In order that Nigerians are not kept waiting for too long to know who their next President will be, the IndependentNational Electoral Commission (INEC) is recruiting two collation staff at the ward level to separately collate votes for the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
A national commissioner and chairman of the committee on Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, told journalists in Abuja Sunday evening that INEC took the decision because of the number of parties for the elections holding February 16..
“Because of the number of parties contesting the Presidential elections and and the number of parties contesting the Senatorial and House of Representatives elections, (the INEC) has decided that we are going to put out two collation staff at registration centre and ward. One of the collation officers will collate for the Presidential election and move up, while the other collation officer will collate for the House of Representatives and the Senate. You know that the result for the House of Representatives will be declared at the Federal Constituency Collation centre, while the result of Senate is declared at the Senatorial District Collation centre while that of the President will continue to move from the polling unit to the registration centre or ward to the Local Government to the State and then to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
And following the burning down of the Independent National Electoral Commission office in Isiala-Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia State, State Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) have been mandated to beef up security in all offices to forestall future occurences, Okoye disclosed.
He announced that National Commissioners were on the field putting final touches to preparations for the elections.
The Police had confirmed the burning down of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office adding that the fire started from the toilet and extended to the office, where the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were stored.
A police spokesman, Geoffrey Ogbona, said that some of the PVCs were already destroyed before the fire was eventually put out on Sunday morning.
He said that the number of damaged PVCs had yet to be ascertained.
Ogbonna, who spoke from the scene of the fire, said that the command had commenced an investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire.
INEC spokesman in the state, Mr. Bamidele Oyetunji, said that police had taken over the investigation of the incident.
According to agency reports Oyetunji said that the police were in a better position to find the perpetrators of the dastardly act and that the commission was not suspecting any politician or its member of staff.
Okoye called on the media to beam its searchlight on politicians while the
Resident Electoral Commissioner for FCT, Alh. Yahaya Bello, at the media parley, implored the the media to report facts.
His words: “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.
Okoye also reiterated that election results will be collated and transmitted manually, noting that the practice exists in some advanced democraies. He added that the manual collation and transmission was the path recognised by the law.
“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.
On the recruitment of collation officers, Okoye said: “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.”
Okoye also said RECs will not be saddled with the responsibility of employing the officers because they are busy in other important areas.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioners are busy with the recruitment and training of Supervisory Presiding Officers, Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioners are also receiving and distributing non-sensitive materials from the zone stores of the commission to the State headquarters and the Local Governments and ultimately to the Registrationcentres and polling Units,” he said.
The national commissioner maintained that INEC was fully prepared for the elections in having identified over 814, 500 staff for the conduct of the polls in 1, 558 constituencies and 774 Local Government Areas.
“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.”
He said further “ 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.”
“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.”