No phone calls for collation officers

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Collation officers will be barred from making or receiving telephone calls during ballot collation, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said yesterday.

There will be simultaneous accreditation and voting and mandatory use of Smart Card Readers (SRC) in the guidelines released yesterday for the forthcoming elections.

The adoption of  simultaneous accreditation and voting was despite opposition by some political parties.

The presidential election leads the way on February 16.

In the final regulations and guidelines signed by its Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the Commission said that elections will start by 8am and end by 2pm.

Polling officers are expected to be at the voting centres by 7.30am.

The commission warned that any attempt to resist the use of the SCR for the conduct of the elections will attract prosecution. No vote shall be recorded where there is resistance to card readers.

Wherever there is sustained malfunctioning of the Card Reader, and efforts made to replace becomes impossible by 2pm, the elections shall be moved till the next day.

Anybody who impersonates by presenting another persons’ Permanent Voter Card (PVC) with the intention to use it to vote shall be arrested and prosecuted.

The guidelines banned the use of telephones and other electronic devices capable of taking pictures in voting cubicles.

Besides, any identification mark put on a ballot paper by a voter shall invalidate the vote.

According to the regulations, results are to be announced at the polling units before being transmitted.

Where total number of votes cast at a polling unit exceeds the total number of accredited voters, the outcome of the election shall be declared null and void.

But, there is a proviso – where the result will have huge impact on the overall results, a supplementary election shall be fixed in the affected polling unit.

Also, the guidelines stated that the commission will suspend the announcement of results wherever violent disruptions occur at a substantial number of polling units before the announcement of results.

However, if violence breads out while the results are being announced, the returning officer, the document stated, shall go ahead with the announcement.

The INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, reacted to the threat by some 61 political parties that have objected to the guidelines.

The provisions are designed to strengthen the electoral process and expand access to voters, he said.

Okoye said: “Presently, the Commission is consulting with and holding strategic meetings with traditional and religious leaders in all the States of the federation on the distribution of PVCs; the maintenance of peace in their various domains and communities and engaging them on some of the policies and programmes of the Commission.

“The Commission consulted political parties, civil society groups and organisations, professional groups and societies, the media and other critical stakeholders on the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of the 2019 elections.

“The Commission forwarded the regulations and guidelines to the 91 registered political parties and held interactive meetings with their leadership at the Electoral Institute.

“The political parties and their leaders made oral and written submissions on how best to improve the regulations and guidelines. The Commission also held consultative meetings with civil society groups and the media and they made oral and written submissions.

“The Commission collated all the oral and written submissions and used same to improve the regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 elections.

“Based on these, the Commission rolled out the final regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 elections and the  regulations and guidelines are issued as a Decision Extract of the Commission of the 12th day of January, 2019 and supersedes all other regulations and/or guidelines on the conduct of elections issued by the Commission and shall remain in force until replaced by new regulations or amendments supported by a Decision Extract of the Commission or an official gazette.”

INEC said it would not any individual, association or political party from challenging its actions legally, adding: “Section 160 and Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) gives the Commission the power to make its own rules and regulate its own procedures and also the power to monitor political campaigns and provider rules and regulations which shall govern political parties.

“Furthermore, Section 152 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) gives the Commission the power to issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Act and its Administration.”

Okoye outlined 10 points of note in the new regulations and guidelines. They are:

“The voting procedure for the conduct of all elections covered by the regulations and guidelines remains the Continuous Accreditation and Voting (CAV) as provided in Section 8(a) of the regulations and guidelines.

“The mandatory Use of the Smart Card Reader. This is in accordance with Section 8(b) of the Regulations and Guidelines which provides that “No person shall be allowed to vote at any Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement/Voting Point other than the one at which his/her name appears in the Register of Voters and he/she presents his/her permanent voter’s card to be verified by the Smart Card Reader (SCR), or as otherwise determined by the Commission.

“The use of Tendered Ballot has been provided, consistent with the provision of Section 60 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). This is in accordance with Section 19 of the Regulations and Guidelines, 2019, which states: ‘If a person claiming to be entitled to vote applies for a ballot paper after another person has voted in the name given by the claimant, he/she shall, upon satisfactory answers given to any questions put to him/her by the APO II, shall be entitled to receive a ballot paper in the same manner as any other voter’ but the ballot paper shall be a tendered ballot paper and deposited in the Tendered Ballot envelope in accordance with the procedure in the Electoral Act.

“Voters whose fingerprints are not authenticated or for whom wrong picture pops up, both due to technical hitches will still vote, but polling agents will be consulted. This is in accordance with Section 11(f) of the Regulations and Guidelines which provides that ‘In all cases from 11(b) to 11(e) the Presiding Officer shall fill the appropriate forms in the PU booklet and make a report. Affected voters in 11(b) and 11(e) qualify to be issued ballot papers after consultation with polling agents.

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