Beyond the logistic reasons advanced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 presidential and National Assembly poll shift, the agency has opened up on the greatest concern it faced in the midst of these challenges.
It said postponing the exercise by one week was one tough decision the commission had to take, giving the significance of the major electoral contest.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu who revealed this said, braving the odd to confront the nation was one huge task the commission had to really contend with.
He further said it became difficult to tell the nation how much time the commission needed to overcome the challenges.
For him, the postponement was “a painful but necessary experience,” saying the commission had a tough task telling the nation the time it needed to overcome the challenges of conducting elections same week amidst logistic challenges.
On the level of preparation for the contest, the INEC boss said the commission printed in good time, well over a billion ballot papers for the 84 million voters.
Notwithstanding the timely printing of the materials, he said delivering those items to exchanging posts, in some cases, the Central Bank offices across the country as well as the states, became a major issue.
Yakubu spoke when he hosted the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) recently in Abuja.
The erstwhile ECONEC chief said the commission needed more time to carry out the huge responsibilities of printing the ballot papers (some of which were printed abroad) and delivering the election materials throughout the country.
“I think on Saturday the 16th of February, I addressed a press conference. It was a very painful decision that was necessary. We were not able to tell the nation and the whole world how much time we needed to overcome these challenges and conduct the elections in the same week.
“But essentially, the issue was logistic and is related to a number of challenges. Yes we produced the materials, we couldn’t deliver the materials to exchanging posts in some cases, the Central Banks and subsequently the states. So we needed a little bit of time to do this.”
Yakubu further said the commission couldn’t finalise on preparations of the regulations and guidelines for the elections because the commission had waited for a National Assembly decision on the electoral framework.
He said this delayed the production of the training manual usually produced from the regulations and guidelines and used for the training of the almost 1million staff to man the elections.
“You can’t expect any nation’s Constitution to say everything; and therefore the Constitution empowers the National Assembly to make subsidiary laws, it’s called the Electoral Act; you can’t expect the Electoral Act to say everything and therefore the National Assembly through the Electoral Act empowers the commission to make regulations and guidelines.
“We couldn’t finalise on regulations and guidelines because we were waiting for a decision on the electoral framework and because we couldn’t finalise on the regulations and guidelines, we couldn’t also produce the training manuals because it is from the regulations and guidelines we produce the training manuals that we now use to train the almost 1 million staff that we engaged for the elections. So it affected the way we did business.”
The INEC chair also said the commission wanted to continue with the elections after a few days before its ICT department drew its attention that the reconfiguration of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) would take another 2 weeks to achieve.
He stated that after debating the issue, the ICT department yielded to re-configure the SCRs in five days resulting in the shift of the presidential and NASS polls for one week.
He explained that the SCRs were configured to operate only on the day of the elections and since the elections did not hold on the 16th February, it became necessary to reconfigure them for a new date.
“In the commission, we felt actually a re-schedule of the election by a few days would have been sufficient but the ICT personnel drew our attention to the fact that they had to reconfigure the smart card readers and they are to take about, initially they said 2 weeks, eventually we argued for 5 days. The smart card readers are configured to operate on the day of the election, they can’t operate outside and they had already configured for the 16th February and we had to reconfigure them,” the INEC boss further said.