Osun election cannot be rigged – Jega

Posted by Olufemi Atoyebi | 10 years ago | 5,307 times

Omisore, Jega and Aregbesola

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, during a stakeholders’ meeting in Osogbo, on Wednesday, gives a roadmap on how the commission will conduct Saturday’s governorship election. FEMI ATOYEBI reports

All is set for the August 9 governorship election in Osun State. In INEC, we have prepared adequately and meticulously to ensure that this election is successful, free, peaceful and credible. We have the hope that these will be achieved. We have kept improving on the electoral process since we had the opportunity to conduct the general election in 2011, paying a lot of attention to the training of our staff and the ad-hoc staff we normally use for the purposes of the elections. We normally use NYSC members for ad-hoc duties. They have done our country proud and (some) even lost their lives to post-election violence while serving their country,” Prof Attahiru Jega, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, said in Osogbo, on Wednesday, during a stakeholders’ meeting. With this submission, Jega set the tone for the position of INEC on the election.

He said ignorance of electoral guidelines is a major cause of the accusations by some political parties that the electoral body employed a voting pattern which disenfranchised voters and led to the loss of their candidates in the Ekiti State governorship election held in June.

The INEC boss told stakeholders, who were present at a stakeholders’ forum that INEC would follow the pattern used in Ekiti with some aspects of the pattern upgraded. According to him, colour coding of ballot boxes, the use of Permanent Voter Cards, ballot secrecy, use of security forces to protect its staff, ad-hoc staff comprising National Youth Service Corp members and electoral materials were features that would be upheld by INEC on Saturday.

He added that, “We are working closely with security agents to ensure that these young men and women are adequately protected as they do their duties and also to ensure that our materials and personnel are adequately protected. It is regrettable that in our country, we still have serious concern related to thuggery and all other untoward activities on election day. We are trying to ensure that this election is conducted peacefully under an atmosphere which will enable voters to come out and exercise their civic duties. We must ensure that we secure the electoral process so that voters will be free to exercise their franchise.”

To eradicate fraudulent practices on Saturday, Jega said all ballot papers to be used would be serialised and with coding colours. He also said result sheets would be customised according to council areas.

“Since 2011 when we conducted the general elections, we have ensured that our ballot papers are serially numbered. In Nigeria, we know that when ballot papers were not serially numbered like in the 2007 presidential election, we had a situation where people could move ballot papers from one place to another and used them for election purposes. We have dealt with that problem and we will keep improving on the integrity of our election materials,” said Jega.

“We have also customised result sheets. In the past, we had result sheets that could be used by politicians to return results illegally. The new result sheet is customised for each zoning unit. If the customised result sheet is destroyed or tampered with in any way, we have a very rigorous procedure to go through before it could be replaced. We have even gone further to do colour coding of our ballot papers. I said this in Ekiti where it started. The colours of the ballot papers are different from one council area to the other. It is, therefore, impossible for anyone to snatch or steal ballot boxes and take them elsewhere.”

Jega explained that the colour coding that will be used in Osun is different from what was used in the Ekiti State election. “On the day we are going to distribute sensitive election materials, which is on Thursday (today), we will give a colour coded map to each of the political parties agents so that they can see the different colours of ballot papers in different local governments.”

On the secrecy of the election, the INEC boss urged voters to shun a call by one of the political parties to take photograph of the ballot papers after thumb printing on it, warning that such act was illegal.

“The secrecy of the ballot is very important and we must ensure that it is protected. The Electoral Act gives INEC the mandate to ensure that the secrecy of the ballot is protected. I was told that a political party had asked its supporters to take photograph of the ballot paper after voting on Saturday. I will ask every voter to disregard that order because it is illegal. You cannot go to a polling unit with a camera and take photograph of your ballot paper; that violates the secrecy of the election.”

Addressing some of the accusations against the commission after the Ekiti election, Jega said that INEC uses high quality election materials and that it will be the same in Osun on Saturday. “In Ekiti election, we were accused of using what is called expired or dual quality print ink. This is a frivolous allegation. We make sure that our material is of the highest quality. We were also accused of using photo-chromic ballot papers in Ekiti whereby the ballot papers were programmed in such a way that the ink would only appear in the space provided for a particular candidate who must have been programmed to win. This is a futile way of accusing INEC. The papers are produced in Nigeria and I don’t think that there is any company with such technology in the country.”

While explaining the reasons behind the decision to use Permanent Voter Cards in the Osun election, Jega noted that it was capable of eradicating the controversy surrounding the peoples’ franchise in past elections, adding that INEC had met with the leaders of political parties in next Saturday’s election on the PVCs. He also said that more than 70 per cent of voters had collected the cards in the state.

“We are going to use Permanent Voter Card in Osun election. We started it in Ekiti because it helped us address outstanding challenges. In Anambra State, we were accused of disenfranchising the voters. People could not find their names because they refused to update their records with INEC even when they were given the chance to do so long before the election. So, they came to the polling units with their temporary cards and said they were disenfranchised. We took the blame but resolved to tackle the problem. Since we are using electronic registration, we have produced the cards and started distributing them in Osun State. We stopped the process last Monday because we cannot continue until the day of the election. Only this Permanent Voter Cards can be used to vote on Saturday. I am glad that more than 70 per cent of the people have collected the cards, which is higher than the 53 per cent we recorded in Ekiti.

“The remaining cards that were not collected will be brought to the council areas after election and be distributed to the owners. We have explained this to all the representatives of the parties when they met with the Resident Electoral Commissioner. We will take copies of the distribution register of the PVC to the polling units. No card was collected by proxy. So, if someone comes to a polling unit and his name does not appear in the register, the security agents will be there to deal with such a situation.”

According to Jega, accreditation would start from 8am to 12 noon while voting would begin at 12.30pm until the last person in the queue had exercised his or her voting right.

“The elite may not like this because it is a bit cumbersome and time-consuming but it has helped to protect the integrity of the electoral process. It eliminates the fraudulent practice of people moving around to vote in more than one polling unit. That is the system we will continue to use. It is also important to give significance to the role of party agents. Many of them go into the contest without appreciating the importance of party agents. I call on political parties to pay attention and present credible party agents,” he added.

Culled from Punch website

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