2019 poll: Late passage of 2017 budget affecting our preparations ―Yakubu

Ahead of 2019 General Election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that delay in passage of the 2017 budget is one of the challenges facing it as it is affecting its plan to acquire materials needed for the exercise most especially the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), which it had since placed order for but is yet to take possession of.

Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said this on Thursday in Lagos, while speaking at a CSO Strategy Meeting to Review Post 2015 Elections organised by a group, Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG).

Speaking at the event, which was chairmanned by Ledum Mitee, Yakubu, who was represented by National Commissioner in Charge of Election and Party Monitoring, Prof Antonia Simbine, said beside the delay, conflicting state priorities as well as the volatile foreign exchange market had negatively impacted on the work of the commission.

“Although INEC is now on first line charge, the delay in passing the budget and the envelope system being implemented in the face of recession and conflicting state priorities as well as the volatile foreign exchange market have negative impact on the work of the commission,” he said.

The INEC boss, who disclosed that over 7million PVCs were yet to be collected blaming development on voter apathy in the country, said the greatest challenges faced by the body was the general attitude of politicians that bordered on desperation for power and engagement in do- or-die politics.

“Perhaps the greatest challenge faced by any Election Management Body (EMB) is the general attitude of politicians. You will agree that here, there is acute desperation for power, eloquently captures in the dictum of ‘do or die’ politics. It is responsible for most other vices associated with the process, including violence (which often results to inconclusive elections) hate speeches, bribery and all forms of malpractices),” Prof Yakubu.

He warned: “Unless and until there is attitudinal change and rejection of this mindset, our process is likely to be bedeviled by such negative and subversive tendencies.”

Yakubu, while listing other challenges to include security as experienced in Edo and Rivers states poll, inadequacy of key officials, among others, however, assured that the commission was poised to meet the expectations of Nigerians and the international community, which he said were high.

“Even in the face of these and other challenges, the expectations of Nigerians and the international community are high. We are conscious of our responsibility to meet these expectations. This is what has informed our approach thus far,” he said.

The INEC boss disclosed that measures to address the some of the problems include collapse of the voting system from separation of accreditation and voting to simultaneous accreditation and voting, teamwork and partnership with increased engagement of stakeholders such as CSOs, CBOs, FBOs, MDAs, EFCC, increased deployment of technology, year round nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), among others.

Speaking with newsmen, the chairman of the occasion, Mr Mitee, while applauding the interactions, urged that, “It is a conversation that should be holding regularly, it should be a continuous process.”

He said the challenge before the electoral commission and Nigerians in general was how to make the 2019 poll be an improvement on 2015 exercise, calling on INEC to address the perception the local populace had about its officials in order for the body to gain people’s confidence.

Speaking further, Mitee called for punishment not only for electoral officers who were found wanting but those caught snatching ballot boxes and those they did it in their favour in order to address malpractices in conduct of elections in the country.

“There should be punishment for those who snatched ballot papers and those they committed the action in their favour. There should be sanctions, not in term of going to court, some of them if found guilty should be banned from taking part in election and holding public offices.

“So they would be able to tell those on ground that what you are doing is going to have consequences on their electoral future,” he said.

On her part, Acting Executive Secretary of ISDMG, Faith Nwadishi, said the body took special interest in INEC based on the successes recorded in 2015 election and the need to look ahead of 2019 to know what the challenges were and how the group could collaborate with the commission.

“We took special interest in INEC based on the successes recorded in 2015 and looking ahead of 2019 what are the challenges and see what we can do in collaborating and supporting what INEC had done before.

“This meeting we are having today is the third in the series. Two years before the elections, INEC had announced dates of elections and we see the politicians are beginning to gather to re-strategise, so we have to be proactive to look at what are the lessons we have learnt from the 2015 elections and what is it that we need to do,” she said.