The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Sunday said it will collate and transmit results of the 2019 general elections manually.
According to the electoral umpire, this is the only system that the law allows. The Commission also said not give Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) powers to recruit collation officers.
INEC insists that it has enough courage to conduct free and fair elections, but it urged Nigerians to prevail on political parties to comply with the guidelines for the exercise.
The position of INEC was made known by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, at an interactive session with some media homes in Abuja. Okoye said INEC was ready for the conduct of the polls in 1, 558 constituencies and 774 Local Government Areas. He said the commission has concluded the identification and recruitment of over 814, 453 ad hoc staff.
Okoye spent much time to clarify issues surrounding collation of results. He said: “ For this general election, we are collating results manually and transmitting manually in accordance with the existing laws. Even in some advanced countries, some of them collate and transmit election results manually because in this age of technology, anything can happen. ” INEC has been consistent in following the processes and procedures in collating and transmitting results. If tomorrow the National Assembly changes the laws, we will adopt e-collation and transmission of results.
“The National Commissioner said INEC will not allow Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs)to recruit collation officers.
Okoye added: “ The practice of recruiting collation officers centrally by INEC headquarters has been in practice since 2011. In all elections since 2011, including the 195 off-season elections since 2015, the recruitment of collation officers is centrally done by INEC headquarters.
“So, since 2011, no REC has been involved in the recruitment of Collation Officers. We will continue to recruit Collation Officers from INEC headquarters, we won’t allow RECs to do that.”
The commission met with the Committee of Vice Chancellors and agreed on the modalities for recruiting and forwarding the names of Collation Officers to INEC headquarters.
“Responding to a question, the National Commissioner said: “Collation Officers are not allowed to make phone calls or receive calls during collation.”
Okoye assured that the commission will be fair to all parties and candidates.
He said: “INEC has pledged to be neutral and will not pander to the whims and caprices of anybody or party.
“We have the courage and the stamina to provide an enabling environment to guarantee free and fair elections. We have the capacity to conduct elections that all Nigerians will be proud of.”
Okoye gave details about preparations for the elections. He added: “ As you are aware, in 12 days, INEC will conduct Presidential and National Assembly elections and on the 2nd of March, the commission will conduct Governorship and State Assembly elections.”
The commission is presently fine-tuning its preparations for the conduct of the two strands of election and National Commissioners are just returning from the states that they supervise where they went to assess the extent and level of preparation for the conduct of elections.
“It is a matter of common knowledge that the 2019 general elections will involve 91 registered political parties and a total registered voting population of 84,004,084. The election will take place in 1,558 Constituencies and 774 Local Government Areas. The Collation of Results will take place in 8,809 Registration Areas/ Wards and in 119, 973 Polling Units and 57,023 Voting Points nationwide.”The Presidential Election will be contested by a total of 73 candidates while the governorship election will be contested by a total of 1,068 candidates in 29 states of the Federation. The 109 Senate seats will be contested by 1, 904 candidates while the 360 seats in the House of Representatives will be contested by a total of 4, 680 candidates. The 991 State Constituency elections will be contested by a total of 14, 583 candidates. The 68 Area Council seats in the Federal Capital Territory will be contested by 806 candidates.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for FCT, Alh. Yahaya Bello, who was also at the session, asked the media to report only facts about the coming polls.
He said: “Clearly, media reportage of election can mar or make it as the people and international observers look up to them for information. It, therefore, behoves you as media executives to be responsible and circumspect in your reports and coverage of coming elections.
“This is not to say that you should not report facts but the appeal is to shun sensationalism, fake news and deal with the temptation of declaring the results before the commission does.” Reports capable of causing confusion or igniting rancour and hatred should be avoided. The media is one of the critical stakeholders in the electoral process. So, we seek your continued support in reporting facts in the elections and educating the electorate on their rights to vote and be voted for.”