#NigeriaDecides2023: Lessons INEC must learn from presidential, National Assembly elections

Days after what the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, had promised would be Nigeria’s best election, there are widespread claims that the polls instead did not meet the minimum standards for credibility.

The preliminary reports of many domestic and international observer groups noted that the election failed to meet the expectation of Nigerians.

Many were disappointed because INEC had the ample time, resources and experience to prepare for the election. From the Electoral Act to the use of election technologies such as the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), the electoral commission appeared to have all it needed for the assignment.

Yet, the election witnessed challenges, especially logistical issues which the commission had acknowledged were always a problem and promised to address.

Two major opposition candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), have already initiated processes to challenge the outcome of the presidential election at the election petition court. They have rejected the declaration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Bola Tinubu, as the President-elect.

On Saturday, INEC will be conducting another round of elections in more constituencies. The governorship elections in 28 states and House of Assembly elections in all the 36 states of the federation are expected to be much more keenly contested than the 25 February polls.

But the events of two Saturday’s ago have increased the tension in the polity and set politicians and political parties going for broke in this final round of elections.

To avoid the hiccups that in the first round of elections, INEC must improve in some areas.

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Logistics: Arrival of election officials, voting materials

While the commission admitted logistics was always a major problem, it failed on its promise to manage it better in the 25 February polls. Election officials and sensitive materials got to several polling units late, leading to voting starting late in the affected polling units.

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“The election day process was fraught with widespread logistical challenges resulting in the late arrival of polling officials and late opening of polling units across the country particularly in South East and South-south geopolitical zones,” said YIAGA Africa, which deployed over 3,014 observers to 1,507 polling units in all 774 local government areas (LGAs), in the 36 states and the FCT.

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had weeks to the 25 February polls, approached the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, to request that cash be made available for the commission to pay for logistics, to which Mr Emefiele agreed to.

He also met the Head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to seek for the provision of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) for election duty vehicles, which the NNPC also promised to deliver.

INEC was said to have struck an understanding with unions of transport workers, including the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) for movementi of sensitive materials and election duty officials.

Despite the assurance of the CBN to provide cash to pay for logistics and the provision of PMS for election duty vehicles by the NNPCL, drivers were seen on election day grumbling and demanding that they be paid in cash before they would convey officials and materials to the polling units.

Which is it: Electronic or Manual Transmission of Result?

Perhaps one of INEC’s biggest undoing in the elections was the failure to transmit election results directly from the polling unit to the IReV for real time monitoring by citizens and political parties.

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The demand from the PDP agent at the National Collation Centre, which started as a mild request, soon turned into a chain of events that would affect the citizen’s assessment of the election.

It did not help even when the commission said almost 24 hours later that it was witnessing some technical hitches with the upload of results. What followed were allegations of compromise on the part of the electoral commission and a subsequent boycott of the collation of results by the PDP and LP.

This has led to one of the biggest post-election conversations, which is whether or not the Electoral Act mandates the commission to collate results electronically.

While a quick review of the law should settle this, it has not. The meaning of that section of the Electoral Act appears to depend on who is interpreting it, and on which side they stand.

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While the commission had said, several times, before the election that it was not going back on real time electronic transmission of results, INEC has not been as committal on the issue post 25 February.

The Electoral Act and INEC Guidelines

The Electoral Act did not specifically mandate electronic transmission of results, but it stated in Section 60(5), that “the presiding officer shall transfer the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.”

In the Regulations and Guidelines for the elections as signed by the INEC Chairman on 24 May, 2022, however, the commission directed the Electronic Transmission of Results and Upload of Results to IReV in Paragraph 38.

But Paragraph 53, 54 and 55, which deals with collation of presidential results in the local government, states and national level went further to enumerate both the manual and electronic procedures of collation of results.

Paragraph 38 reads: “On completion of all the Polling Unit voting and results procedures, the Presiding Officer shall:

“(i) Electronically transmit or transfer the result of the Polling Unit, direct to the collation system as prescribed by the Commission. (ii) Use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), as prescribed by the Commission. (iii) Take the BVAS and the original copy of each of the forms in tamper evident envelop to the Registration Area/Ward Collation Officer, in the company of Security Agents. The Polling Agents may accompany the Presiding Officer to the RA/Ward Collation Centre.”

But the guidelines did not state that the electronic transmission of results replaced the manual collation of results. Paragraph 53, 54, 55, for the collation of presidential results in local governments, states and national level respectively, enumerated both the manual and electronic transmission of results.

For instance, Paragraph 53 of the guidelines stated that the Local Government/Area Council Collation Officer for the Presidential Election shall:

“Take delivery of all the original copies of Forms EC8B from the Registration Area/Ward Collation officers together with other materials and reports relating to the election, including Form EC40(G) if any; (ii) Collate the results for the Presidential election by entering the votes scored by each Political Party in the original copy of Forms EC8B into Form EC8C in figures and words. (iii) Add up the RA/Ward results to get the LGA summary; (iv) Cross-check the totals and entries in the EC8C with the Collation Support and Result Verification System (CSRVS) Secretariat.

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“…(xii) Electronically transmit or transfer the result directly to the next level of collation, as prescribed by the Commission; and (xiii) take the original copies of Form EC8C to the Presidential Collation Officer at the State Collation Centre together with other materials and reports relating to the election, including Form EC40G(I).”

Paragraph 54 directed that the State/FCT Collation Officer for the Presidential election “shall” take delivery of the original copies of Form EC8C from the LGA/Area Council Collation Officers, transfer the votes scored by each Political Party into Form EC8D, and add up the LGA/Area Council collated results to obtain the State summary.

It added that the state collation officer shall : “Transmit or transfer the result directly to the next level of collation as prescribed by the Commission; and (xiii) Take the original copy of Form EC8D together with other materials and reports relating to the election which were returned by the LGA/ Area Council Collation Officers to the National Collation Centre, in a tamper-proof envelope.”

The Returning Officer for the Presidential election, shall take delivery of the original copies of Form EC8D from the State Collation Officers, collate the votes scored by each party from Form EC8D received from State Collation Officers and enter the votes scored by each Political Party in both figures and words.

“Cross-check the totals and entries in Form EC8D(A) with the Collation Support and Result Verification System (CSRVS) Secretariat for computational accuracy,” paragraph 55 of the guidelines stated.

Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe

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