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2023: Political parties, CSOs tackle INEC over real-time election result controversy

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Political parties and civil society are now set to confront the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the commission’s administrative decision not to allow for real-time, public view of results from polling units across the country during the 2023 general elections, Vanguard reports.

The platform reports that barring any scheduling issues, leadership of some political parties, represented by members of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, Conference of United Political Parties, CUPP, and some leading CSOs in the electoral sphere are to meet with the leadership of INEC to probe into their decision.

Recall that INEC has already issued its regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections, 2022, a three-part body of rules (Part I: Elections and arrangement for their conduct; Part II: Accreditation and voting procedure at elections; Part III: Collation of election results and making of returns; as well as an added schedule: Conducting elections during the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies) to serve as the holy grail which would guide electoral officers during the 2023 general elections, there are a few concerns agitating the minds of political parties and CSOs regarding one or two sections of the regulations.

Already, INEC has made it public that it would upload all results to IREV, INEC Results View Portal.“The issue at hand is whether it would allow members of the public have realtime access to all results as they are being uploaded?

Realtime, Public view of uploaded polling results

There is actionable information available to Vanguard suggesting that INEC leadership has concluded plans not to allow for realtime, public access/view to results at the polling units.

As part of its directive principles of managing Nigeria’s elections, the leadership of INEC is empowered to deploy, as it deems fit, every and any administrative step to ensure free, fair and credible elections.

The administrative mechanism is for internal workings of the commission and is not usually open to or known by members of the public.

Indeed, this present leadership of NIEC, according to its rigorous arrival at its regulations and guidelines as enunciated in its 2022 document, has made provisions for stringent steps pursuant to delivering on free, fair and credible elections next year.

However, its proposed administrative decision to allow members of the public have realtime, public view of results only after they have been collated at Ward level is what the political parties and civil society groups are raising concerns about.

One of the reasons this will not augur well, according to one of the leaders of the concerned groups, is that “if members of the public are not allowed to have access to realtime, public view of the results as announced and uploaded at the polling unit level, which is the first step in the process, and it is also the point where Form EC8A would be filled, signed and countersigned by the presiding electoral officer, as well as agents of the candidates and political parties present, anything can happen at the ward collation centre.

“What is being proposed by INEC is that until its RATECHs (Registration Area Technicians) who are to assist ward collation officers at the ward collation centres have made technical inputs, members of the public would not have access to realtime results from the polling units.

“The possible dangers in this approach is that Nigerians will have access to a secondary level result and not the first stage, primary result from the polling units which the agents at that level have signed and agreed to.

“So, INEC must tell Nigerians that it is not enough to assure us that the results would be uploaded. The assurance we want is that the results from the polling units should be uploaded and Nigerians must have realtime, public view access. That’s the only way to avoid any form of compromise at the ward level.”

Late Bashorun MKO Abiola’s June 12, 1993, presidential election result victory appeared sealed because “The so called RATECHs have the competency to deal with that so that members of the public do not go to town with those errors”.

Asked whether such a move would not be open to compromise in the intervening period between the polling unit and ward level, as well as create doubts in the minds of those agents and people at the 176,846 polling units who have already heard and seen the results as pasted at the polling unit, the INEC source insisted that “whatever is being done by the commission is to serve the best interest of the people of Nigeria.”e results from every polling unit in the country were available to Abiola’s situation room and, therefore, could not be tampered with at any ward or local government or state collation centres.

The party leaders and CSOs will be expecting INEC to give its word that members of the public will have real-time access to uploaded results from polling units across the country.

It’s to correct possible errors, INEC source

However, a very senior INEC official confided in Vanguard that what INEC is seeking to avoid is a situation where “possible errors which may have occurred at the polling units and which may have escaped the eyes of those at that level would be put, realtime, for members of the public.

“The so-called RATECHs have the competency to deal with that so that members of the public do not go to town with those errors”.

Asked whether such a move would not be open to compromise in the intervening period between the polling unit and ward level, as well as create doubts in the minds of those agents and people at the 176,846 polling units who have already heard and seen the results as pasted at the polling unit, the INEC source insisted that “whatever is being done by the Commission is to serve the best interest of the people of Nigeria”.

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