As the elections draw nearer and Nigeria moves closer to making history, the entire world will be looking to officials of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to help deliver a free and credible election that will usher the nation into its fifth civilian administration in its fourth republic.
Mr. Akin Orebiyi is the man holding forth in Lagos as the State’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, one of the hotspots and critical grounds that will determine how the tide goes in Saturday’s Presidential and Senatorial elections. In this interview shortly after the Stakeholders’ Forum held Wednesday 25th March, Mr. Akin highlights strategies and measures put in place by the state electoral commission in order to ensure credible elections.
On the issue of distance to be maintained by members of the public.
There is no confusion about the issue of distance. The essence of allowing voters to wait after they have voted is primarily to let them see that it is an open and transparent process. People are also free to go but should they want to wait, they are allowed to do so. But when we give a specific distance, we are talking of reasonable distance and that is why we have said within the vicinity it is 30 meters. It’s not too far away and from that distance they will be able to observe what is going on. It is only in this country that we take elections this hard but we are hoping that very soon a person will be able to cast his vote and go back to his work.
How is INEC maintaining a balanced relationship with opposition parties such that it doesn’t come across as favoring one to the other?
The main tool which we have deployed for this exercise is the electoral process that we have been able to put in place. It is an electoral process which if people understand very well, is devoid of any influence by any member of staff of INEC, any Resident Electoral Commissioner or even the Chairman and we don’t even have that intention to influence the process. The process is an independent one which we have been explaining all these days to members of the public and to all our stakeholders and we want people to adopt this too. It’s a Nigerian electoral process that all of us should understand even the media and be able to see it and make it work.
So even if I’m not there, people will still be able to vote and the vote will count, if you are not there, people will still be able to vote and it will count and that is what we are talking about. When on Election Day, you come forward, present your PVC, there is a smart card reader that accredits you. In the afternoon, you get your ballot papers, you vote and then we sort out the votes publicly and we paste results and give copies to everybody, nobody can influence anything. And happily there has not been any allegation of partisanship from any of the political parties. We’ve carried them along in everything we’ve been doing, we have made ourselves accessible to them, they have our phone numbers, they call us, and they ask us questions. There is no hide and seek about the entire electoral process and I think so far so good for all of us, INEC, the political parties and security agencies.
So far how many people have collected their PVCs in Lagos State?
So far a total of 3.85million.
On the issue of security and presence of the Army.
The army will be around but not within the neighborhoods, not on patrol. People should understand the nature of security in this country and people should understand the way we practice politics. You know from past experience that our political actors are susceptible to self help, to deploying violence to achieve their result. It will be an irresponsible society that will now say that it does not want the law enforcement agencies to be in place to forestall any breakdown of law and order. But what we know and what we’ve been practicing in the past is that no military is allowed to enter the polling units and in previous election where this has always been in practice, the military has been disciplined. They never entered the polling units but on the roads, on the corridors, in the neighborhoods, they are allowed to mount posts there. To forestall anybody roaming around, you know there is restriction on that day; they are allowed to ensure enforcement of the restriction and to also prevent any break down of law and order. At the polling units there will only be three unarmed security officers and that primarily will be Police officers and also civil defense.
On receipt of election materials.
At the moment, I can confidently say that we are not expecting any materials. We have since been receiving our non sensitive materials which are ballot boxes, life jackets, forms, posters, voting cubicles and the rest of them. And even the smart card readers.
As for the sensitive materials like the ballot papers as well as the result sheets, we are taking receipt of them at the moment at the Central Bank of Nigeria in Lagos here. I’ve been there today(Wednesday 25th ) and our officers are there and are moving under security escort as well as under the watch of party agents from the CBN premises to the state office. So virtually in terms of materials, we are on top of the situation.
What arrangement is being made for people living with disabilities?
There is priority voting for them. We have had a number of sessions with them. We have also supported their own workshops too in several ways. We have had meetings with them in our office and we’ve been going round to tell members of the public that there will be priority voting on Election Day. People living with disabilities and also the aged, pregnant women will be accorded priority during accreditation and voting. There will also be posters at each of the polling units indicating this.