Why we are keeping election materials in CBN after weighing four options – INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it considered four options for the storage of sensitive election materials following recent concerns over keeping them with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ahead of the 2023 elections.

INEC had in June said sensitive election materials would no longer be in the custody of the CBN following the criticism that greeted the intention of Godwin Emefiele, governor of the central bank, to run for president.

Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of INEC, said on Friday that the commission had never had any compromise with the central bank but had to decide to “take charge of our materials directly” for the recent elections in Ekiti and Osun.

“Ekiti was under one million registered voters. Osun was 2 million; we could manage. But when it comes to the general election, we don’t have the space for the storage of these materials,” he said at a strategic interactive meeting with line editors in Lagos.

“So what we did, typical of the way we have consistently operated as a commission, was to invite the stakeholders.”

Yakubu said the commission presented four options to the stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organisations and the media.

He said: “The first one is should INEC build stores in all our state offices to warehouse those materials? First we do not have the money. Secondly, between now and the election, can we build all the stores? So that first option was not an option.

“The second option is to rent warehouses to store these materials. In some places you will see we cannot have the warehouses. And in some places, the ownership of the warehouses will be an issue, because you cannot rent a warehouse from a politician and store sensitive election materials there.”

Yakubu said the third option was to use commercial banks but there were two challenges.

“One, the ownership of the commercial banks; some of them are owned by politicians. Secondly, if you go round, you will see that the sizes of the banks have been shrinking, because increasinlgy most of the transactions are taking place either online or through ATMs,” he said. “Hardly do you find many people in the banking hall conducting transactions. So how do you now use commercial banks?”

The INEC boss said they also considered an hybrid option, between INEC and CBN.

There are now two categories of sensitive materials: the printed ones – the ballot papers and result sheets, and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), he said.

Read also: INEC may no longer keep sensitive election materials in CBN
Yakubu said: “The BVAS will be in the custody of INEC and no one else. It will not go anywhere. So we are directly responsible for the BVAS, not anyone else.

“For reasons of storage and security, we are still left with the option of the central bank, and we put it to the stakeholders, and the stakeholders agreed that we should maintain our relationship with the central bank.”

He said the CBN would still handle the ballot papers and results sheets, which would be printed by the commission.

“They [CBN] don’t print for us. They only take custody. But the BVAS will entirely be in the hands of the commission. All the stakeholders agreed we should proceed,” Yakubu said.