The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Tuesday reasserted its independence of any agency of government, declaring it does not require the approval of any government outfit to carry out its functions as the country’s electoral body.
Rather, the commission said Section 160 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vested powers in it to impose duties on any other government agency to facilitate its procedures.
Responding to questions on Tuesday at the third quarterly meeting with media executives in Abuja, National Commissioner in charge of Operations, Prof Okechukwu Ibeano said it is absolutely unconstitutional for the National Assembly to subject INEC to clearing with the National Communications Commission (NCC) before it can transmit election results electronically.
He stated that Section 160 of Nigeria’s Constitution had done everything needed to guarantee the independence of INEC, adding that what was left is for INEC to use the powers it has under the Constitution.
“It was really in the context of the entire debate about ensuring the true independence of the commission. That was the context, which means that those who framed this (Section 160 of the Constitution) were essentially propelled by the need to ensure that the commission is independent.
“Now, let me then tie this to this whole subjection by the NASS that to transmit results electronically, INEC has to clear with the NCC. That is absolutely unconstitutional. You cannot say that INEC, to transmit election results, has to get the approval of another agency of government when actually it has powers to impose duties on NCC to achieve the transmission of electronic results.
“So, this is my reading of Section 160 and I completely agree with you (the questioner) that in the context of underscoring the independence of the commission, Section 160 has done everything that it needs to do. What is left is for INEC to use the powers it has under the constitution,” Ibeano explained.
On the November 6 governorship election in Anambra state, INEC said its new Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would ensure transparent management of results during elections.
INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu explained that the BVAS would now perform the functions of both the SCR and Z-Pad and guarantee the credibility of voter authentication.
He said the functionality of the Z-pad has now been integrated into the IVED currently used for voter registration.
Yakubu said on election day, the same device would become the BVAS to be used, first, for fingerprint authentication during accreditation and where it fails, for facial authentication.
He said: ”We believe this will eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s PVC. Where the voter fails both the fingerprint and facial authentication, he/she will not be allowed to vote.
“In other words, no electronic authentication, no voting. We are convinced that the new machine is robust enough to further guarantee the credibility of voter authentication and transparent management of results during elections.”
Accordingly, he said “the commission intends to carry out a pilot exercise using the new device in Delta State during the Isoko South 1 State Assembly constituency bye-election holding this weekend (Saturday) 11th September 2021.”
Yakubu said the device would be deployed in the Anambra governorship election November.
“There will be a presentation of the new device and a practical demonstration of its functions at this meeting. As always, we will welcome your comments and suggestions on this innovation,” he said.
Speaking further, he said as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) enters the 11th week, 2,729,819 fresh voters pre-registered online, adding that a total of 717,947 Nigerians had completed their registration at the designated centres in just five weeks.
NUJ urges NASS
On his part, President Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Chris Isiguzo urged the National Assembly to reverse its earlier decision to remove the electronic transmission of election results from the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act 2010.
Isiguzo said in line with globally acceptable practices, the nation must fully digitise the electoral system to achieve credible polls.
He faulted the act of collation of results manually as other processes before elections had been digitised.
“Democracies in the world have embraced digitization, not at piecemeal,” he said.
He also expressed concerns over the judiciary’s meddlesomeness in the electoral processes via conflicting court judgements.
The NUJ leader lauded Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammad Tanko Ibrahim for summoning some judges over the matter and urged him to sanction any of the officials found wanting to save the nation’s democracy from collapse.
He also commended INEC for the consultative meeting, saying the quarterly engagements were necessary to minimise “speculations on what the commission is doing and not doing.”
Isiguzo said INEC chairman’s remarks were reassuring, stressing that with credible elections, the nation’s democracy was on the right course.