ABUJA – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday disclosed that it will deploy undercover security agents at polling units across the country as part of measures to curb vote buying and increase transparency in next year’s general elections.
National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee of the commission , Festus Okoye, revealed this during the citizens elections dialogue hosted by YIAGA Africa and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
He announced that the resolution of the electoral umpire to ban the usage of mobile phones during voting to take picture or compromise the process even as plain-clothe security detectives would be hired to checkmate electoral malpractices.
Okoye also assured that ad-hoc staff had been properly trained on how to configure and position voting cubicles to guarantee the secrecy of the votes.
He said: “This commission is focused and determined to give Nigerians a good election. In terms of the issue of vote buying, the commission has reconfigured the various polling units to guarantee the secrecy of the votes.
“We have also made sure that people do not enter the voting compartments with their mobile phones that can take pictures and we are also collaborating with the different security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), to make sure that plain-clothe security personnel are deployed to some polling units on election day to stem the issue of vote buying and vote selling.
“It is fashionable to grandstand relating to the commitment of the INEC to free, fair and transparent election. But you should also flip back and look at some of the party primaries that some of the political parties conducted and how well they conducted them.
“As far as the commission is concerned, our mandate is to organize, undertake and supervise elections and that’s exactly what we’re going to do and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
Okoye said the commission made a deliberate effort to include technology in the electoral process to avoid human interference.
“We’re going to make sure technology is deployed and we’re also going to make sure that we transmit polling unit results into our INEC viewing portal”.
The electoral umpire added that the commission will do “whatever it takes to guarantee free, fair, transparent and inclusive” elections in 2023.
Meanwhile,INEC has told political parties that fielded candidates for governorship and State Assembly elections that they can no longer substitute or withdraw candidates unless on grounds of death and court judgement.
It maintained that the directive is in pursuant of section 34(1) of the new Electoral Act and item eight of the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections.
The commission in a statement by Okoye, confirmed that 18 political parties have fielded 837 candidates and their running mates for the 28 governorship elections that fall due in 2023.
Okoye recalled that at the end of the process, political parties that conducted valid primaries uploaded the list and personal particulars of all nominated candidates to the commission’s candidate’s nomination portal and the subsequent display in their constituencies nationwide as provided by Section 29(3) of the Electoral Act.
“Subsequently, validly nominated candidates had the opportunity to voluntarily withdraw their candidature by notice in writing and personally delivered such notice to the political party that nominated them for the election. Thereafter, political parties substituted such candidates under section 31 of the Electoral Act for which the last day was August 12, 2022 for State Elections as clearly provided in item six of the commission’s timetable and schedule of activities.
“Thereafter, no withdrawal or substitution of candidates is allowed except in the event of death as provided in section 34(1) of the Electoral Act or pursuant to an order of a Court of competent jurisdiction.”
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