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NIGERIA 2015 ELECTIONS ENDANGERED

Voters lined up to cast their votesOur investigations into activities at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, specifically the Office of the Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega.  Though two years away, the 2015 elections may be in danger of being rigged systematically in view of the processes and procedures set up by the commission.

More importantly, INEC’s proposed permanent voter’s card may be in jeopardy of being compromised even before it is ready for use. Worse still, the seemingly messianic disposition of Jega, his choice of administrative procedure some of which place very sensitive and important responsibilities in the hands of persons not known to the laws setting up INEC, and stitched together by an allegation of sectionalism, is foisting on the commission a paradigm that may make the 2015 elections another fool’s errand. The findings seem frightening.

Only Professor Attahiru Jega knows the interest he has chosen to pursue. It could be any or a combination of two of the following:

Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – the ruling party!
There is the embattled, emerging opposition All Progressive Congress, APC.
There is Jega’s personal agenda which he expects to leave behind a progressive legacy.
And then there is the allegation of sectional (northern) agenda.

There are sufficient grounds to conclude that the present modus operandi of Nigeria’s Election Management Body, EMB, may be primed for another failure of planning as was the case with the failed April 2, 2011 election.

However, this time, the collateral damage that would attend the outcome would be very devastating. Unlike in the past, where disputes and disputations over outcomes of elections were largely based on partisan leanings, there are strong indications that the fire next time may be about ethnic domination or sectional conflicts, conflicts Nigerian politicians exploit with criminal dexterity.

LEPROUSY ON THREE FINGERS
Intricately inter-linked, the endangerment of the 2015 general elections stems from three principal procedures, like three leprous fingers. The three procedures are simple and straight forward enough. First is the new found romance of Jega’s INEC with manual registration of voters. Surprised?  Don’t be.  There is an internal circular to that effect.

The second and very dangerous yet innocuous leg is the type of permanent voter card that INEC has decided to use.
Investigations by Sunday Vanguard have revealed that the much talked about permanent card that INEC is proposing for the 2015 general elections does not have the necessary feature of specificity that would reduce the potentials for rigging. The contract has already been awarded.

Some of the National Commissioners and Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, are not particularly comfortable with the processes and procedures that were used for the award of the contract. Very senior INEC officers said the procedures did not, in the slightest form, enjoy the necessary collegiate arrangement that decisions of the commission were expected to enjoy.

The third leg of this emerging threat to the 2015 elections is the recruitment of staff for INEC. Some senior officials of the EMB, vested with the responsibility of planning and implementation, are already enmeshed in a dispute with the Chairman of the electoral body.

The affected staff, who had taken their promotion examination since May 2012 and had been expecting their promotion letters having passed the test, are angry that the commission has not only withheld the result but has also gone ahead to use extraneous criteria to promote selected staff from some states in the country.
The action has given rise to the fear that some staff are systematically being positioned to give a section of the country undue advantage in the 2015 presidential election.

“The structure of the place (INEC) remains skewed, biased and worrisome as we approach 2015. Promotion has been swayed more by regional control of the place to the extent that the criteria are not certain. Recently, at a meeting, a suggestion was put forward for what was termed ‘special promotion’ without giving details of what constitutes special promotion and if there is any promotion in the civil service called by such name. It all turned out to be more people from a section of the country who would be promoted”, a source told Sunday Vanguard.

But the Commission’s Chairman dismissed all the allegations as baseless and a figment of the  imagination of those bent on discrediting INEC and its objective management policies. Jega, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Kayode Idowu, stated that, contrary to the  allegation of favouritism levelled against him, he did his best to ensure that those who passed the examination were promoted based on available vacancies and taking into cognisance the Federal Character principle.

However, these three leprous fingers would infect the entire hand of 2015 elections. How?

JEGA: LIMITS OF ACTIVISM IN ADMINISTRATION
When sometime in the third quarter of 2010, Jega was appointed National Chairman of INEC, his choice heralded a swash of hope in the land.  Coming with an activist’s credential, especially his roles in the very focused days of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, specifically his firm resolve against injustice, Jega’s appointment was one of the dots of wax that burnished the image of President Goodluck Jonathan, signposting the new President as a man with good sense and a determination to bequeath a legacy of electoral credibility to the nation.

Jega, with messianic candour, set about his work, promising to deliver everything Nigerians had never witnessed in terms of a free and fair election.

Therefore, everything the new chair of Nigeria’s EMB asked for, he got. Particularly in the area of Direct Data Capture, DDC, machines and election materials, no expenses were spared.

Jega’s understanding was that he could micro-manage the electoral process such that there would be zero tolerance for corruption and tardiness.

However, what he failed to realize was that in Nigeria’s system of public service, especially when in charge of a very sensitive institution like INEC, micro-managing a process that has 119, 973 polling units scattered across the country both in terms of logistics and direct control would be nothing more than a gratuitous nightmare.

For instance, the six firms that got the contracts were: VI Solutions; SanFrano, a German/Polish firm; Graphic Inline (Gi); Tip3, a Spanish company; Aero-vote; and Kalamazoo. Between these six firms, N13billion was committed to the printing of election materials. But it went beyond just the money released to the firms. The concerns were the screening process before the contracts were awarded the contracts?

