INEC’s Headache In The Conduct of Rerun Elections | Independent Newspapers Limited
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INEC’s Headache In The Conduct of Rerun Elections

Posted: May 10, 2016 at 3:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Augustine Adah

Lagos- Despite the promise made by Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the rerun elections in some states would be conducted soon, there is an indication that those elections may not hold as soon as expected. It would be recalled that the result of some National and House of Assembly rerun elections conducted in Kogi State on February 20 this year has been declared inconclusive. Similar situation happened in Rivers State where the election into the three senatorial seats and some federal constituencies were not concluded due to violence and other irregularities.

However, in an interview with a television station on Sunday, Yakubu reiterated the commitment of the electoral umpire to conduct the rerun elections in some states of the federation. When asked to state when exactly the rerun elections would hold, the INEC boss failed to mention time, instead he spoke about the ongoing effort by the National Assembly members to amend the electoral acts that would make the use of card readers or latest technology legal. That disclosure according to political observers is an indication that the election may not come as fast as expected.

Investigation by Independent revealed that the bill for the amendment of electoral act has passed second reading at the National Assembly.  Speaking with Journalists recently in Akure, capital of Ondo State, Senator Tayo Alasoadura confirmed that the process for the amendment of the electoral act to accommodate the use of card reader for the conduct of subsequent elections has started.

“We said we cannot remain static, we must continue to improve and move forward and because of that, the National Assembly is trying to make an amendment in the Electoral Law that will make it mandatory that the Card Reader be used for all elections in this country and in the next three months, the bill would have come to life.

“During the last election, a lot of things happened. There are some places where Card Readers were not used and at the end of the day, the candidate that benefited from the lack of use of the machine were declared winner. The bill is when passed into law will take care of the lapses”, the senator said.

However, Alasoadura admitted that the machine could have problems. “Human beings sometimes malfunction, people should expect that to happen, but one of the things the electoral umpire can do is to carry more than one card reader to every polling unit,  if one malfunctions, they use another one so that at the end of the day, you would do what electoral law has said.

“It will only involve a little more money so as to procure more Card Readers so that when one malfunctions, another one can be substituted for it.

“I am sure the bill will pass through because APC still have majority. It is only that we don’t have commanding majority of the two-third majority and to pass a bill, all what you need is to pass a simple majority even if it is one over two, I believe we will pass the bill.”

Judging by the commitment of the National Assembly to make the use of card reader compulsory in subsequent elections, INEC may not be in a hurry to conduct the remaining rerun elections until that is achieved.  Amending the electoral act to make the use of card reader compulsory would be an antidote against violence which always characterise elections in the country. The minds of Nigerians are still fresh over the violence that marred the conduct of the last rerun national/state assembly elections in Rivers State which led to the death of a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member and others. The development which attracted criticisms from Nigerians against the inability of INEC and security agents to provide adequate security in the election, has put the electoral umpire in a position where every necessary security arrangement must be put in place before conducting any election in the country.

But those constituencies that have no representative in the national or states assembly as a result of INEC to declare the election result are apprehensive over inability to conduct the rerun election several months after the last one.  For example, some youths from Kogi-east senatorial zone recently staged a peaceful demonstration on INEC’s failure to declare the result of the February 20 rerun election conducted in the area. They want INEC to reverse itself as was the case of Kogi-central senatorial district election where INEC declared the election inconclusive but few days later reversed itsef and announced the winner. They further argued that the commission is contradicting itself by declaring the rerun election in senatorial zone inconclusive when it said in the case of David Mark’s senatorial rerun election that there is no provision for a rerun within a rerun as it is contrary to electoral guidelines.

Speaking on the matter, Collins Okeke, Legal/Programme Officer, Human Rights Law Service (HRLS) has expressed doubt over the ability of INEC to conduct the remaining rerun elections without the amendment of the electoral act.  He said, “For INEC to conduct any rerun election now in the country, it need about a battalion of soldiers which is difficult to get with the present security situation in the country.” Okeke who sympathised with the commission in the present circumstance blamed the judgment of Supreme Court which has rendered the use of card reader a non issue as responsible for the present predicament of INEC. “If the Supreme Court has recognised the use of card reader and asked National Assembly to immediately effect amendment of the electoral act, it would have helped INEC in doing its job effectively.” The Supreme Court judgment on Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Abia governorship elections, Okeke said would continue to trigger more violence because it encourages politicians to use violence and other irregularities to win election and be confidence that such election would stand the test of court judgment since the use of card reader has been outlawed.

“It is better the amendment is effected before thinking of conducting any election because INEC and the security agents may not have what it take to control the violence such election would generate without the use of card reader.” Apart from the court judgment, INEC on itself According to Okeke is not prepared enough to conduct a free and fair election in the country as many resident electoral commissioners have not been appointed. He urged President Muhamamdu Buhari to urgently appoint resident electoral commissioners for all the 36 states and FCT because it is an indication that the country is prepared to conduct a free and fair election.  With the promise by the National Assembly to expedite action on the amendment, the wait for the conduct of the remaining rerun elections may not be waiting for Godot..