Real reasons INEC postponed 2019 election – Okoye

National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voters Education, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Cestus Okoye, has stated real reasons 2019 general election was postponed on the eve of the polls.

Okoye said external influences rather than internal forces were the bane of the INEC to conduct the election as scheduled.

While speaking on the topic “Dynamics and Mechanics of Free and Fair Elections,” on Sunday in Kaduna as the guest speaker at 6th Catholic Men Organization (CMO) and Fathers’ Day celebration, Saint Joseph Catholic Cathedral, he faulted some impressions that the Federal government influenced the election postponement.

The INEC national commissioner said if the election had not been shifted, the country would have been plunged into chaos, pointing out that the only option left for the electoral umpire to save the nation from violence was to swallow its pride and apologised to Nigerians over the postponement.

Okoye further gave a rundown of reasons behind the postponement, saying: “The amended Electoral Bill was transmitted to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria close to the election.

“Planning in uncertainty, the electoral management body did not know whether electronic voting would be used and there were provisions in the new bill that needed to be explained and mastered.

“Procurement   issues   and   the   non-delivery   of   a   few materials to the end users created uncertainty in terms of the   security   of   materials   and   the   capacity   of   INEC   to deliver credible elections. Ballot papers and result sheet were printed outside the country and their delivery on good time became huge issue.

Also was “the   rescheduling   of   the   2019   elections   on   account   of logistic   challenges   and   the   backlash   that   followed   the rescheduling.   Political parties incurred costs.   INEC incurred costs. The Nigerian people incurred costs. Some travelled long distances to vote.   Some just disengaged from the electoral process.

There was also “opaque party primaries and political uncertainty.  Some of the political parties breached clear provisions of the law in the conduct of party primaries and inundated the courts with cases arising therefrom.

“The   burning   of   INEC   offices,   facilities   and   equipment procured   and   packaged   for   the   2019   elections   created setbacks and the commission was forced to rationalise or do emergency procurement.

There was “the intimidation, maiming and killing of INEC staff and the collation of   false and procedure results and declaration of unintended winners.

“There was desperation of the political elite in corrupting INEC staff, buying votes, by passing of not using the smart card readers and other unwholesome electoral malpractices. In some instances, INEC could not deploy or deploy on time and voters disengaged from the process.

“Some security personnel performed creditably while some jumped into the   muddy   waters   of   partisan   politics   and assisted their preferred candidates.

There was also a “deluge   of   pre-election   matters   and   the   issuing   of contradictory court orders.”

However, Okoye suggested some ways forward for the electoral process, saying that condition for  the   registration   of   political   parties must  be   altered  because the   present framework is inadequate to guarantee credible political parties.

“Section 285 of the Constitution relating to the conditions for   the   de-registration   of   political parties   must   be alteration   as   it   is   ambiguous   and   leaves   room   for multiple   interpretations   considering   the   staggered nature  of our electoral process and the different layers of contest.

“Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act should be altered giving  the   Independent   National   Electoral   Commission the   power   to  reject the   nominated candidates of political parties that did not conduct party primaries or breached the intendment of Section 87 of the Electoral Act.

“The   Electoral   Act   should   be   amended   giving   the commission   the   exclusive   right   to   determine   when   to apply   certain   types   of   technology   in   the   electoral process.   A  gradual   and   graduated   process   of   imputing technology   in   the   electoral   process   will   enable   pilot studies   to   take   care   of   bling   spots,   cyber   security, training of personnel and deployment of technology.

“The commission will review its result sheets and results transmission   mechanism   to   make   them   more  user friendly and more transparent.

“The commission will continue to deploy technology for the purpose of improving the credibility of the voters register and Nigerians must assist the commission in reporting multiple registrants,  underage   registrants   and   persons   that   have passed   on   especially   during   the   display   of   the   voters register for claims and objections.

“The   commission   will   make   the   continuous   voter’s registration exercise a truly continuous voters registration exercise enabling those that turn 18 to be registered.”

Earlier, the Chairman of CMO, Mr. George Igwesi, said the health of his members was among the primary focuses of the organisation, hence the event was organised to raise funds for medical endowment.