Disquiet over recruitment, deployment of collation officers for polls, INEC clarifies position

As fresh controversy rages over a new directive issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, regarding the recruitment and deployment of ad-hoc staff, the Commission has come out to clarify its  position, particularly why it has decided to centralise the sourcing of its staff.

The clarification came yesterday from Festus Okoye, Esq, a National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education of the Commission.

While responding to a question about the fidelity, fairness and possible compromise of centralising the recruitment of collation officers, at a time when some politicians are alleged to have hijacked the process from within the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, Okoye explained that “we want a situation where we will know who our collation officers are.   The universities are sending names of senior staff to the Commission and these staff would be subjected to checks; none of them will know where he or she would be posted until a day to the election.   Only the INEC Chairman and his staff will know about the deployment.”

According to the National Commissioner, there will be two collation oficers for each of the 8809 Registration Areas and each will be responsible for collating results for the presidential and national legislative elections to be held on the same day.

This explanation is coming on the heels of a seemingly contradictory internal memo to all Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, in the country.

The memo, dated January 30, 2019, and signed by the Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Rose Oriaran-Anthony,  “observed that some states have started recruiting Collation Officers for the 2019 General Elections which is not in line with the Commission’s approved guidelines for the sourcing of ad-hoc staff.

“Kindly note that all Collation Officers for the 2019 General Elections (i.e. RA, LGA, Federal Constituency and Senatorial) and all Returning Officers are to be recruited and posted by the headquarters”.

An earlier memo,  “From: Commission Secretariat; To Secretary/INEC; Date 21st December, 2018”  and titled,  “DECISION EXTRACT ON THE RECRUITMENT OF AD-HOC STAFF FOR THE CONDUCT OF THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS”, detailed the cadre of ad-hoc positions, sourcing and general qualifications.”

The memo states, inter alia, viz:

“In order to ensure effective supervisory   control, and a good measure of credibility, the field of selection is proposed to be restricted to individuals/officials of politically neutral and non-partisan institutions, establishments and bodies.   This demands traceable identities, addresses which makes disciplinary measures possible should the need arise.   All categories of ad-hoc staff must satisfy the following 4 conditions, three of which are prescribed by the Electoral Act.

“i)    They must not be political party members.

“ii)   They must not have demonstrated or expressed support for any candidate or party.

“iii) All ad-hoc staff must apply in person, their group source notwithstanding.

“iv) They must subscribe to the oath of neutrality”.

At that same meeting, the Commission had   directed that Ward Collation Officers be recruited from Federal and State Tertiary Institutions by State Offices of the Commission.   The decision extract further stated that LGA Collation/Returning Officers would be recruited by the Office of the Chairman of the Commission.

The latest controversy stemmed from allegations that some powerful politicians may have infiltrated the recruitment process within the Commission in such a manner as to compromise same by directly  recruiting from among politicians as well as centralizing the recruitment of all categories of collation and returning officers nationwide, contrary to an earlier directive at its December 2018 meeting as well as the known regulation which guided the successful 2015 general elections under Professor Attahiru Jega. But Okoye said the Commission is doing all it can to ensure a free, fair and credible election.

While delivering his talking points to senior journalists in Lagos yesterday, talking points which ranged from the number of presidential candidates (73); number of states where governorship elections would hold (29 states) and other offices being contested for, to the state of preparedness of the Commission, Okoye maintained that “any serious political party contesting the presidential election should be able to know the result of the election, provided such a party has polling agents in all the polling units across the country because it is easy.   From the authenticated results from the polling units signed by the agents across the over 120,000 polling units in the country, it is easy for a political party to know the result first hand”. According to him, this is going to be possible because of the maifest transparency with which INEC is handling the process.

Below are the talking points:

On preparation for polls

  • The 2019 General Elections will involve the 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.

The Commission will also conduct Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. 806 candidates will contest the election. This involves 105 Chairmanship candidates and 701 Councillorship candidates.

Festus Okoye

  • The Commission has identified and has started recruiting Collation and Returning Officers from senior academic staff of various federal universities in Nigeria. Based on the number of registered Political Parties participating in the elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission will recruit 2 collation officers each for the 8, 809 Registration Areas to facilitate timely collation of results.
  • The Commission has concluded the identification and recruitment of over 814,453 ad- hoc staff for the election and their training has commenced in all the States of the Federation. The Resident Electoral Commissioners are supervising the training programs. We are confident that the Commission will recruit the required number of ad-hoc staff for all the strands of elections.
  • The Commission has signed MoU with Transport Workers Unions for the deployment and retrieval of election personnel and materials in a safe and timely manner. The Resident Electoral Commissioners have also met with the Unions in the Transport sector and are perfecting issues relating to deployment and retrieval of materials in conjunction with the Federal Road Safety Commission.
  • The collection of the Permanent Voters Cards continues at the Local Government Offices of the Commission. The Commission will suspend the collection of Permanent Voters Cards on the 8th  day of February 2019 and thereafter recall all uncollected PVC’s for safekeeping pending the conclusion of the two strands of elections in the electoral calendar.
  • All the State Offices and Local Government Offices of the Commission are taking delivery of non-sensitive materials. The Commission has delivered the bulk of the non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of the elections to the States and the Local Governments while the remaining are in the zonal stores of the Commission and will be distributed at the appropriate time.
  • The various branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria are presenting receiving sensitive materials for the conduct of the 2019 elections.

Issues to Note

  • The Commission has released the Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 elections. The Chairman of the Commission Professor Mahmood Yakubu signed the Regulations and Guidelines on the 12th  day of January 2019.
  • The Commission has accredited a total of 116 domestic election observers and 28 foreign observers for the 2019 elections
  • The Commission has released the Guidelines for the accreditation of domestic and foreign media groups and organizations and same was published in most national dailies.

Innovations

  • The Commission has enhanced the Smart Card Readers in readiness for the 2019 elections.
  • The Commission has eliminated the use of Incident forms for the elections.
  • The Commission has introduced the use of braille jackets, magnifying glasses and assistive posters for persons with disability.
  • The Commission has validated the Framework for IDP Voting and Regulations for IDP Voting.
  • Sensitization & Public enlightenment Efforts
  • Sensitization and enlightenment are being done on continuous basis in the various states and Local Government using creative and innovative methods.

Challenges 

  • The size of ballot papers and the number of Political Parties on the ballot
  • The management of Polling Units and the number of Party Agents
  • Courts Orders arising from Party primary elections
  • The Issue of vote buying
  • Reporting Elections and election related matters
  • Our Pledge
  • The Commission will conduct the election based on legal and constitutional stipulations
  • The Commission will continue to conduct its activities in total obedience to the rule of law and due process.
  • The Press should support the Commission to deliver on its mandate

Vanguard

OurReporter

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