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Eight Issues on Agenda as INEC Hosts Collation, Returning Officers to Review 2023 Polls

Cross section of Collation and Returning Officers at the meeting.

By Nathaniel Gana

As part of its on-going review of the 2023 General Election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday 21st July met with 37 State Collation Officers for the Presidential Election (SCOPEs)and Senatorial District Collation Officers (SDROs) selected from six geo-political zones in Abuja, to discuss eight main issues related to the conduct of the election.

The eight issues include: Recruitment, training and posting of Collation and Returning Officers; Logistics for movement to and from places of assignment; Integrity of the collation and declaration procedures, including application of the law, regulations and guidelines for result management and Role of technology in result management.

Other issues on the agenda were: Security of Collation/Returning Officers and collation centres; Conduct of party agents and election observers during collation; Conduct of security personnel; and any other lessons that will improve the future collation and declaration of results.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu while explaining the purpose of the meeting, said the Commission expects the participants to help identify areas of strength and weaknesses and the required reforms.

He commended the Returning and Collation Officers for their doggedness in the face of the daunting challenges they faced while performing their duties. His words: “the Commission is aware that as collation and returning officers, you worked under extremely challenging circumstances by tediously and manually completing designated forms as provided by law and either moved them to the next level of collation or concluded the processes as Returning Officers.

“Many of you also have the cognate experience of result management, having served in similar capacities in at least three electoral cycles. The Commission appreciates your commitment, dedication to duty and sacrifice to the cause of our democracy.”

Speaking further on result management, the INEC Chairman noted that “issues have arisen, and some Nigerians have raised concerns about result management at various levels. While some of the issues are subject of litigations and therefore sub judice, we can nevertheless discuss them broadly and most importantly share experience on the way forward”.

Earlier, in her welcome address, National Commissioner and Chairman, Planning, Monitoring and Strategic Committee (PMSC), Prof.  Rhoda Gumus, said the SCOPEs and SDROs were key players in conducting elections in Nigeria.

She said that the Commission employs lecturers and Vice Chancellors from the Federal Universities because of their honesty, integrity, and abilities to carry out the required functions on election day”.

While urging the participants to contribute freely and meaningfully towards improving future elections, Prof. Gumus said, “as part of field personnel on election day, you deal directly with both INEC staff and political gladiators, mostly in a violence atmosphere. There is no doubt that you have acquired wealth of experience in discharging your duties, during collation and declaration of results, which come with issues, challenges and lessons learnt.”

She added: “As field workers, we expect to hear from you the challenges encountered and how you resolved them in the field, bearing in mind that your key recommendations on this review exercise will enhance the Commission in planning for future elections.”