By Chinwe Ogbuka, Asst Director, Publicity.
Determined to deliver on its mandate to conduct free, fair and credible Governorship Election in Osun State, which is the last major election to be conducted before the 2019 General Elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] recently organized a Policy Dialogue to examine critical issues on election and proffer solutions.
The Policy Dialogue, with the theme, “Osun State Governorship Election: Critical Factors and What INEC should do to ensure Successful Polls,” was organized by The Electoral Institute, the training and Research arm of the Commission.
In his opening address, the National Commissioner and Chairman of the Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu said that Osun State Governorship Election was significant because it is the last major election to be conducted by INEC before the a2019 General Elections.
“As a Commission,” he said, “we are sparing no efforts to ensure that we deliver a free, fair and credible election in Osun state as a successful outing will set the tune for success in the 2019 General Elections.”
Prof. Ibeanu disclosed that the Dialogue was to examine the processes and initiatives put in place by INEC towards the successful conduct of the Governorship Election in Osun State on the 22nd of September, and also provided a platform to discuss and interrogate the issues and challenges relating to the election and proffer suggestions as to what INEC should do to ensure successful polls.
The Chairman said that some of the key issues of concern to the Commission, which the experts on election observation and Resource Persons were to address, included but not limited to: Election Security, Election Logistics, Election Result management (Electronic Transmission/Collation of results), Smart Card Reader (SCR) and Vote Buying among others.
He observed that in the last 10 months, the Commission had successfully conducted Governorship elections in Anambra on 18th November, 2017, and Ekiti on 14th July, 2018, as well as many by-elections.
Prof. Ibeanu noted that the Electoral Institute had also used the last forum to evaluate the performance of the Commission with a view to identifying the milestone gained and salient issues to be addressed.
Welcoming participants to the event, the Acting Director-General of the Institute, Dr. Sa’ad Umar Idris noted that the Dialogue symbolized INEC’s commitment to continual improvement of the electoral process and procedures, adding that over time, the Electoral Institute had initiated several strategic engagements with stakeholders which included, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the academia, experts and other professionals, to discuss and interrogate issues and challenges germane to elections.
Dr. Idris said the event was intended to contextually discuss INEC’s preparations for the 22nd September, 2018 Governorship Election in Osun State, with a view to identifying what needed to be done to ensure free, fair and credible outcome.
The Acting D-G said: “It is our resolve that, with the support and contributions of other stakeholders, no efforts will be spared to ensure the INEC continues to improve on its service delivery through 2019 and beyond. Ultimately, our goal is a vibrant electoral process, strong electoral governance and institutions as well as virile support system that will entrench delivery of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
The Lead Speaker, Prof. Siyan Oyeweso of Department of History and International Studies, Osun State University listed some of the issues to be addressed by the Commission to ensure a successful election Osun.
These include: the use of innovate electronic collation and result transmission systems to obviate the regular manual collation system which is often open to fraud and malpractices; results of all elections in each polling unit should be recorded into an electronic platform developed for this purpose via the smart card reader.
He suggested that results, confirmation and announcements could be held at collation centres at the local, state and national levels so that energies dissipated on unnecessary counting and collation will be eliminated.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner [REC] in Osun State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje spoke on the readiness of the state to conduct credible election but appealed to security agencies to monitor and regulate the activities of the political parties.
He noted the worrisome development of vote buying and disclosed that the Commission is rearranging the polling units in such a way that the secrecy of the ballot will be guaranteed.
On the issue of vote buying, the REC appealed to security agencies to arrest and prosecute offenders as the Commission does not have the power to arrest or facility to keep offenders and urged the Police to arrest, investigate and prosecute anyone engage in vote buying.
Other discussants included, Mr. Abiodun Ajijola, Election Monitor, Ezenwa Nwagwu, partners for Electoral Reforms, Nma Odi, Alliance for Credible Elections, Mr. Oluwole Osazze-Uzzi, Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Chidi Nwafor, Director, ICT and Mr.Yusuf A. T, Director Electoral Operations
National Commissioners Mrs. Amina Zakari, Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo, AVM Tijjani Mu’azu [Rtd], Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, Prince Solomon A. Soyebi, Prof. Antonia Okoosi-Simbine and Mohammed Harua.
The Acting Secretary to the Commission, Barr. Okechukwu Ndeche, Civil Society Organisations, Political Parties and the Media also attended the meeting.