Who were they fronting for or who were those fronting for them? How did the bidding process go?
Sunday Vanguard discovered then, as is the case now, that from within the commission, some of the commissioners were said to be “unhappy with the process of the contract award and, therefore, became indifferent to whatever mess”, that was becoming clear, would occur.  The mess did occur.

Therefore, on Friday, April 1, 2011, when Jega told Nigerians that INEC was ready for the election, which was just 24hours away, he knew that all the voting materials were not in the country.  Again, when he woke up on Saturday, April 2, in its very early hours – after only having managed just a few hours of sleep – Jega knew there was enough trouble ahead. Whether it was his intention to postpone the election early enough or whether he was prevailed upon, only the INEC boss  would be in a position to answer the question truthfully. What was to turn out truthfully, however, was that President Jonathan and indeed Nigerians were embarrassed – some embarrassed on behalf of Jega.

Barely nine days after the postponement of that election, a group, Electoral Integrity Group, petitioned the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleging that there may have been bickering over returns from contracts regarding voting materials – “there were brickerings on “percentage of funding” which some of them thought was “high” but subsequently paid, though reluctantly.

This we believe impacted negatively on the execution of these jobs thus leading to late arrival of materials” for the April 2, 2011 election. With the award of contract for the type of permanent voter card that would be used for the 2015 elections, the spectre of electoral irregularity on account of the usage of the card is magnified.

MANUAL COMPILATION OF VOTER REGISTER
At a time when it appeared that Nigeria was already moving away from a regime of manual compilation of voter register, information available to Sunday Vanguard suggests that INEC is about to engage a throw back to 1958, a time when the first compilation of a national voter register was carried out.

In a memo recently sent out by INEC’s Human Resources Department titled, APPROVED JOB DESCRIPTION OF REGISTRATION AREA OFFICERS (RAOs), which Sunday 2Vanguard sighted, the schedule of activities of the ROAs were well enumerated.

The Schedule of Duties, as enunciated by the memo, states:
“1) To visit voters and prospective voters in their homes with a view to:

“a) MANUALLY REGISTERING THOSE WHO REACH THE AGE OF 18, SIX MONTHS BEFORE ANY GENERAL ELECTION (REGISTRATION VOTERS)

“b) Taking note of voters who died with a view to delisting their names from the voters roll

“c) To process transfer of voters from one state to another

“d) To identify and verify voters who lost their cards with a view to processing  replacement

“e) TO COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST WITH A VIEW TO CAPTURING THEIR BIOMETRIC DATA AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME, AT LEAST TWICE A YEAR….”

This memo was sent out last month to REGISTRATION AREA OFFICERS, RAOs. It was learnt that when some national commissioners and RECs saw the memo, they were shocked. “It was something unexpected”, a very senior official of the commission said.

“In fact”, the source continued, “you would not believe that the national chairman did not run this memo by the appropriate officers of the commission”.

The ‘appropriate officers of the commission’ are represented by National Commissioners and, to a larger extent, RECs.

It was learnt that “just as Professor Jega constituted a kitchen cabinet, and sub-cabinet which usurped most of the functions of National Commissioners and some heads of departments in the commission”, leading to the shambolic April 2, 2011 episode, “the situation on ground today is not different.  That is why a memo like that, directing RAOs to “MANUALLY REGISTER” and “COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST”, would be issued without the input of relevant officers of the commission.”

According to Sunday Vanguard findings, there are grave implications for an engagement that seeks to “MANUALLY REGISTER” and “COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST”.

IMPLICATIONS
There are many implications for the proposed use of manual compilation of names for the register. During the 2011 general elections, there were reports – and INEC acknowledged this – that the present register, even with the use of biometrics data, has not been able to eliminate the issue of under-aged registration of voters.

Biometrics has not produced a very clean register.  It is being proved globally that with technology, incidents of fraud can be checked and reduced maximally.  The DDC system brought daylight into that fraud of voter register. What has been achieved so far with biometric registration in 2010/2011, minimal as they were, are on their way to the gallows with the new arrangement!

One of the benefits of the biometric registration was the emergence of Lagos State as the state with the largest number of registered voters.  It also shattered old myths about voting figures.

But with the memo issued last month to ROAs, they would be expected to “MANUALLY REGISTER” and “COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST”.

Some commissioners and senior officers of INEC were shocked when they saw the memo as issued by the Human Resources Department on the orders of Jega.

The memo pointed out that the biometrics would be captured at an appropriate time. What this suggests is another round of exercise when biometrics would be captured.

How does the commission intend to do this? How much personnel would be required for these two rounds of compilation?

It would not take divination to see through it that the “visit (to) voters and prospective voters in their homes” for the purpose of “MANUALLY REGISTERING THOSE WHO REACH THE AGE OF 18, SIX MONTH BEFORE ANY GENERAL ELECTION” as well as “TO COMPILE COMPREHENSIVE VOTERS LIST WITH A VIEW TO CAPTURE THEIR BIOMETRIC DATA AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME, AT LEAST TWICE A YEAR” constitute a recipe for electoral fraud.

The recruitment exercise that INEC is looking to see through, as well as the alleged skewed promotion exercise that has just been concluded, all suggest a pattern.

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