All-time record: 20,000 candidates to participate in Feb polls –INEC

...Says results to be transmitted manually *Voting, accreditation go simultaneously *Rules out additional polling units

The Independent and National Electoral Commission yesterday disclosed that an all-time record of over 20,000 candidates are seeking elective positions in the 2019 general elections.

Of this figure, 1,800 are senatorial candidates and 2,600 as House of Representatives candidates, all vying to represent the 109 senatorial districts and 360 federal constituencies respectively.

Also, 14,000 candidates will be seeking for the available 991 state constituency seats in the elections to take place in 120,000 locations with 84 million voters participating across the country.

Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who made this known at a consultative meeting with the media at its headquarters in Abuja, described the figure as the highest ever recorded in the country’s election history.

He said the commission was yet to put together the number of those vying in the 68 area councils in the FCT, assuring however that the figure would be ready next week.

“Election will take place in 120,000 locations, so please bear with us. In the next one week or so, we will have the statistics and it will be clearer for us when we can expect to make a declaration but it’s not going to be a long wait,” he assured.

Continuing, the boss said, “on polling units, the commission wishes to assure the media that there is no change in the number of polling units and voting points used for the 2015 general elections and the 2016 Area Council elections in the FCT. Any insinuation that new polling units, voting points or voting points (settlement) are being created by the commission is utterly baseless and should be disregarded. 

“The register of voters has been finalised, including the detailed breakdown of the distribution of voters by State, Local Government, Wards and Polling Units. No new units have been created and none will be created for the 2019 general elections.”

The chairman said contrary to what prevailed in the 2015 elections in which voters do accreditation and come later to vote, 2019 election would witness simultaneous accreditation and voting.

“Actually, the procedure of accreditation and voting is not in the Electoral Act. Simultaneous accreditation is not in the Electoral Act, it is part of the commission’s powers; it is a policy matter and not in the Electoral Act.

“We abolished accreditation before voting because of complaints from the media and international observers, because eligible voters can be accredited and go home without coming back to vote,” Yakubu stated. 

‘Results to be announced manually’

Also speaking at the parley, the INEC National Commissioner in charge of Operations, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu, said the commission won’t announce results of the polls via electronic transmission.

This, according to him, was because of the unaccented Electoral Amendment Bill, which contains the transmission of results, using the electronic model.  

While disclosing that although INEC had taken bold step to ensure electronic transmission of results having done some pilot programme on the matter since 2014, he said the extant law will not permit for electronic transmission of results in the forthcoming polls. 

Ibeanu said, “since the Bill on Electoral Act which had the electronic transmission of results was not assented, the issue has come up repeatedly in the media. Clause 22 (x) of the 2010 Electoral Act (as amended) has been misconstrued to mean that it will be electronic transmission of results. 

“No, the extant laws are clear on how results would be transmitted. But we will seek the legal backing for electronic transfer of results in future elections. So, the transmission of results in 2019 will be in accordance with the Electoral Act which will be manual.

“INEC has been piloting electronic transmission since 2014. The only reason we need a law is that the law has already made provision on how results would be transmitted and it is through manual process. For you to change it, you need another law. So, we need a clear legal provision to invalidate it.”

“INEC is very willing to do electronic transmission of results; however, the only reason why we need a law is that the present law has already prescribed how transmission of results should be done. So, you need a law to override the extant law. It is already provided in the Electoral Act how results are to be transmitted and it is a manual process,” the national commissioner further explained.

On people who could not get their voter cards, Ibeanu said such persons would be allowed vote if their names appeared in the manual voters register. 

He, however, said that would be done after they would have dropped their fingerprints and telephone numbers for the purpose of capturing them in future exercises, stressing that  what is more important is not their telephone numbers, but fingerprints to check persons who may want to undermine the system.

NUJ lauds feat

Earlier, President of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ),  Mr Chris Isiguzo, had commended the INEC boss for taking the media along in the electoral process.

He, however, cautioned that the clampdown on media by the agencies, will not be acceptable and should be stopped henceforth.

He said the union would reach out to the military and other agencies, adding that media practitioners are equal stakeholders in the democratic process. 

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