Reasons for inconclusive elections in Nigeria – INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said it can only resort to declaring elections inconclusive whenever the circumstances prescribe it.

Explaining this at a meeting with media organisations, held in Abuja, Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said such circumstances, which are not peculiar to Nigerian elections, are inevitable, especially when violence is involved.

Yakubu, who used the occasion to charge journalists professionalism and fairness when reporting elections, said if the commission fails to take the initiative to declare some elections inconclusive, it is certain that the courts will at some point force it to do the needful.

According to the INEC boss, the media will continue to be an integral part of the Nigerian electoral process, commending the practitioners of the immense contributions they have made in past elections, especially the 2019 edition.

He said, “First, what is an inconclusive election? It’s an election in which a winner has not emerged at first ballot, that is essentially what it is. So now you mobilize and remedy the problem and make a declaration. Is it strange in Nigeria? It’s not strange. In 2013, was the Anambra governorship election concluded on first ballot? In 2015, the governorship election in Taraba state was declared inconclusive, the commission remobilized and concluded the election two weeks later. In 2011 and 2015, the Imo governorship election was inconclusive, the commission remobilized. In 2015, Abia election was inconclusive, the commission remobilized.

“There are two sections of the Electoral Act that we need to focus on. The first one is Section 26, which says “in the event of violence or natural disaster, INEC should not proceed with an election and if the total number of registered persons in the place affected is more than the margin of lead where you have conducted the election, then don’t make a declaration until you go back and complete the election.

“Section 53 of the Electoral Act is very clear, in the event of over-voting, INEC is prohibited by law from making a declaration. The law says ‘don’t make return until you go back to those polling units and you conduct election where the number of registered voters will make a difference to the margin of lead. I’m yet to hear any Nigerian say this commission has declared any election inconclusive outside the law.

“From my experience, anywhere you see inconclusive election, it is as a result of violence. In Bayelsa in 2015, elections were inconclusive in certain parts of the eight local governments. The only exception was my darling local government; Kolokuma-Opokuma. I don’t know what makes Kolokuma-Opokuma different.

“I don’t know why it is so, if anyone has an answer, I will be willing to know. We use the same regulations and guidelines, same laws, the same processes, election one be conclusive in one area, it will be inconclusive in others”, he said.

He recalled that the commission accredited 2,128 journalists for the 2019 election; 1,787 domestic and 341 foreign journalists, noting that the commission would still be accrediting journalists for the elections to hold in Kogi and Bayelsa states next month.

“I want to reassure you that media organisations will continue to play an important role in our democratic process. Through your diligent reporting of elections, you provide valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the processes that in 2019 took place in 176,996 voting locations and 10,367 collation/declaration centres nationwide. We value your engagement with the Commission and will continue to deepen it.

“For the 2019 General Election, the Commission accredited a total of 216 media organisations out of which 165 were domestic and 51 foreign. Collectively, they deployed 2,128 journalists: 1,787 domestic and 341 foreign. This is in addition to other media organisations that operate at State, Local Government and community level nationwide.

“We benefitted from your reportage in reviewing our processes and procedures. The purpose of interactive meetings such as this is one is benefit from your insight into aspects of your experience that may not have been reported but which may be critical to the success of future elections in Nigeria.

“As we move closer to the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, the Commission will once again accredit media organisations to report from the two States. As usual, we will be available to address any challenges you may encounter in the field in the course of your coverage of the elections.

“Let me also appeal to the media for accurate, objective and professional reporting of the elections. While INEC does not believe in censorship, it is our collective responsibility to combat fake news. The best antidote to fake news is more openness and transparency. We are open to verification of information either through our State offices or the national headquarters of the Commission’, he said.
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