By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it would only do a nationwide pilot electronic transmission (e-collation) of results in the forthcoming general elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this in his opening remarks at the Commission’s regular quarterly meeting with the media on Tuesday in Abuja.
He said that for the Commission to do full electronic transmission of results there must be a backing law for that.
“The Commission is also aware of the interest expressed by the media to learn more about the commission’s electronic results transmission process, including its backend processes.
“This meeting will include a presentation on the pilot we carried out in some of the off-season elections conducted by the Commission.”
Yakubu urged media organisations to sensitise registered voters yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to do so, in order for them to be able to participate in the forthcoming general elections.
He re-emphasised that the commission would not create additional polling units for 2019 elections, other than units created for the 2015 general elections.
“No new polling unit has been created and none will be created before the 2019 general elections,” he said.
The INEC chairman appealed to the media to partner with INEC in tackling the worrisome issue of vote buying which the commission had been working to address.
“We appeal to the media to continue to partner with the Commission by making information available to us while we work with the security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws.
“These include those who may be trying to compromise our staff responsible for making the PVCs available for collection by legitimate voters.
“We understand that some actors have been going round hunting for our staff responsible for the distribution of PVCs. We are aware of this and we are ahead of them, “ he said.
Answering questions on plans to introduce the rolling and flattening of ballot papers by voters as part of measures to address vote buying, Yakubu said that plans were in place to ensure that it did not lead to increased voided votes.
“The first one is the quality of the ink. You know you have quick dry ink and the certain type of ink that immediately you thumbprint it spreads.
“We are committed to ensuring that we get the right type of quality,’’ he said.
He said that the initial folding would be done by the electoral officer, and folding it from the top the ballot paper it could not spread on the columns for political party on the paper.
He added that as the elections approached, the commission was working to finalise its guidelines for the 2019 general elections.
The chairman also said that the Commission was committed to effective training of its ad hoc staff for the success of the elections.
In his remarks, the National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Chris Isiguzo, pledged that the media as a critical stakeholders in the Nigeria project would continue to partner with INEC for the successful conduct of the elections.
Isiguzo said that the forthcoming polls were critical and that the world was looking up to INEC to deliver free, fair and credible elections.
He urged the INEC Chairman to fullfil his promise to ensure that the elections were not just credible, but should be seen to be credible.
Isiguzo also called on security operatives not to clamp down on the media during elections, saying that such would be unacceptable to the media professionals and practitioners.
“It will be unacceptable to see the repeat of what happened 48 hours ago where journalists working with Daily Trust Newspapers were arrested and their computers were taken away.
“This is not good for democracy and I believe Nigeria is democratic nation and such thing should not be happening.’’
Isiguzo said that the union intended to also reach out to the military and other security agencies with a view to ensuring that they regarded journalists as key stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
“Media practitioners are not criminals, they are people concerned with going forward of the country and intend to have a sunnier climes where all Nigerians will be happy to live in,’’ he said.
The meeting was attended by journalists and senior editors from various media institutions in the country.