by Mark Amaza
It is almost 20 months to the 2019 General Elections with elections into the Office of the President, 30 governorship seats and hundreds of legislative seats at the state and federal levels.
It looks like there is still a lot of time left, but we all know how time can move fast and events creep up on us. This is why it is important for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to commence preparations for the elections.
In order to have hitch-free, credible elections, here are 5 things that INEC must get right before then:
- Get Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) for states: There are currently 33 states without INEC Resident Electoral Commissioners, without whom elections in those states cannot hold, elections cannot be planned and held going by the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act. To fill these vacancies, 27 persons were nominated for appointment or reappointment as RECs of which 15 have been confirmed by the Senate and 12 are still undergoing screening. This leaves six slots to even have nominees. The more nominations and confirmations are delayed, the more the negative effect it will have on election planning.
- Update the Voters’ Register: As the voters registration has commenced, the Independent National Electoral Commission has to ensure that it captures previously unregistered voters, produce permanent voters’ cards and to also enable voters who have changed location to transfer their voters’ cards to those locations. A failure to do this efficiently could significantly affect voter turnout.
- Incorporate more technology into elections: The recent amendments to the Electoral Act have given INEC a license to use technology as much as possible in elections, including the introduction of electronic voting. The expectation is the use of technology will improve electoral processes, from voter registration and voting to collation of results. It is important that INEC either internally or in conjunction with external contractors start developing technology that will be deployed for various aspects of the electoral process and commence its roll-out.
- Use elections before 2019 to test new ideas: Between now and 2019, there are three governorship elections in Osun, Anambra and Ekiti as well as numerous parliamentary elections around the country. This provides an opportunity for INEC to use these elections to test new ideas, such as those that incorporate technology, identify mistakes and solve them before roll-out during the 2019 General Elections.
- Enforce campaign spending limits and oversight: One constant complaint is that there is too much money in Nigerian politics, and one needs lots of money to even aspire within a party, talk less of running. Granted, politics is an expensive venture world over, but in other countries, there are laws that ensure strict oversight over how campaign funds are raised and spent. Even though the Electoral Act contains laws to oversee how parties administer their finances, and how candidates raise their campaign funds and the maximum limits of spending relative to offices, these laws are never enforced and amount to nothing more than paper tigers. While our campaign finance laws are in dire need of reform, INEC should make an effort to at least enforce the ones that currently exist.If these are implemented, having a more credible general elections in 2019 will not be borne out of false hope.