By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts (ASSPT) has tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to be fair to all political parties ahead of 2023 general elections.
The Director of the School, Dr Sam Amadi, made the call at a news conference in Abuja, on Tuesday while speaking on the uploading of party agents for the Feb. 25 presidential election.
Amadi urged INEC to work hard and simplify its digital processes to enable efficient and timely upload of Polling Units (PUs) agents by political parties.
He equally advised the commission to factor the interests and challenges faced by the less established political parties in managing its deadlines.
Amadi said from the group’s interactions with some of the parties “outside the major ones, namely the Peoples Democratic Party, the All Progressives Congress, the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’sParty” the feedbacks were not encouraging.
“We receive reports of difficulty in uploading party agents including difficulty of using the INEC’s portal and the number of PUs to be uploaded.
“Some of the officials of these parties informed us that INEC official did not notify them that their method will only provide online forms suitable for self-service and not for enterprise use cases.
“Some of them have also complained that the tasks requires more time that INEC allocates.
“Some of these party officials are requesting INEC to adopt the Enterprise Data Upload Method which will be easier and faster to enable them to quickly upload their agents.
“And this will enable them be in a position to monitor and defend their votes, especially in the presidential and governorship elections where incentives for rigging and manipulations may be high.
“INEC should recognise the comparative disadvantage of the less established parties and grant them amply opportunity to meet the deadline.
“If INEC is not able to be flexible with its system to enable smooth upload, then it should, within its conveniences and schedule, consider to extend the deadline.
“This will enable effective participation by the less established parties, outside the Big Four to ensure fair participation in competitive election, “ Amadi explained.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the school at the event launched a 2023 Election Observatory to monitor, analyse and provide solutions to issues that would affect the credibility and fairness of the elections.
Amadi said the gesture became necessary in order to help the INEC with necessary information in its preparations towards a credible exercise.
He said, “the objective of the observatory is to offer an independent analysis of the challenges of free and fair election to INEC as the country approaches its general elections.
“We believe that the most important aspect of the electoral process is not the actual voting, but actions taken by the electoral management body to make voting free and fair.
“We are not engaged in election monitoring but rather in observing and analysing the processes and procedures that guarantee fairness and credibility of voting and declaration of results.
“To this end, we will be having weekly press briefings to highlight challenges and offer solutions to ensure the conduct of the 2023 elections remain free, fair and credible.”
The school urged INEC to ensure that all eligible registered voters collect their Permanent Voter Cards(PVCs) before the election dates to avoid disenfranchisement.
He explained that the logistics could be overwhelming for the institutions, adding that the election is a crucial one and its competitiveness requires more transparency and accountability than in the past.
He commended INEC for the decision to use its staff to conduct the election rather than academics outside its control.
“By establishing a committee of its senior management and taking ownership of the process, INEC is proving that it is learning from the failures of the past and is determined to conduct more efficient and reliable elections in 2023.
“This decision underlines a recognition of the needs to standardise the procedures and processes of the elections.
“This is more so as the returning officers make decisions that at times are arbitrary and capricious to undermine the fairness of electoral outcomes,” he said.
Mr Kenneth Eze of Speak Out Africa Initiative, urged INEC to put measures in place for all eligible registered voters, especially students who were now back to their various schools, get their voting PVCs.
“We all know that when the Continuous Voter Registration was conducted, Nigeria students were home due to eight months strike declared by ASUU.
“Today, as we are talking PVCs distributoon and collection, these same largest decision making constituency are currently back in their school busy with their studies.
“Its unfortunate and I am calling the attention of INEC. There is no way they will be in school and still collect their PVCs which they did at home.
“Youth population is over 26 million as we were told by INEC and they must be part of determining who governance us in the next four years, “he said.
He urged the Federal Government to declare public holiday for students for one week and mandate ASUU, Nigeria University Commission (NUC) and stakeholders in education sector to suspend every activity during this one week break.
Oh his part, Mr Law Mefor, fellow of the school, urged INEC to improve its delivery system and overcome some of the managerial shortcomings recorded in the past weeks.
He said some of these suggestions were made to provide fair and effective participation in INEC process and to avert litigations that might damage the credibility of the entire process. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Julius Toba-Jegede