•Voting to hold in 120,000 Polling Units, 155,000 Polling Centres
•15 parties, five presidential candidates may boycott polls
Ahead of the March 8 deadline for the collection of the Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) for the Presidential, National Assembly and Governorship elections in the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said 55,234,874 out of the 68,833,476 registered voters, have collected their PVCs.
The commission also said polling would take place in 120,000 polling units and 155,000 voting centres, while assuring that all the needed Smart Card Readers, ballot papers and ballot boxes have been distributed to the respective states and are currently under lock and key at the various branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Addressing newsmen at the INEC headquarters in Abuja, the National Commissioner in-charge of Publicity and Voter Education, Dr. Chris Iyimoga, said: “I am delighted to report that as I speak to you, we have surpassed the 80 per cent threshold of the collection of the PVCs nationwide”.
By this, the INEC National Commissioner said: “We have distributed the PVCs to 55,234,874 out of the 68,833,476 registered voters.”
On the distribution of the ballot papers and ballot boxes as well as the Smart Card Readers, Iyimoga said, “as at Tuesday, February 12, 2015, we had received ballot papers meant for all the elections and taken them to the states. They are securely locked at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) vaults across the states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), awaiting further distribution at the eve of each of the elections.
“We have also received and distributed all ballot boxes meant for the elections. As we speak Smart Card Readers have been distributed to the states – enough for all the PUs and Voting Points,” the INEC Director said.
On the test run of the Smart Card Readers, he said “the Commission had satisfactorily tested the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) before the re-scheduling of the elections, it is to further conduct more rigorous field testing of the functionality of the SCRs which will be deployed for accreditation of voters on Election Day.
“Two states from each of the six geopolitical zones of the federation will be involved in the field testing which will take place simultaneously on Saturday, March 7, 2015.
The states selected for the exercise are Ekiti and Lagos (South West); Anambra and Ebonyi (South East); Delta and Rivers (South South); Kano and Kebbi (North West); Bauchi and Taraba (North East) and Niger and Nasarawa (North Central).
He also said the meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) has been fixed for Wednesday, March 11, 2015, to further review the Commission’s overall preparations and Readiness Assurance to conduct the 2015 General Elections.
The INEC National Commissioner highlighted the activities of INEC before the general elections to include, “meeting with political parties to review the Commission’s preparedness; and briefing of accredited observers on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at the Africa Hall, Abuja International Conference Centre (AICC).
Meanwhile, 15 political parties and five presidential candidates of defferent parties participating in the March 28 general elections on Wednesday opposed the proposed use of card readers by the INEC in the elections.
The parties and candidates said the use of the electronic devices would not only be against the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Acts which proscribed electronic voting in the country.
The parties, therefore, threatened boycott the elections if the INEC insists on the use of the card readers, saying that some obvious but dangerous development in the proposed use of card readers by the commission for the conduct of the elections has been identified.
In a press conference in Abuja, the parties and candidates, speaking through spokesman and Acting National Chairman of Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Dr. Onwubuya Breakforth, said “these important observations, if not well considered by the commission, has the propensity to derail the 2015 polls.”
Dr. Breakforth said: “The card reader is a device which is susceptible to manipulations to favour particular candidates and in the process, disenfranchise many registered Nigerian voters or potential election winners.”
He added: “The concept of using card readers for these coming elections as being planned by INEC has a lot of implications which may negatively impact on the conduct of credible, free and fair elections on March 28 and April 11.
“The first drawback is that this device is relatively a new technology that has not been tested or tried in a kind of mock election or previous formal elections prior to this time. This would have enabled the nation and the electoral umpire itself, to properly ascertain its workability and efficiency in the conduct of the real general elections.
“The decision by INEC to commence the test-run of the use of Card Readers in some of selected states across the country on Saturday, March 7, 2015, just less than three weeks to commencement of the re-scheduled election, would not provide the commission enough time to rectify whatever anomaly that would likely arise from that exercise.
He noted that if the card reader should develop some technical problems, there is a possibility that the consequences of such development would affect about 40 to 50 per cent of the polling booths nationwide.
“Because of the tendency of the card reader device to develop some technical fault any time during the voters accreditation process, that was the reason why all the political parties agreed with INEC recently, that the election should be postponed in polling booths where asubstantial number of card reader defaults were recorded because it would disrupt the entire election process. That goes to show that the card reader cannot be fully trusted for the conduct of the election.
“The case of Senators Chris Ngige and Enyinnaya Abaribe, whose bona fide voters cards were not captured by the card reader device was a clear case of the technical fault which the card reader is susceptible to,”he added.
He stressed that the card reader was already programmed for particular polling booths and the device was supposed to be used for that particular polling unit which it was programmed, regretting that “so far, that has not been the case.”
“There are some issues of legality associated with the card readers. These are legal facts. A provision of the existing Electoral Act prohibits the use of electronic device for the 2015 election. This means that the card reader itself is an electronic which will be used for the accreditation of PVC holders for voting during the election.
“Therefore, it is obvious that accreditation is a process of voting which is inseparable from the voting process. The usage of the card reader is an electronic method of voting which runs contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“It is therefore advised that in the nearest future, a more reliable electronic device for the management of the voting process should be provided well ahead of time.
“The time factor in the use of the card reader is a factor that is likely to create chances of manipulation which could result in the massive rigging of the election and ultimately disenfranchise bona fide Nigerian voters…
“We the stakeholders are not saying that an improved and faster technology should not be used to achieve development in the electoral process, but it should not be in the general elections. The PVCs have already solved a lot of these problems.
“We also want INEC to respond to this emergency and also within 24 hours, approve our request because time is of the essence. This positive response is necessary so that we would be able to meet the demands of our party members and majority of the Nigerian voters who have expressed great anxiety and concern over this matter.
“Since Prof. Attahiru Jega has shown lack of professionalism and good judgment in his actions so far in the conduct of the 2015 elections and since he has about three months to the end of his tenure as INEC Chairman, we, the stakeholders, urge him to quietly consider proceeding on terminal leave so that a more competent person can handle the current election process,” they further said.
Three of the political parties’ leaders who signed the statement on behalf of the parties are the National Chairman of the MEGA Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP), Prince Dare Falade; Presidential Candidate, Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Dr. Kelvin Chinedu Opumu Alagoa; and Alliance for Democracy (AD), Dr. Rafiu Salau.