The leadership of the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Independent Electoral Commission met in Abuja on Thursday to receive a document containing proposal on the possible adoption of electronic voting in the 2019 general elections.
Those present at the meeting included the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta; INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu; the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services of the NCC, Mr Ubale Maska; national commissioners of the electoral body and top echelon staff members of both agencies.
The statement issued by the NCC after the meeting said both organisations met to review the outcome of the report of the joint committee they set up on electronic transmission and collation of results.
It described the meeting as a huge step toward entrenching free, fair and credible elections in the country.
The statement quoted Yakubu to have commended the NCC for its contribution towards the possible adoption of electronic voting.
He said, “When we started we were clear in our minds that we must challenge every national institution to contribute towards free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. We are happy that the NCC has risen to this challenge.
“And we look forward to implementing these recommendations. If there are other areas we need your collaborations, we hope you will remain open to us to do so. But we are very happy that one major national institution has been challenged and has risen to the challenge.”
In January, NCC and INEC had in a deal acclaimed to have the potential of playing a major role in the outcome of future elections in the country reached an agreement on the electronic transmission of results in the 2019 general elections.
Danbatta said, “Remember this joint committee was set up seven months ago. They have worked hard, and the whole idea was to produce a document on the basis of which elections can be conducted in a manner that’s conducive, credible, and of course, transparent.
“This can only be done by leveraging the power of the Information and Communications Technology. So this is to bring to bear global best practices in the way and manner elections are being conducted all over the world.”
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission is putting measures in place to checkmate the buying of votes in the 2019 general elections, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mr Mike Ighini, said on Thursday.
According to the REC, the kind of vote-buying witnessed during the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State was a “terrible and dangerous” advanced form of what took place earlier in Edo, Ondo and Anambra states.
Ighini, who identified poverty and illiteracy as two of the major threats to Nigeria’s democracy, noted that politicians had graduated to buying the people directly; unlike in the past when they compromised elections by bribing INEC officials.
He said apart from seeking to use the United Kingdom’s approach of banning erring political parties and politicians, INEC was putting an administrative strategy in place to make vote-buying difficult in future elections.
He spoke in Lagos on Thursday at the 3rd annual public lecture of the United Action for Change, convened by a former National Legal Adviser of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Muiz Banire (SAN).
The lecture, with the theme, “Democracy without internal party democracy: A myth?” was delivered by a former National INEC Commissioner, Prof Lai Olurode.
On the panel of discussants were Ighini, the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Prof Ayo Atsenuwa; and the Director General of the National Orientation Agency, Dr Garba Abari.
Ighini said what vote-buying had shown was that the political elite thought of the electorate as no more than mere “commodities to be traded and could be bought.”
“Vote-buying debases the ballot system in our democracy. What we have decided to do at the level of INEC, administratively, is that in 2019 and subsequent elections, the position of the cubicle will be such that all the poll officials will be on one side, party agents on another side, the ballot box will be at the centre. Then, once you enter the cubicle, there will be nobody in there; it (ballot paper) will be folded for you; so, you make your choice in any of the cubicles, you then come to the open ballot and cast your vote.”
The lecture, Olurode, urged the people to reject pittance being offered them by politicians.
The convener, Banire, in his remarks, explained that the lecture was targeted at educating the people ahead of next year’s general elections.
“The election is around the corner, particularly the nomination process, primaries of political parties will commence in the next nine days; we believe that it is essential to educate and enlighten the people about the processes and implication of not ensuring compliance with the procedure,” he said.