By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says many countries in West African have shown interest in studying and adopting its innovative tool on election monitoring and support system for their use.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Friday at the opening of a two- day retreat on ”the Optimisation of the Election Monitoring And Support Centre (EMSC) operational structure” held in Keffi, Nasarawa.
Yakubu said that the EMSC had become a vital tool in the monitoring, implementation and management of Nigeria’s electoral plans and activities.
He said when his led-commission was first inaugurated in November 2015, its resolve was to consolidate on the gains of the last commission (2010-2015) in building systems for the continuous and effective management of the electoral process.
Yakubu said the goals were not only to address the challenges encountered during the 2011 and 2015 general elections.
He said it was also to develop proactive and knowledge-driven systems that would address those challenges in 2019, as well as continue to support the commission’s efforts in the planning, conduct and management of elections.
”The continuous search for innovative and better systems for the management of our electoral process crystalised into the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan (SP)/Strategic Programme of Action (SPA), the 2019 Election Project Plan (EPP), as well as the EMSC.
”Consequently, the commission has, over the years, continuously expanded the frontiers of electoral management and governance by introducing innovations and knowledge-driven systems. The EMSC is one of such innovations.
”As an electoral early-warning, monitoring, implementation and management tool, the EMSC, relying on field offices and personnel across the 36 states and the FCT, alerts the commission to the challenges, identifies electoral risks/threats and provides real-time information on the status of an election.
”In doing so, the EMSC makes available to the commission the necessary information in making real-time interventions to avert or mitigate potential risks or threats to an election,” he stated.
Yakubu added that in the build-up to the 2019 general election, it became increasingly clear to INEC that a coordinated early warning, monitoring and implementation system was necessary.
This, according to him, was to track hundreds of inter-related electoral activities in the Election Project Plan for the 2019 general election.
He said that accordingly, INEC accepted the recommendations of the 2019 Election Project Plan Committee (EPPC) to integrate the three monitoring mechanisms of the commission into a single unit called the EMSC.
He listed the three monitoring mechanisms as the Election Management System (EMS), Electoral Risk Management (ERM) and Election Operations Support Centre (EOSC).
”The EMSC has greatly helped the commission in managing the electoral process.
”As a testimony to its robustness as an election management tool, many countries in the West African Region and beyond have shown interest in studying and adopting the system for their use.
”The Ethiopian and Malawi Electoral Commissions are already considering the deployment of some aspects of the tool in the management of their elections.
”The EMSC may well be another contribution of INEC (and indeed Nigeria) to election management in the world,” he noted.
Yakubu said that pioneers and INEC needed to keep pushing the frontiers of the system, fortifying its strengths, addressing its challenges and expanding its reach, in the conduct and management of elections.
”Having deployed it for the 2019 general election, the commission has certainly seen its advantages as well as its challenges.
”The advantages need to be strengthened and improved upon while resolving the anticipated challenges before the 2023 general election, which is just 560 days away,” he said.
The INEC boss further noted that the retreat was therefore crucial to the EMSC and the commission.
He urged participants to work round the clock during the period of the retreat, suggest novel ways of tweaking the EMSC, addressing its challenges and formulating comprehensive policy guidelines for its operation.
”It must be repositioned to discharge its most primary responsibilities of providing early warning, identifying threats/risks, monitoring the implementation of election activities.
“(It must) reposition in ensuring real-time and accurate information to the commission on all field-related activities that have a direct bearing on elections,” he stated.
Mr Hamza Fassi-Fihr, Project Coordinator, European Centre for Election Support (ECES), said monitoring of processes was integral to the success of any system and a commitment toward ensuring accountability and transparency.
Fassi-Fihri, who represented Dr Isiaka Yahaya, ECES Senior Electoral Administration Expert, commended INEC’s effort at ensuring effective electoral management and promotion of electoral integrity through the innovative tool.
”It is clear that the EMSC has come to stay as an indispensable and integral part of Nigeria’s electoral system and a process to be exported across EMBS in the African region and beyond,” he said.
On his part, Ahmed Mu’azu, National Commissioner and Chairman Planning, Monitoring and Strategy Committee (PMSC), said the retreat was critical as INEC prepared for the 2023 general elections.
Mu’azu said that the EMSC had been key to the process adding that that it was the reason it had remained in the fore burner for INEC, since it had become a strategic implementation framework in the electoral process.
Also Prof. Ikechukwu Ibeanu, INEC National Commissioner, and Chairman Electoral Operations and Logistics Committee (EOLC), described EMSC as an important aspect of INEC commitment to the use of technology to deepen electoral process in Nigeria.
He said the adoption of technology had helped in tracking and ensuring compliance in the electoral processes.
Ibeanu noted that it had also helped in improving efficiency, as well as reduced negative human interference in the electoral process.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, in Nasarawa Uthman Ajidagba said the retreat was timely and apt as the commission prepared for the 2023 general elections. (NAN)