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Why we Spend so much to Conduct Elections — INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday gave an insight into why much funds went into the conduct of elections.

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC Chairman, gave the insight while responding to questions at an interactive session with the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) tagged ‘The Editors’ Forum’ in Lagos.

According to him, cost of logistics, highly-secured ballot papers, allowances for personnel, among other reasons, are responsible for the huge funds used in conducting elections in Nigeria.

“In France, the ballot paper is like an A4 sheet of paper, because it is unthinkable that anybody in France will snatch the ballot paper.

“But here in Nigeria, we print ballots papers in currency quality and we entrust them to Central Bank of Nigeria.

“The ballot papers will now be move with all the protocols and security according to the movement of the national currency, just to protect the process.

“This is not going to be done cheaply. So, we pay for lack of trust in the system,” the INEC boss said.

Yakubu, however, said that Nigeria’s elections were not the most expensive, if the entire cost was spread per head of the voting population, projected to be about 95 million.

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He said that the last elections conducted in Ghana, Kenya and Guinea-Bissau were more expensive, if the voters’ population was considered per capita in relation to the cost.

“The cost in Nigeria, I think, is nine dollars per head (N4, 500) as against what happens in other countries. Ours is not even the most expensive.

“The cost of elections in Nigeria in 2023 is N305 billion of the national budget of over N17 trillion.

“The cost of elections is just 1.8 per cent, not even up to two per cent of the national budget.

“If we remove the technology cost, 60 per cent of the cost of elections in Nigeria is spent on logistics and personnel allowances,” he said.

According to him, the commission will engage no fewer than 1.4 million Nigerians for national and state elections as ad hoc staff who will have to be paid and transported to their various locations.

“I am sure as we continue to build trust and confidence in the process, the cost of elections will come down considerably,” Yakubu said.

On electronic voting, Yakubu said that the country was getting closer to achieving it, noting that it involved several processes.

On vote buying, the INEC boss said that fighting the menace required the involvement of all stakeholders.

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He said that the commission had taken some steps to stem the tide and make it difficult.

Yakubu reiterated that the commission was committed to electoral justice, reassuring  Nigerians that rigging had been made difficult and impossible ahead of the 2023 elections.

Yakubu said that the commission had started cleaning up of voters register, noting that credible elections start with a credible register of voters.

The INEC chairman said that the commission was committed to improving on its delivery of elections.

He, however, pointed out that the quality of elections is a direct reflection of the quality of the environment.

“An election cannot be better than the environment in which it is conducted, which include the security situation, social, economic, political culture, national infrastructure among others.

“It is simply amazing the way INEC officials get to some villages to conduct elections. Our elections cannot be better than the quality of our infrastructure,” he said.

Yakubu said that there were about 161 days to the 2023 general elections, adding that Nigeria could make it work because the commission was committed to electoral justice.

“We have introduced reforms that we believe have taken us out of Egypt and we will never go back,” he said.

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While stressing that INEC does not support media censorship, Yakubu called for balanced reporting.

He said that the antidote to fake news was “greater openness and transparency”, which INEC was committed to.

Earlier in his welcome address, Mr Mustapha Isah, the President of NGE, said that Nigerian journalists should be genuinely interested in  deepening the democratic space.

Isah said that they played a key role in the fight for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.

He said that it had become imperative for editors to thoroughly interrogate players in the democratic landscape.

He listed some of these as political actors, candidates vying for elective positions, the electoral umpire, the security agencies, and all other groups involved in monitoring elections.

“This forum is designed to provide the actors an opportunity to address editors about their preparations for the 2023 general elections.

“Editors will also use this forum to seek clarifications on different issues and ask critical questions on matters relating to the elections.

“This is in line with our resolve to bring the right information to the electorate ahead of the elections,” he said.

News men report that the forum had editors from various media organisations in attendance. (NAN)

POLITICS

Ashiru, PDP to Call 25 Witnesses against Uba Sani at Tribunal

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From Nicholas Dekera, Kaduna

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its gubernatorial candidate, Hon. Isa Ashiru Kudan, have told the gubernatorial election petition court (Tribunal) that they will call no fewer than 25 witnesses in their petition.

