Why we centralised recruitment of collation officers —INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said on Saturday in Lagos said its decision to centralise recruitment of collation offers for the forthcoming polls was taken to avoid them being influenced by politicians, among others, and also to secure the integrity of the polls.
INEC National Commissioner, Mr Festus Okoye, who is also the Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of the commission, said this at a media parley, stating that part of the reasons INEC was also centralising the recruitment exercise was to enable it to know “who our collation officers are.”
According to Okoye, university lecturers and professors are among the list of over 20,000 collation officers that had since undergone security screening, but none of them would know their postings until a day to the elections.
This was just as the INEC chief dismissed allegation that it was planning to shut down internet service during the elections, describing it as untrue and that doing so would equally hamper the commission’s work.
Besides, INEC reiterated it’s resolve not to transmit results of the poll exercise electronically, but quickly assured that it was poised to conduct a transparent and credible exercise, saying it would be quite easy for any serious political party to know the results of the elections from ward to national, even before the official announcement of such was made by INEC headquarters in Abuja.
“On the issue of collation officers, we have 10,809 registration areas, each of the registration areas will have a collection officer. And from what I have just said, the Independent National Electoral Commission has said that for us to speed up collation, we are going to have two collation officers per registration area. So you multiply 10,809 by 2 and you get the total number of collation officers we are going to have in the various wards and registration areas.
“We are going to have collation officers at the local government level and we have 774 local governments throughout the federation and we are also going to have collation officers at the state level, these are going to be drawn from vice chancellors of various institutions of higher learning.
“The INEC decided to centralise recruiment of collation officers because we want a situation where we know who our collation officers are. The various universities are sending the names of some of their lecturers, professors and other academic staff to the INEC. When we get the names, we subject them to various security checks and none of them will know where he is going to be collation officer.
“So if you are from University of Jos, they will choose you as collation officer but you will never know where you are going to be collation officer until a day to the election. That is when you are going to know.
“We want to centralise this because we don’t want a situation where some people will be making approaches to the collation officers just because they have been recruited locally. That’s why we are centralising it,” Okoye said.
Speaking further, the INEC national commissioner said it was only the commission’s national chairman and his staff that could tell who and who formed the list to ensure and guarantee it’s fidelity, adding that even none of the national commissioner was privy to it.
“It is only the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission and his personal staff that know who the collation officers are because the list of the collation officers that would be generated, consisting the vice chancellors will go to the chairman directly and not even to the National Commissioners,” he said.
Okoye, while assuring Nigerians of readiness of the Commission to conduct free and fair poll, said that the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) was ongoing across the country, pointing out that the exercise would end by February 8 at the end of which the Commission would return all the uncollected ones to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for safe keeping.
He said the commission would also go ahead to announce the number of those PVCs that were collected nationwide and the number of ones that was not collected but was returned to CBN.
Speaking on the issue of simultaneous accreditation and voting, Okoye said the approach was based on international best practices and the clamour by Nigerians across board following consultations, recalling that in 2015, over two million voters were registered to have accredited but never came back to vote due to one reason or the other.
Responding to a question, the INEC chief said it definitely did not have an alternative to use of members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in respect of transportation and delivery of sensitive electoral materials to over 120,000 polling centres across the country as INEC did not have its own vehicles and drivers to do that.
It would be recalled that Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said on Thursday that it was opposed to the MoU between the INEC and NURTW on transportation and delivery of sensitive voting materials for the election based on alleged admission by All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain in the state, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, that members of NURTW were equally members of the party.
According to Okoye, NURTW has always been part of the election exercise in the past, assuring that the Commission would ensure thorough screening of those to be engaged for the special task.