By Abiodun OBA
The civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has raised some concerns over the credibility of off-cycle elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa States
The rights group in a press statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko in Abuja on Monday lamented that the National Assembly has not deemed it necessary to speedily amend the extant electoral act to make it mandatory for electronic transmission of results from polling units to become legalised.
Also, HURIWA said it was in doubt that the off-circle governorship poll in Imo State would be transparent as INEC has not redeployed the Resident Electoral Commissioner.
HURIWA said the electoral body has done nothing substantial to instil trust and gain the confidence of voters in those three states on their resolve to be fair, accountable and transparent.
HURIWA’s Onwubiko said; “We have watched with unfathomable amazement, the attempt, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to once more hood wink Nigerian voters in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa States into believing their propaganda that ‘all the glitches experienced during the general elections of February 2023 had been taken care of’.
“We are aware that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, expressed its readiness to conduct the November 11th governorship election in Bayelsa, Kogi, and Imo states, respectively.
“INEC Acting Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Mary Nkem, gave this assurance at a People’s Townhall on Election Security in Abuja. Nkem said all the glitches experienced during the general elections earlier in the year had been taken care of.
“She said INEC has put a lot of plans in place to guarantee early deployment of sensitive materials to polling units, including ad hoc officers camping near polling units a day before the exercise.
“Rather than people moving from the local government headquarters to the various polling units, they are moved closer to the Pus (polling units) where they are going to work. So, I can assure you that, God willing, we will deploy early”.
HURIWA however, dismissed INEC’s re-assurance as a ‘mere paperweight’ going by the fact that around September 16th 2022, INEC had told Nigerians that it was committed to the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS) and IReV for the 2023 election and to transmit the results of all elections electronically but INEC failed to fulfil this promise during the general poll as only the National Assembly election results were eventually uploaded.
“Thus refusing to do same for the Presidential poll and that “when it got to the Election Petition Tribunal, INEC argued that it wasn’t legally obliged to do so and the court glibly conceded to this claim by INEC which stands in contrast to the verbal commitment made by INEC before the conduct of the last General election”.
HURIWA therefore, expressed strong reservations that the current hierarchy of INEC can convince any voter of their commitment to a transparent election so long as the electronic transmission of election results in real-time is not unambiguously legalised in the electoral act.
To this end, HURIWA said it will be another wonder of the world if the ethically challenged electoral management body can deliver transparent, free and fair poll given the ambivalence of the officials regarding the adoption of the use of technology such as the transmission of election results in the real-time but would rather opt for manual collation which gives room for manipulations and electoral heists.