Counsel to the petitioners, Samuel Atung (SAN) disclosed this during the proceedings of the pre-hearing phase before the court’s three justices in Kaduna yesterday.

During the proceedings, he averred that 23 electoral officers were part of the witnesses to be presented before the court for examination- in-chief, cross-examination, and re-examination.

The Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Victor Oviawe, after extensive deliberations alloted seven minutes to examination in-chief, 12 minutes to cross-examination, while three minutes were alloted to re-examination respectively.

However, counsels to the 1st respondent; Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Alhassan A. Umar (SAN), 2nd respondent; Gov. Uba Sani, Sunusi Musa (SAN) and that of the 3rd respondent; APC, Muh’d Sani Katu were at the court, as they all pleaded with the court for the service of an interpreters.

The court directed that all interlocutory applications be filed before the close of work today, saying that the court is time- bound.

Meanwhile, counsels in the matter adopted all answers documents filed, just as the court directed the PDP counsel to respond within four days upon service of application by the respondents’ counsels, while two days were alloted to respondents’ counsels to also respond.

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The court adjourned the case till 15th June, 2023 for hearing of the matter.

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Alia Congratulates 10th Benue Assembly Members, Salutes Presiding Officers

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From David Torough, Makurdi

Benue State Governor, Hyacinth Iormem Alia, has congratulated Hon. Hyacinth Aondona Dajoh, of Gbemacha State Constituency and Hon. Lamin Danladi, of Ado State Constituency, over their election as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 10th Benue State House of Assembly respectively.

The Governor also congratulated the newly inaugurated members of the 10th Benue State House of Assembly.

Governor Alia in a statement by his Chief Press secretary, Tersoo Kula on Tuesday, commended the legislators for their show of maturity during the voting process, saying despite their political differences, they displayed patriotism and love for Benue through their peaceful and orderly conduct.

 

The Governor calls for a harmonious working relationship among all Arms of Government in the state to enable his administration provide dividends of democracy to the people of the state, with a charge on the Legislative arm of government to, as a matter of urgency, set the ball rolling by contributing their quota as critical stakeholders to move Benue forward.

The Governor charged the contestants who won to be magnanimous in victory and eschew vindictiveness and advised those who lost to also be gallant in defeat, and join hands with the victors for the ultimate good of the state.

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The Governor, who promises not to meddle in the affairs of the assembly, advised the lawmakers to operate independently without fear of interference from the executive.

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Mbah: NYSC Certificate Saga Threat to National Security – LP

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By Jude Opara, Abuja

A Labour Party( LP) affiliated group – Labour Party Coalition for Good Governance has raised the alarm over what it described as desperate moves by the Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah over the fog surrounding his discharge certificate  from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

The group warned that if not checked, Mbah’s moves posed a national security threat, just as it was cable of destroying a major national institution such as NYSC.

Spokesman of Coalition, Ken Asigwa, in a Press conference in Abuja, said it was a grave concern that Mbah was adopting unorthodox tactics to cover the allegation of certificate forgery and thereby keep himself in office.

The specifically alleged that Mbah was  “shopping in a desperate attempt to illegally keep himself in power” in direct reference to  court cases initiated by the Governor in Abuna and Enugu  with intent to secure judgment that would stop the NYSC from proceeding with the injuries into his  discharge certificate forgery allegation.

“You may recall that the newly sworn-in governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah, has been on a voyage of forum shopping in a desperate attempt to illegally keep himself in power.

“It is this desperation that has led him to different courts in both Enugu and Abuja, where he has made efforts to procure black market judgements to forestall the inquiry into how he procured the fake NYSC discharge certificate that he parades.

“In one of such desperate moves by Mbah, he made attempts to gag the NYSC by getting a pliant judge to issue him with a black market order that sought to abridge and erode the powers of the Enugu State Governorship Election Tribunal and the NYSC, constitutionally created bodies, from carrying out their statutory and constitutional functions.

