A strong call has gone out for the introduction of electronic voting (e-voting) in the next general election in 2027.
The call came from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that monitored the recent elections.
They also demanded for the removal of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as apologies from various groups that were perceived to have failed the nation.
The CSOs were brought together by Community Initiative for Enhanced Peace and Development (CIEPD) led by Egondu Esinwoke Ogbalor, the executive director, on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.
The election monitors said INEC betrayed the confidence of many Nigerians in democracy because of the failure of the machine everybody was made to trust to make votes count.
Various contributors said they did not care who won the election but that they had been made by INEC to believe that at last, democracy had come and that votes would count.
Some of the participants that were divided in panels came with positions that portrayed the bitterness of most voters who said they wanted to see e-accreditation and resulted to be uploaded online real time only for the results to be carted away to where public eyes could no longer reach. They said the distance between voting at a polling unit and the announcement of the final result at INEC headquarters had created a form of dark forest (period nobody could account for).
Some of the panels submitted that the hope by the masses and voters that the police would intervene when ballot boxes or result sheets were to be captured failed woefully because of many instances of police inaction in the face of attacks.
Some said thugs held many officials hostage without the security agencies doing anything about it. Some electoral officers in some parts of the South-East were held hostage for 48 hours without any help from security agencies.
“Thugs reigned supreme during the elections,” a source at the panel told newsmen.
The panels called for e-voting next time as the process of the elections continued to receive bashing.
The CSOs involved said there was the need for electoral reforms that would ensure better elections in the future.
One panelist, Constance Meju called for the reforms to begin with removal of INEC chairman for allegedly superintending over a system that brought in people not loved by voters. She called it the worst election in history marked by breaking of ballot boxes, vote buying, blocking of voters from voting, among others.
A civil society organisation director, Godwin Nsirimovu, said INEC should not only apologise but should commence the process of making electronic voting possible.
He said the BVAS only does accreditation. “We want the machine that will do both accreditation and voting.”
Everest Nwankwo said winners have emerged but that the various people that failed the citizens should first apologise. He said the election took 10 steps forward, but we took seven steps backward. He hoped that the outcome of the conversation would form an “Action Document.”
Joseph Ekong of Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) emphasized that CSOs should not work in silos, but should come together and create a common ground for prompt interventions. He said collaboration enhances results.
The information officer of INEC in Rivers State, Geraldine Ekelonwu, said: “INEC conducted a peaceful election in Rivers State, irrespective of the outcome, and the Electoral Tribunal is ongoing to review any aspect that is challenged at the general election.”
The Commissioner of Police Rivers State Command, represented by the Public Relations Office said the Nigeria Police promised to work together with the Civil Society organisations and INEC, for peaceful elections, while maintaining order and protecting lives of the citizens.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), representing the Rivers State Command said peace was the watchword of the Corps and that they would continue to work together with all relevant stakeholders for peaceful elections, during and after election.
Egondu Ogbalor insists on debriefing
Speaking in an interview at the end of the exercise, the executive director of CIEPD (Egondu Ogbalor), said: “The session was for dialogue on how to improve the electoral process. If we want to get it right, we do not walk away, we must evaluate the processes and find out where to adjust.
“What happened to peace infrastructure? Did it fail us, did it work? We can now say, oh, next time, we go right instead left.”
In her welcome speech, she thanked many helpers especially the Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND) Foundation for collaborating with CIEPD on the project- the “Collaborative Election Violence Prevention and Mitigation Project in Rivers State.”
She named other partners as the Community Stakeholders Network (CSN) the Peace Monitors, the Situation Room Partners-ANPEZ, and the Peoples Advocate.
She insisted that Community Initiative for Enhanced Peace and Development (CIEPD) is a non –governmental, not-for-profit organisation duly registered with Corporate Affairs Commission and also has statutory special consultative status with United Nations and also Economic Community of West Africa Commission (ECOWAS).
“The main thrust of CIEPD work is on peace building and conflict prevention. As an organisation with a focus on peace building and conflict prevention, election has become equally important to us; the reason being that elections are key for fostering peace and stability and are often, as a result, one of the central elements of peace deals and transitional political accords. However, our emphasis has always been on electoral violence while others monitor the electoral process, we focus on electoral violence.”
In the 2015 election cycle, she stated, CIEPD with its election partners- ANPEZ, The People’s Advocate, and others conducted its first non–violence election programme apart from tracking and de-escalation of electoral violence.
“With the 2023 election, the Collaborative Election Violence Prevention and Mitigation Project in Rivers State, our activities have been segmented into pre, during, and post-election activities because we don’t see the election as an event.
“Apart from de-escalating the incidents that can mar governance, she observed that following the announcement of election results, electoral stakeholders should initiate evaluations of the past electoral cycle in order to identify areas that need improvement.
“So, I call on all security sector agencies, media, and other CSOs to join hands with CIEPD in evaluating the infrastructures for peace for subsequent more peaceful elections.
“Although this meeting may be therapeutic for some – who might want to use this opportunity to vent their anger and frustration with the electoral process (is allowed), more importantly for us is to evaluate the electoral peace infrastructure and set agenda for a better peace process for the next cycle of the election.”