lawal was recently sacked after he was indicted by a presidential panel that investigated misuse of funds meant for people displaced by Boko Haram.

He had earlier been indicted by the Senate.

His arrest is coming a day after former President Olusegun Obasanjo accused Mr. Buhari of condoning corruption where persons close to him are involved.

Mr. Obasanjo said in a statement that the president had failed woefully, and urged him not to seek re-election.

Source: Premium Times

Why there was no provision for 2019 elections in 2018 budget – INEC

Delay in the passage of the Electoral Act prevented the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from including the budget of 2019 elections in the 2018 appropriation, Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the commission has said.

Mr. Yakubu said until legislative process is completed on the bill, the commission will be unable to estimate effectively the cost for the election.

He made this known on Wednesday while appearing before the senate committee on INEC to defend the 2018 budget.

“We can’t complete work on the election budget unless the national assembly has helped us to complete work on the electoral act,” he said.

“For instance, there is provision in the bill passed by the senate for two types of primaries; direct and indirect. One party may opt for direct, another for indirect and both will have different cost implications.

“What are we going to do? We have to wait until the act is passed before we know the correct figure. I will appeal to the distinguished senators to expedite work on the electoral act so that we can have an idea of the figure.”

Mr. Yakubu noted that INEC has made three key improvements on the card readers for forthcoming elections.

“First, we are improving the processors of smart card readers so that it will be speedier. Secondly, we are increasing the windows where people press the fingers on election day.

“We have realised that part of the problem sometime is with the size of the window.

“If the entire thumb covers the window, there is the tendency that for the machine not to recognise it. The third part is to enhance it to be able to transmit from the polling uni,” he said.

Source: Premium Times