2019: Pressure mounts on INEC to admit observers into situation room

2019: Pressure mounts on INEC to admit observers into situation room

- The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is under scrutiny ahead of the 2019 general elections

- INEC is under pressure to grant international and local observers access to its situation room during the elections

- There are however fears that the electoral body will turn down the request

A report by The Guardian indicates that the INEC is under pressure to grant international and local observers access to its situation room during the 2019 general elections.

According to the report, opposition figures are insisting that the INEC opens its doors to observers for the sake of transparency sake. Leading the charge in the quest is the main opposition party - the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The PDP says the call became imperative because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and alleged manipulations during the Osun state gubernatorial election.

“INEC said it has spent money to acquire software and improve on the card readers. If the optimised card readers have the facility to transmit results from the polling units, then the situation room should be equally accessible to poll observers, to ensure nobody uses information to subvert the process,” the party’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan told journalists in Lagos.

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According to him, there are pointers suggesting the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Buhari were not interested in free and fair elections.

On his part, the national chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ralph Nwosu, backed the PDP’s call.

He said: “The situation room should not just be only for INEC officials. All the parties must be involved, so that as they are counting, we are getting the information. That is the way it is supposed to be.

“This call is important because nobody trusts INEC anymore. They are biased; they have shown bias in all the elections we have had. The result that was supposed to be declared, they called it inconclusive.”

Also speaking, rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Olisa Agbakoba described the idea as “good,” saying anything that would make the election transparent would be welcome.

“I think INEC should support it because it will make them look more credible. The commission is already under suspicion. People are saying they are pro-government. Anything that INEC can do that would make people say it is truly independent and neutral will only add to its credibility.

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“This would make the result they will declare believable. And the only way the result can be believable is if INEC brings in people who are neutral and have no interest in whether it is Atiku or Buhari or any other person. I will urge INEC to endorse any process that will make their work more credible to Nigerians and international communities,” Agbakoba said.

Asked what the position of the commission was on the demand, INEC’s spokesman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, replied: “I have no comment.”

A reputable source within the commission quoted in the report, however said, the request would most likely be turned down, saying it was akin to “exposing your bedroom to outsiders.”

The source said: “When the British government is having their own election, do they allow people get into that area? I don’t think so. The situation room also exists for non-governmental organisations. They have their situation rooms where they do lots of feedbacks; monitor what’s going on in the field and get across to us anytime.

“We have a direct line of communication with all our accredited observers whether local or international. But that situation room…I doubt if INEC would ever allow anybody to be there. I am there and I know a lot happens there, which I know is not advisable to bring to people outside. That’s my personal opinion. There we can easily detect an error and correct it. It’s going to be very difficult for INEC to allow EU observers get in.”

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Meanwhile, American congressman, Christopher Smith, has urged President Donald Trump to use his sanctioning authority to hold accountable any Nigerian official who subverts the 2019 electoral process or foment violence against citizens.

Smith who is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, gave the advise in a statement published on his personal website on Saturday, December 21.

“I call upon the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that elections will be free and fair, and for the commission to remain impartial,” the lawmaker said.

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