2019 pres­i­den­tial poll re­sult may take five days to an­nounce –In­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Punch - - NEWS - Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja

The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which is sched­uled to hold on Fe­bru­ary 16, 2019, may take five days to col­late and an­nounce its re­sult, Satur­day PUNCH has learnt.

Mul­ti­ple sources within the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion told our cor­re­spon­dent that they en­vis­aged three to four days be­cause of the large num­ber of can­di­dates, which now stands at 73, as well as the num­ber of reg­is­tered vot­ers, which is about 84 mil­lion.

Checks by Satur­day PUNCH showed that only two par­ties — the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party and the Al­liance for Democ­racy — par­tic­i­pated in the 1999 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which held on Fe­bru­ary 27 but its out­come was an­nounced on March 1, two days af­ter.

In 2003, when 20 po­lit­i­cal par­ties con­tested, the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion held on April 19, while the re­sult was an­nounced on April 22, three days af­ter.

In 2007, when 18 par­ties con­tested, the pres­i­den­tial poll was con­ducted on April 21, while the out­come was an­nounced on April 23, two days af­ter.

The pres­i­den­tial elec­tion of 2011 saw 20 par­ties con­test­ing for the high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fice in the coun­try. It held on April 16, while the re­sult was an­nounced on April 18.

Four­teen can­di­dates con­tested the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in 2015, while the num­ber of per­sons who voted was less than 30 mil­lion out of 68 mil­lion reg­is­tered vot­ers.

The 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which be­gan on March 28, con­tin­ued into the af­ter­noon of March 29, while the out­come of the poll was an­nounced in the evening of April 1, 2015.

How­ever, a se­nior INEC of­fi­cial told our cor­re­spon­dent that it might take five days to col­late and an­nounce the re­sults from the over 120,000 polling units across the coun­try.

He said, “In 2015, only 14 can­di­dates con­tested the elec­tion in which about 30 mil­lion per­sons voted. To­day, there are 73 to 79 per­sons run­ning for Pres­i­dent, so, ob­vi­ously, it will take longer than it did in 2015.

“You know the size of this coun­try and one thing Prof. At­tahiru Jega did dur­ing his time was to make sure that he did not rely on the elec­tronic copy of the re­sults but waited for the Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cers from all the 36 states to come to Abuja and au­then­ti­cate what they sent to the head of­fice.

“This is be­cause we must see the hand­writ­ten re­sults and com­pare them with the elec­tronic one. But I be­lieve it should not take more than four days in all. All the Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cers will have to travel from their re­spec­tive states to an­nounce the re­sults of over 73 par­ties one af­ter the other in Abuja.”

The source stated that INEC would also be do­ing the col­la­tion man­u­ally and elec­tron­i­cally in 2019 in or­der to avert the kind of po­lit­i­cal cri­sis that Kenya faced in 2017.

He added, “No one can say for sure if it will be four or five days be­cause, for us, the most im­por­tant thing is to de­liver a cred­i­ble elec­tion. Even in the United States, the gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion in Ge­or­gia State dur­ing the last mid-term elec­tions took 10 days be­fore a clear win­ner could be an­nounced.

“But we are plan­ning to en­sure that it doesn’t go be­yond that. It could have been shorter but we can­not rely on the elec­tronic re­sults sent in from states.

“If you re­call what hap­pened in Kenya last year, they tried to an­nounce re­sults ob­tained elec­tron­i­cally very quickly but they messed up and the main op­po­si­tion can­di­date, Raila Odinga, dis­cov­ered loop­holes and took the mat­ter to the Supreme Court and the whole process was an­nulled. This plunged Kenya into cri­sis.”

In­ci­den­tally, the INEC Chair­man, Prof. Mah­moud Yakubu, had told re­porters in April that INEC would do the col­la­tion of re­sults elec­tron­i­cally and man­u­ally in or­der to en­sure that the process was thor­ough.

He added that this was meant to pre­vent Nige­ria from be­ing plunged into the kind of Kenyan con­tro­versy.

Ac­cord­ing to INEC, in col­lat­ing the re­sults of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, Pre­sid­ing Of­fi­cers send re­sults of polls to the Ward Col­la­tion Of­fi­cers, who in turn send it to the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area Col­la­tion Of­fi­cers, who shall col­late re­sults and send them to the State Col­la­tion Of­fi­cer.

The State Col­la­tion Of­fi­cer col­lates re­sults and sends to the Chief Elec­toral Com­mis­sioner who is the Chair­man of INEC.

The Chief Elec­toral Com­mis­sioner (Chief Re­turn­ing Of­fi­cer) col­lates re­sults from the State Col­la­tion Of­fi­cers, de­clares the re­sult and re­turns the win­ner as Pres­i­dent elect of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria.

Also speak­ing with our cor­re­spon­dent, a for­mer INEC Na­tional Com­mis­sioner, Prof. Lai Olurode, stated that time­li­ness was very im­por­tant but noted that a cred­i­ble elec­tion was more im­por­tant.

Olurode said the fact that the re­sults of the elec­tions in 120,000 polling units would be sorted in 79 places could im­ply that the process would take longer than that of 2015.

He added, “When you look at the pop­u­la­tion of the elec­torate, which is about 84 mil­lion, and con­sider the 79 po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the fact that you need to do sort­ing, it will take some time but whether it will take longer than 2015 will be dif­fi­cult to say.

“Don’t for­get that some of the par­ties may record zero votes but, again, you need to do sort­ing in 79 places. Even if it is one vote that a can­di­date scores, you must sort it for him. You must count the votes in 79 places.

“So, def­i­nitely, it will take more time to do sort­ing and more time to do col­la­tion and when you look at the en­tire coun­try, it is large. About 120,000 polling units and you will move from ward level to lo­cal gov­ern­ment to state con­stituency be­fore you end up in Abuja.”

When con­tacted on the tele­phone, the INEC Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic­ity and Voter Ed­u­ca­tion, Mr Olu­wole Osaze-uzzi, said he could not say how many days it would take to col­late and an­nounce re­sults.

He stated, “I don’t think the num­ber of can­di­dates will af­fect the cred­i­bil­ity of the elec­tion but on how long it will take, I don’t know.”

Photo: Ribadu Me­dia Of­fice

•L-R: Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, United Na­tions Of­fice on Drugs and Crime, Mr Yury Fe­doyov; Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Ham­mad al Thani; Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter, Dr Ma­hathir Mo­hamad; and a for­mer Chair­man, Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion, Mal­lam Nuhu Ribadu, af­ter Ribadu was con­ferred with life­time/out­stand­ing anti-cor­rup­tion award by the Rule of Law and An­ti­cor­rup­tion Cen­tre, in Malaysia... on Fri­day.

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