DiasporaThe Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been put on the fast lane to introduce what has been called ‘Out of Country Voting” into its electoral process to avoid disenfranchisement of qualified Nigerians abroad.

This was one of the many recommendations made by Operations and Logistics Officers of the Commission following a one-week workshop and brainstorming at the Westown Hotels, Ikeja, Lagos. The workshop had its theme as “Developing Effective Electoral Operations.”

The Commission said that the Out of Country Voting should be predicated on the creation of a data base for Nigerians in Diaspora, provision of a legal framework, eligible criteria, a logistics framework, conduct of pilot schemes and the acquisition of necessary platforms and gadgets for its implementation.

It said that since procurement and timeous deployment of election materials are crucial to the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, some sections of the Electoral Act such as Section 78 should be amended to further extend from six (6) months to two hundred and forty (240) days to facilitate production of ballot papers and procure other materials necessary for the conduct of elections. Towards this end, the Commission should begin procurement of materials for the 2019 General Elections in 2017.

Other recommendations were that the Commission should also embark on general renovation, upgrade and expansion of existing stores. It should further, in addition to existing zonal stores, construct stores in all the states to facilitate seamless, and timely deployment of election materials across the country.

These were some of the many recommendations made by Operations and Logistics Officers of the Commission following a one-week workshop and brainstorming at the Westown Hotels, Ikeja, Lagos. The workshop which theme was “Developing Effective Electoral Operations” also recommended as follows:

  • While acknowledging the impact of technology on our electoral processes and the tremendous value it has added to them, there should be further perfection of our Electronic Voters’ Register and improvement in the functionality of the Smart Card Reader (SCR). Also, Electronic (e)-Voting should be introduced but after due pilot projects.
  • The Commission should review and firm up its MoU with the Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). It should involve the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) to ensure compliance, standardization and sanctions. By the same token, the Commission should extend the sourcing of vehicles to NARTO, RTEAN and other federal government agencies such as the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), National Population Commission (NPC), National Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC), Nigerian Postal Services (NIPOST), Tertiary Institutions etc. In addition, the Commission should explore the prospect of collaborating with the Nigerian Army, Navy, Airforce and Police on the provision of transportation for areas with difficult terrains and which are violence-prone.
  • To make INEC staff proficient, especially in the use of modern technology deployed, they should be trained and certified on all electoral devices. In the meantime ICT technical staff should be trained continuously to bring them up to speed with all trends. Also, alternative power sources to all electoral devices such as PowerBanks, SolarPanels, Inverters etc should be provided as back up.
  • Registration Area Centre (RACs) and Super RACs played crucial roles in the timely deployment of staff and materials and the success of the 2015 General Elections. Of late, however, these Centres have been targeted and attacked. There is the need therefore to fortify them by deploying not less than twelve armed security personnel per each RAC/Super RAC.
  • Reverse Logistics is crucial to elections yet it is not being properly implemented. Henceforth, an official, particularly the SPO, should be charged with this responsibility and one of the three security personnel assigned to a PU should be mandated to accompany the SPO in retrieving/returning election officials. A review of the role of Poll Officials as it concerns Reverse Logistics should be reflected in the Election Training Manual.
  • Operations, Logistics and Stores officers should be professionalized, trained and certified. The same should obtain for Electoral Officers (E.O.s). This should enable these aforementioned officers to be promoted to GL 17 without prejudice to any officer on Grade Level 17 occupying the office of Administrative Secretary.
  • For effectiveness and coherence, two departments – Operations and Logistics; and Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society Liaison should be revisited by the Commission. A department of Logistics and Transport should be created while Publicity and Civil Society Organisation should be excised from VEPGCSO.
  • The Commission should, ahead of the 2019 General Elections, set up an Interdepartmental Committee on the creation of Polling Units. The Committee should be given a clear mandate to develop modalities/criteria for the creation of the PUs.
  • The Commission should procure utility vehicles for the 774 LGAs across the country. The utility vehicles which should be procured between 1st quarter, 2017-1st quarter 2018, should be fitted with tracking devices. Also, the Commission should procure additional trucks for its operations. Ten trucks, with two fitted with cranes should be procured for head quarters while two trucks are procured for each of the states and FCT. One of the trucks for each of the states and FCT should be fitted with a crane.
  • That in view of the increasing inconclusiveness of elections, the Commission should review the guidelines and regulations for elections. [myad]