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“Since the revelation by the NYSC and its Director-General that the newly sworn-in governor of Enugu State, Mr. Peter Mbah, parades a forged NYSC discharge certificate, the governor has launched a syndicated campaign of calumny against the NYSC and its Director-General.

“At a time when the NYSC is celebrating 50 years of unblemished existence and service to Nigerians, Peter Mbah should be restrained by all well-meaning Nigerians before he destroys that revered institution.

“The above exhortation is vital given that the governor, like a bull in a China Shop, has a litany of inglorious past records of a penchant for the destruction of revered institutions of government,” Asogwa alleged  at the press conference.

“You may recall that shortly after the exit of Peter Mbah as the Commissioner for Finance, Enugu State in 2007, the State Ministry of Finance office was gutted by fire in some circumstances that bore the imprimatur of an orchestrated plan designed to destroy evidence.

“Also kindly remember that when Chimaroke Nnamani, the former governor of the State, was charged with corruption, Mbah’s name was initially included by the EFCC after some rigorous and painstaking investigations that revealed that he had a case to answer in the mindless plundering of the State between 1999 and 2007.

“As a result, a 31-count charge was preferred against Mbah and his co-accused by the EFCC at the Federal High Court, Lagos. “However, how Mbah’s name was thereafter surreptitiously left out in the course of the prosecution still baffles the Enugu people.

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“Again, during the fuel subsidy probe of the Jonathan administration, Peter Mbah and his Pinnacle Oil were invited by the House of Representatives ad-hoc committee on the probe of the fuel subsidy regime of that administration. Enugu people, to date, still consider how Peter Mbah eventually wriggled out of that probe as one of the wonders of this world.

“Currently, Peter Mbah is back in his elements, trying to destroy both the judiciary and the NYSC in a desperate bid to foist himself on the Enugu people who rejected him at the poll” the Group further alleged.

“In taking you back to memory lane, you may recall that Mbah’s NYSC saga blew open after the NYSC’s response to a Freedom of Information inquiry by a law firm into the validity of the discharge certificate Mr. Mbah submitted to the INEC.

“When the NYSC responded and repudiated the certificate, a non-governmental organization brought a direct criminal complaint of forgery of the NYSC Certificate against Mbah at the Zone 6 Magistrate Court.

“The court thereafter ordered the AIG Zone 7 to carry out an investigation on the authenticity of the said NYSC Certificate. The AIG, on his part, wrote to the NYSC to confirm the authenticity of the said NYSC Certificate.

“As can be gleaned from court filings made by the NYSC in response to Mbah’s suit against the Corps, it is evident that the NYSC had long responded to the Police inquiry by sending a letter that equally repudiated the discharge certificate to the office of the Inspector General of Police.

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“Why the police have chosen not to respond to the Wuse Magistrate Court’s order still bears the hallmark of Mbah’s pattern of comprising every institution.

“Having set the above tone, we wish to forewarn Nigerians as follows:

“The implication of allowing Peter Mbah to destroy the NYSC, the way he had in the past destroyed other institutions of government, is that going forward, issuing authorities in Nigeria will no longer be the authority saddled with the responsibility of confirming the authenticity of certificates issued by them.

“For the straight understanding of Nigerians, the import of the dangerous game Peter Mbah is playing with his NYSC discharge certificate saga is that in the unlikely event that he succeeds in getting the court to validate his non-existent NYSC discharge certificate, all that is required by anyone is to go to a business center to forge certificate, or is to go to court to get an order validating the certificate and that way the certificate would be accepted as being authentic, irrespective of such certificate having not been issued by the appropriate issuing authority.

“We, therefore, urge Nigerians not to stand by and allow one desperate fellow to destroy the integrity of a national institution that has served Nigeria well since 1973,” the Group warned.

It said the NYSC needed “collective protection” from those it described as “desperate power scavengers” who acquired notoriety for the destruction of anything that stood   in their  while pursuing their ambition.

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