In preparation for Saturday’s parliamentary elections, INEC needs to critically examine the hitches and issues that led to the termination of the initial attempted exercise. Of the numerous concerns expressed and questions raised, there are key issues that demand immediate attention and resolution to prevent the re-occurrence of systemic failure in the political process.
- Result sheets (Form EC8A) – The most critical and process terminating issue was the delay by INEC’s vendor (s) in delivery of election result sheets for further distribution to parts of the country. The materials arrived in Lagos around 9am on Saturday, April 2nd, an hour after accreditation was expected to have commenced.
- Voter’s register – “I registered at this centre but my name is currently not found on the register”. This was the cry of a number of eligible voters who had successfully registered in wards and polling areas in January and were part of INEC’s register of 73.5 million voters.
- Ballot papers – In spite of the delays that truncated last Saturday’s exercise, a number of people, including Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, were successful in completing accreditation and eventually voted. What will happen to these used ballots?
- Mobility – There were reported cases of electoral officers and ad-hoc staff experiencing difficulty in mobilising to their respective wards and polling stations.
With respect to these key issues (among many others) highlighted, and specifically in terms of the distribution of materials and personnel, INEC needs to declare a state of operational emergency. According to Prof Jega, we know that all the election result sheets were finally delivered to INEC on the 2nd of April, 2011. As such, an emergency operational distribution strategy must be conceptualised and implemented as follows:
Wednesday, April 6, 2011 – INEC has 12 National Commissioners representing the 6 geopolitical zones in Nigeria (2 per zone). Each zone comprises states with respective Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC). The REC in each state has Local Government electoral officers reporting to him/her. Likewise, the LG EC’s have both Ward and Polling Unit electoral officers reporting to them. As at April 6th, the 36 REC’s were summoned to Abuja for a crucial meeting to discuss lapses in the system and proffer solutions in this regard.
Thursday, April 7, 2011 – By the end of business (6pm) on April 7, all election materials (Form EC8A, Ballot papers, Re-validated Voter’s register, etc) per geopolitical zone should be handed over to the 2 National Commissioners (NC) in charge of each zone. This should be done at the commission headquarters in Abuja. Giving another 2 hours, the NC’s should distribute and hand over all materials to the respective REC’s within their zones. The process of handing over should be concluded by 9pm on Thursday April 7. Prior to completion, Prof Jega must ensure that any used ballot papers from April 2nd, are retrieved, confiscated and destroyed, and are further replaced with new unused ballot papers in the same quantity. On completion, at 9pm, the INEC chairman should notify all political parties and the general public through a media announcement, stating the identities of the REC’s per state and the details/quantities of election materials in their custody.
Between 9pm on Thursday April 7 and 12pm on Friday April 8, the REC’s must mobilise on emergency basis, by land/air to their various states with all materials. If the new presidential jet purchased by President Jonathan must be used, then so be it. Such is the criticality of this emergency distribution strategy. The Nigerian Air Force aircraft should also be engaged to ensure that the REC’s with ALL the materials required are transported to their respective states and arrive there by 12pm on Friday April 8.
Friday, April 8, 2011 – Before arriving at their respective states on Friday, the REC’s must have summoned all local government, ward and polling unit electoral officers to the commission office for due briefing. On arrival at their states (latest 12pm), the REC’s must immediately proceed, with security escorts, to transport the election materials possibly to the vaults of the state branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria under guarded conditions or a designated bank vault where there is no CBN branch in the state. This should be concluded between 12pm (arrival time) and 2pm. Once completed, each REC must report to the commission headquarters by phone and email confirming the delivery of ALL materials to the state. By 3pm latest, the INEC chairman should proceed with another public announcement confirming that ALL materials have arrived at the 36 states. For security purposes, there should be no revealing of exact material locations.
At 4pm on Friday, the REC’s may then brief their local government, ward and polling unit electoral officers on due diligence as regards the conduct of the election exercise. As part of the brief, adequate transportation must be discussed, planned and agreed, involving the FRSC for land transport, the Nigerian Air Force for air lifting and the Nigerian Navy for sea transport where required. By 7pm on Friday April 8, all briefs and transportation logistics should be concluded. The REC must again report on progress and status to the commission headquarters.
A final media announcement confirming the readiness of all states, local governments and wards for the conduct of elections should be given by the INEC chairman by 9pm probably before the NTA network news.
Hopefully, with the exclusion of extraneous factors and natural disasters, such an emergency operational strategy should put INEC in a better prepared state for the commencement of parliamentary elections all over the country on Saturday, 9th of April, 2011. While it is not by any means an all encompassing submission, it certainly reveals the need for an emergency approach without which achieving success in the conduct of the parliamentary elections on the 9th of April remains nothing but a wish.