By Henry Umoru
STRONG indications emerged yesterday that 63 presidential candidates may be vie in the 2019 general elections as 63 political parties have served the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, notice for it to observe their Presidential primaries.
According to a high-level source close to INEC, this is notwithstanding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by some political parties that yielded the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) ahead of the 2019 elections.
The source said that, ahead of campaigns by political parties, the electoral umpire would put in place measures to monitor hate speeches by the parties, adding that 190 constituency elections have been conducted since 2015 following deaths and other exigencies.
The INEC source, which also stressed that Smart Card Reader would be deployed for the 2019 elections, whether the new electoral bill which legalizes was signed into law or not, said the Card Reader does two critical assignments, identification of the holder and authentication of the card to ascertain if it was not cloned, adding that the Card Reader would not be discarded despite the delay in legalizing it through assent to the new electoral bill.
The INEC source said, “So far, 80 of the 91 political parties have indicated intention to conduct primaries. Only 10 parties have issued notices for FCT elections for the six Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councilorship seats . 63 parties have given notices for presidential primaries. The electoral commission is pushing ahead with its plans for the 2019 elections.
It explained that as a result of improvements in the electoral process in recent years, INEC has witnessed less incidents of ballot box and results sheets snatching, less incidents of INEC staff hijacking and no cases of results being declared while election was ongoing, results of elections no longer hidden and voters register now known and transparent for parties to know. He explained that Nigerians now know the locations of polling units unlike in the past where polling units were in palaces, shrines, among other places.
Ahead of next week’s Osun State gubernatorial election, the INEC source disclosed that 1.6 million voters registered for the election, just as 73 percent of the voters have collected their Permanent Voters Cards(PVCs). According to him, the PVC collection was the highest in recent times even as the 48 political parties are fielding governorship candidates for the election.
“16,000 personnel, made up of 15,000 adhoc staff and 1,000 INEC staff, would take part in the election. INEC would be conducting the governorship election in 30 local governments, 332 wards and 3,765 polling units”, he stated.
The source said that INEC will track sensitive election materials and its personnel during the election to ensure transparency.
“Every vehicle would be tracked to ensure they are not diverted from their routes. We also have a device that can eavesdrop on the conversations of drivers and other INEC personnel conveying the materials to designated spots”, he added.
On vote-buying, the source said : “It is not a new thing but it is assuming a new dimension as a result of improvements in our electoral process.”
He explained that INEC was considering a situation where voters would be barred from taking phones to voting cubicles. “INEC cannot completely bar voters from using phones at polling units because the phones also help the citizens gather lots of information which can be sent to INEC for further action”, he pointed out.
According to the source, vote buyers have recently moved beyond physical cash by engaging in electronic transfer but the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) have started monitoring the spate of electronic transfer around elections.