By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday ruled out electronic transmission of results of the 2019 elections, which begin next month.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said this at quarterly consultative meeting of the Commission with the media in Abuja.
He pointed out that there is no legal backing for electronic transmission of results.
According to him, “In the absence of legal backing for electronic transmission, the commission can only do a nationwide pilot in 2019.”
He disclosed that the pilot was carried out in some of the off-season elections conducted by the commission since 2015.
Prof. Yakubu assured that despite the planned manual collation, the results of the presidential election would not be delayed “because we know that there will be tension in the country if the results are not released on time.”
The INEC Chairman dismissed the rumour making the rounds that the commission would create additional polling units before the elections.
Instead, Yakubu disclosed, INEC will use voting points to decongest over populated polling units, disclosing that political parties even send agents to these voting points.
On the polling units at internally displaced persons (IDPs) centres, Prof. Yakubu explained that the commission would merely be transferring polling units displaced by insecurity, to the IDPs camps.
Also, the INEC Chairman revealed that the springing up of new settlements, as well as population growth in the nation’s capital prompted the introduction of Voting Points Settlements (VPS).
He explained that the creation of VPS was to ensure that voters are given pleasant experience on election day, without having to walk for kilometres to a Polling Unit (PU).
According to him, “Each time I drive round Abuja, and seeing new settlements emerging, the question that comes to my mind is how do we serve these people on election day, without them having to travel long distance?”
He added, “There are statistics that if I mention them you will all be shocked. Take Gwarimpa for example. Gwarimpa in Abuja is the biggest estate in Africa. Do you know that there are only four Polling Units in Gwarimpa?
“So, if all registered voters in Gwarimpa are going to vote in four polling units, how many days will it take for proceedings to finish vote?”
Yakubu said that was one of the reasons why the last commission tried to create additional polling units which became a big issue over distribution of these polling units.
He stated, “But we had to respond to the needs of Nigerians by giving them pleasant voting experience on election day. That is why the commission came up with the idea of voting points in close proximity to main polling units.
“So that where you have over 500 registered voters in a particular polling unit, you create a voting point attached to the main polling unit. And so a number of these voting points were created because of new settlements as a pilot in Abuja. That didn’t change the number of polling units.
“When we did the stakeholders’ meeting for FCT alone, this was discussed and agreed. The political parties even deployed party agents to this VPS but there is no way we can extend this nationwide at the moment. So, Voting Point Settlements are only in Abuja.”
The INEC National Commissioner, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeano, said that continuous accreditation and voting do not have anything to do with the unsigned Electoral Act Amendment Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, stressing that the voting procedure has already been provided for in the existing Electoral Act.
He noted, “There was an amendment to the Electoral Act in 2015, the Amended Section 52 of the Act by creating a new Sub-Section 2. That Sub section 2 is clear, that the procedure for election shall be as determined by the commission, and the commission has determined.”
Ibeano insisted that the electoral body was willing to electronically transmit results, but added that the present law has already provided for how transmission should be done, which is manual.
“We need a law to override the law. For you to change it to electronic, you have to deal with the existing one and that is why we are looking for a legal backing to be able to do that, otherwise we would be infringing the existing law.” he said.