• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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2023: INEC to print ballot papers for presidential re-run polls

INEC presents certificates to Saturday’s by-election winners

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be printing concurrently, the ballot papers for the presidential election and those for a re-run exercise, in case the situation arises.

According to INEC, the practice has been in existence since 1999 without public knowledge but it is disclosed for the first time in line with the openness policy of the Mahmood Yakubu- led commission.

Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner and chairman of the information and voter education committee said this at a round table with Bureau Chiefs and Editors of media organisations in Abuja on Friday.

Okoye explained that the printing of the 93 million ballot papers according to the number of registered voters, each for the main presidential and re-run elections was to save the country constitutional crisis as it will be difficult to print the materials within the 21 days granted by the constitution.

He said the commission is mandated to conduct a re-run election for the presidency if no candidate emerges in the first ballot as required by section 34(2) of constitution amongst two leading candidates as defined by the law of the land.

The INEC national commissioner said, “If you look at section 134(2) it provides that; candidate for an election to the office of president shall be deemed to have be been duly elected, where, being more than two candidates for the election –

“He has the highest number of votes cast at the election and each or at least two thirds of all the states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

“It goes further to say, that; in default of any candidate duly elected under the foregoing subsections, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall within 21 days of the result of the election held under the said subsection, arrange for an election between the two candidates and a candidate at each election shall be deemed elected to the office of president if –

“(a) he has a majority of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

“It said that in default of a candidate duly elected in accordance with subsection 2 of this section, there shall be a second election in accordance with subsection 4 of this section at which the only candidate shall be:

“(a) the candidate who scored the highest number of votes at any election held in accordance with subsection 2 of this section, (b) is among the remaining candidates who has the majority of votes in the highest number of states.
“We have printed ballot papers for 18 political parties, we will also print ballot papers for 18 political parties (for the re-run election). The presidential election is not only election the commission is conducting during the period. We are conducting election to the Senate and the House of Representatives. We have to announce the winners.

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“There is a possibility that by the time we are done, with these things it is almost a week so you have removed seven days from the 21 days given to the Commission. Then you still have governorship and state assembly elections within this period.

“So, the commission can’t turn back and begin to go up and down looking for security printers to go and print ballot papers during this particular period. You can’t print 93 million ballots when you have governorship and assembly elections to contend with, you are declaring winners for the House of Representatives and there is a possibility that some of the governorship elections may also go into run- off because the same thing applies to governorship elections.

“You have to also realise that section 131 of constitution has given the commission the time frame and the window within which to conduct those elections and the moment you get outside that window you turn the country into a constitutional crisis.

“It said an election to the state office shall be held on a day not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the expiration of term of office of the holder of that office. Anything outside of this the country will be in constitution crisis and the only way out of that will be state of emergency.

“Since 1999, every electoral commission had always printed ballots for the second election when the main ballot was being printed. So, in the tradition of openness, I put it on the table.”

Okoye stressed that there was no going back on the deployment the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) for the 2023 general election to be credible.
He therefore disclosed that two- thirds of the BVAS that are required for the conduct of next year’s elections are already in Nigeria and before the end of December, all the machines will be in the country.

Okoye said: “We have classified the BVAS as sensitive materials. We have engaged with the various security agencies, the Army, police, the fire service and DSS and they are providing security for the BVAS because the BVAS are in the custody of the commission.

“So we have adopted a hybrid approach. The BVAS will remain with the commission why the ballot papers will remain with the Central Bank. That was the agreement we had with all the political parties, CSOs, the security agencies and the media.”

The INEC chief spokesperson also said the court cases, especially those arising from political parties primaries that are in place will not prevent elections from holding and will not prevent the commission from proceeding with its activities.

“That doesn’t really bother us, this is because we are going to have all the 18 political parties on the ballot and if at the end of the day, the court makes a determination that a particular individual wasn’t supposed to be on the ballot, the implication is that whatever votes are cast for that particular individual or for that particular candidate are wasted votes,” he said.

On the ongoing display of the preliminary voters register, Okoye said: “all other activities relating to claims, objections and complaints will be entertained at the various offices of the Commission in the 774 Local Government Areas of the Federation and on the Commissions website.

“We will harvest all the claims, objections and complaints and carefully and objectively deal with them. The whole essence of the display is for Nigerians to double check the register and assist the Commission put in place a robust, comprehensive, and acceptable register.

He said the INEC chairman, Yakubu will in the next few weeks outline the fine details of the collection of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), adding that the commission will ensure the seamless collection of PVCs by all eligible registrants.

“We assure all Nigerians that the PVCs of those that registered between the 15th of January 2022 and July 31st, 2022, will be ready this month and the Chairman will give the exact date for collection.

“All those that registered within this period as well as all those that carried out transfer and those that applied for replacement will get their cards. Nigerians will have sufficient time for PVC collection.

“No Nigerian that validly and genuinely registered will be denied the opportunity of collecting his or her Permanent Voters Card. We plead that Nigerians should not wait till the 11th hour before approaching our Local Government Offices and the Wards for PVC collection,” Okoye said.
He stated that INEC has carried out and is still carrying out major and minor renovation of its Local Government Offices preparatory to their receiving make up non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of the election.

The national commissioner said, the commission has relocated to other offices and buildings in areas severely affected by flood and in areas where INEC offices were completely burnt.

On security, he said: “The Commission is working with the various security agencies in election security. We are mapping levels of threats and risks and sharing our findings with the various security agencies.

“The Commission has received assurances from the various security agencies that Nigeria will be safe for election as measures have been put in place to ensure a free and hitch-free election.”

Okoye also said the newly appointed Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) are to undergo a training on the nuances of conducting elections, stating that it was for such reason that a shake up was carried out in the INEC to send capable hands to states where new RECs were anticipated.