The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it will re-administer its polling units to address the issue of vote buying, a challenge plaguing the country’s electoral system.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this at the presentation of Certificates of Registration to the 23 newly registered political parties at INEC headquarters on Thursday in Abuja.
Yakubu said that the new polling unit structure would make it difficult for voters to display their ballot paper after marking them.
“The commission is deeply worried about our elections, particularly the way they are becoming increasingly monetised.
“Vote buying is a cancer to our elections and we must work together collectively to stamp it out.
“Accordingly, and on the part of the commission starting with Osun State Governorship Election coming up on Sept. 22, we will change the way our polling units are administered.
“It will be done in such a way that there will be no room for voters to expose their marked ballot papers between voting cubicles and the ballot boxes.
“We shall further re-strategise with the security agencies for a more robust response to the arrest and prosecution of vote buyers.
“We will also engage with all well-meaning groups for more effective voter education and voter sensitisation.’’
Yakubu also disclosed that the commission had concluded arrangements to publish the notice for the 2019 general elections to kick-off activities.
“The formal commencement of 2019 general elections begins tomorrow, Friday Aug. 17, 2018, with the publication of Notice of Elections.
“Already, the commission has concluded arrangements for doing so in all our offices nationwide as required by law.
“This will be followed by the conduct of primaries beginning from Saturday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.’’
Congratulating the 23 newly registered parties, the INEC chairman said that they could participate in the 2019 general elections, but not in the Osun governorship poll as the nomination process had closed.
“From today, you have equal status with any political party in Nigeria. This means that you can sponsor candidates for elections, including the 2019 general elections.
“However, since the commission has closed nominations for the Osun State governorship election holding on the Sept. 22, none of you can sponsor candidates for that election.’’
Yakubu said that the new parties had an obligation to respect their constitutions, members, abide by INEC guidelines and regulations, obey the Electoral Act and submit themselves to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“2019 General Election is only 183 days way from today. You should try and make a difference to politics and elective representation by conducting open, transparent, inclusive and peaceful primaries for the nomination of credible candidates for the elections.
“By doing so, you will give Nigerians greater choice, thereby adding value to our democracy and strengthening the quality of elective representatives,’’ Yakubu said.
In his remarks, Alhaji Mohammed Nalado, the National Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said that the registration of the new parties would open the landscape for more participation in politics.
“This will open the landscape for participation and opportunities for the electorate to choose their representatives.”
Nalado urged the new party leaders to support INEC in conducting free, fair and credible elections as well as contribute their quota to the development of the country’s democracy.
Speaking on behalf of the new parties, Omoyele Sowore, the National Chairman, African Action Congress Party, (AACP), pledged that the new parties would bring changes to Nigeria’s democracy as well as rescue the country from the state of hopelessness.
Sowore urged the new parties to form a united forum that would develop the country’s democracy and defeat the old order.
“Nigerians need us badly; they need our commitment, conscience and most importantly our will to defeat the old order,’’ Sowore said.