New Telegraph

Elections: Time to end thuggery, child-voting

Penultimate Saturday, Nigerians went to the polls to elect a new President and equally a fresh set of Members of the National Assembly. New Telegraph congratulates all the contestants. We extend kudos to all those who have been duly elected and enjoin them to be magnanimous in victory, as power, in human affairs, is transient. Soon, they will be persons of authority taking decisions likely to have a far reaching impact on the populace. Those who were not favoured by the ballot should be sports manly and refrain from allowing their electoral misfortunes to weigh them down.

Instead, they should draw useful lessons from their setbacks and allow them to spur them to improved performances in future electoral battles. However, the just-concluded elections portrayed Nigeria in a negative light, as some contestants exhibited unprecedented desperation for the different elective positions. There were massive irregularities in polling units across the country. In some polling units, thuggery was the order of the day with some hoodlums engaged in voter-suppression and ballot-box snatching in a bid to help give electoral advantage to undeserving candidates.

Equally rampant was childvoting in some places where boys and girls who were clearly below the age of 18 participated in what ordinarily was an adult exercise. The reported collusion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with some desperate office seekers to conduct the exercise in flagrant violation of the Electoral Act was a yet another abnormality. Under the Act, the electoral umpire was expected to upload the results of each polling unit to her server to help facilitate public viewing, tracking and transparency but this was not done.

Tremendous manual interface was deployed resulting in the handwriting of results. New Telegraph is dismayed that thuggery, child voting, non-uploading and handwriting of results occurred in the full glare of security operatives and electoral officials of INEC. Much hype was given to the deployment of security personnel across the country.

Similarly, tremendous logistic support was made available to the officers and men of the different security agencies from the public till. The public expectation was for the security personnel to be above board and have a zero tolerance for thuggery and child voting. The same could be said of the electoral officials. New Telegraph urges INEC and other security agencies to speedily make amends in order to help preserve the integrity of elections. The Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu repeatedly assured the populace that his Commission has dealt with many teething problems and that the 2023 General Election would be conducted in strict compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

But unfortunately the contrary was the case. Professor Yakubu should be told in clear terms that as INEC Chairman he should have ensured that the Commission carried out the exercise in compliance with the extant laws. All security operatives and INEC officials who turned blind eyes to child voting, voter suppression, non-uploading and handwriting of results should be slammed with weighty sanctions. Since INEC and some security agencies could be said to be interested parties, by their humanorchestrated blunders, they should not be the ones to handle such an investigation, as a judge cannot preside over his own trial. Reputable professional bodies, pressure groups and trade unions should be given the responsibility to subject INEC and all the suspected law-breakers to thorough investigations.

This is a necessary step for the equally diligent prosecution. We recall that billions naira and a large component of foreign exchange was made available to INEC for the procurement, deployment and the optimum functionality of the requisite technology that would help ensure full proof biometric accreditation of voters and up loading of results into the INEC server from each polling unit in the form of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters It is indefensible for such a huge amount to be made available to the electoral umpire only for it to fail or be deliberately truncated.

This consequently raises questions like who ascertained the professional integrity of the company for the execution of the contract. The INEC helmsman and his colleagues should be thoroughly grilled to provide useful answers regarding the dysfunctionality of the technology. INEC should endeavour to shore up its capacity. There must be full and optimum use of the technology for the uploading of the results from every polling unit to the INEC server. There should be no handwriting of results for any reason. Severe sanctions should be meted to anybody, be it a he/she a politician, thug, security operative, INEC official or an official of the contract-executing company found to be involved in the manipulation of the electoral process.

The trend whereby some contestants are allowed to undeservingly appropriate electoral gains either through voter-suppression, ballot box snatching, vote buying or child voting must stop as such under-nourishes the country’s democracy, now 100 years old. Introduced in 1923, via the historic1922 Clifford Constitution, the world expects Nigeria’s democracy to be thoroughly stripped of the drawbacks of thuggery, child-voting as well as the non-uploading of results from each polling unit into the INEC server, in strict conformity of the Electoral Act. This is the stand of New Telegraph.

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