INEC polling box
Ahead of Ekiti, Osun elections, CAPPA, groups call for polling units audit
The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) and a host of civil society organisations have called on the Nigerian government to carry out a comprehensive polling units audit in Ekiti and Osun states to ascertain their level of preparedness for upcoming elections.
At the recent Leadership of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room review meeting of the FCT Area Council Elections and a strategy discourse for the forthcoming off-cycles elections in Ekiti and Osun states held in Abuja, they described the FCT Area Councils elections held recently as a test of the new Electoral Act and new dawn even as they insisted that serious work was what would sustain the current tempo.
Convener of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Eni Obi, said that lessons garnered from the FCT elections were worth reviewing to improve the elections in Ekiti and Osun states, cautioning however that the balanced electoral space that the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC was creating should rely only on facts and not fiction or insinuations.
In her speech, Agianpe Onyema of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, who also doubles as the secretariat for the situation room, said that no time could be more perfect than now to have a round table and honest discussion on the recently held elections and the forthcoming elections in the light of looming realities and the likely opportunities of our legislations.
She posited that before the enemies of democracy take over the electoral space, members of the situation room should have their firm and unanimous position.
On the report of the FCT elections, Eni Obi said that only 14 of the 18 registered political parties fielded candidates for the elections, while seventy-four vacant positions, comprising six Chairmanship, six vice Chairmanship, sixty-two Counsellorship positions were contested by four hundred and seventy-five candidates.
She added that across the six Area Councils of Abaji, Abuja Municipal (AMAC), Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje, and Kwali, one million, three hundred and seventy-three thousand, four hundred and nighty two voters are registered.
While decrying poor turnout and urban reluctance in the electoral space, Eni said that both state and non-state actors would have to wake up and spur the interests of Nigerians to participate more in the electoral process by deepening social trust and other parameters of good governance.
The co-convener of the Situation Room Ugochukwu James Okpe stated that there was widespread malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), a situation that caused the delay in voters’ accreditation in some polling units. He affirmed vote-buying and absolute disregard for priority voting and the use of assistive materials for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups as captured and provided for in the Electoral Act.
Ogunlade Olamide Martins, who represented CAPPA at the engagement, noted, ‘‘the new Electoral Act provides a vista of opportunity to re-write the electoral narrative and deliver good governance to Nigeria.
According to him, Ekiti and Osun off-cycle elections is a litmus test to measure the efficacy of our laws and the preparedness of the users and beneficiaries.
He mentioned the potential gains of improved public sector governance to Nigerians and called for a proactive response from our election management body INEC.
Ogunlade had called on INEC to immediately carry out an audit of polling units in the two states to ascertain the level of preparedness or otherwise. He said such an audit will aid proper planning and lighten election day logistics. Also, he said it was important for INEC to invest more heavily in mass sensitization and make clear its procedures for allotting voters to the newly created polling units in the two states.
He acknowledged the supposed significance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) but called for simplification in its use and sustained capacity building for its handlers ahead of the elections in the two states. The roles of the media in shaping narratives must be leveraged according to him, even as he expressed CAPPA’s readiness to train and engage selected journalists on the Electoral Act for balanced election covering and reportage.
The highpoint of the engagement was the drafting of a Strategic Action Plans for Ekiti and Osun States by participating organisations. The draft and other critical plans are to be shared with other stakeholders in the electoral space to ensure harmonized interventions and deepened engagements. Participants were urged to remain apolitical, steadfast, and committed to electoral reforms.