by Stanley Azuakola
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has said that allowing electoral officers to vote will give the electoral process more credibility. Presently, INEC officials are not allowed to vote.
Prof. Jega disclosed this when a group, ‘Young Experts on Get-to-Know ECOWAS’ paid him a visit in Abuja on Thursday.
In a statement after the meeting, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC boss, Kayode Idowu quoted Jega as saying, “one of the imperfections of our elections really has been the disenfranchisement of electoral officers.
“Unfortunately, we have not been allowing electoral officials/polling officials as well as security officials to vote on Election Day while they were discharging their duties. And this is something that we have already taken decision on. We will correct it by the time we get to 2015 elections” he declared.
“But you see, we have conducted elections in an atmosphere of suspicion, fears and worries – where electoral officials have been accused or have come under severe allegations of manipulating the process.”
The implications of such a move was not lost on the INEC boss, who admitted that a decision to allow INEC officials vote during elections is a risky choice that could foment suspicion or even crisis.
“If we (in 2011) introduce something that had not been done in the past in Nigeria, with regard to allowing the electoral officials to start voting or to vote after the polling had closed as it is done in other countries, it would have added to the suspicion and worries of manipulation,” he said.
But on the balance, he argued that allowing them vote would enhance the credibility of the electoral process.
“I was privileged to chair the ECOWAS Observer Mission to the Liberian presidential election in 2011 and I was fascinated by how all electoral officials were allowed to vote.”
“Even the drivers who took us round were given an opportunity to vote, with special exemptions and things like that. So it can be done; many countries do it; we will do it.
“We couldn’t do it in April 2011 because we wanted to reduce the baggage of suspicion and fears and allegations. We have taken a decision about doing that for the future.”
The Young Experts on Get-to-Know ECOWAS’ group was led on the visit to INEC by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation.