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INEC Returning, Collation Officers speak on Nigeria’s 2019 elections

University teachers, who served as Returning and Collation Officers during the 2019 General Elections in Lagos State have called for reforms in the nation’s electoral system to deepen democracy.

They made the advocacy in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 2019 State Level Post Election Review in Lagos.

NAN reports that the retreat had in attendance INEC management staff, including heads of departments, electoral officers and their assistants, and some collation officers in the state in the 2019 elections.

According to them, if the nation wants to grow its democracy, there is the need to tinker with its electoral system.

Prof. Adebayo Otitoloju, the Returning Officer for Lagos East Senatorial Election, said: “There is need for some form of reforms.

“I will advocate reforms that will lead to e-collation, not e-voting, that is a collation that will start from the polling units.

“We can upgrade the smart card readers to be able to start that process, and once that is done, most of our elections challenges will be removed completely. Logistics is a major challenge.”

According to him, there is the need for INEC to take logistics issues more serious, particularly, transportation of ad-hoc staff from polling units to collation centres.

“That was really a challenge to people and it created a lot of problems,’’ the Managing Director of the University of Lagos Consult Ltd., said.

On calls for reduction in the number of political parties in the country, Otitoloju said that it was a good idea, to eliminate complexity.

He added that there must be conditions before parties should be allowed to participate in presidential and governorship elections.

The don suggested that any party that would participate at the presidential level must contest for at least 50 per cent seats in the National Assembly and at least in 12 states.

Otitoloju added that similar conditions should be applicable to gubernatorial elections.

According to him, INEC should find a way to checkmate abuse of the system that allows parties, which cannot win a seat in a state assembly to contest at the governorship and presidential levels.

On e-voting, Otitoloju said that he did not believe in it much due to the ‘nightmares’ that might occur.

“What device are we going to use? How big is it going to be? How many of it? How is it going to be used?

“A lot of the voters may not be able to operate the machines; it is like operating a computer.

“It means in essence that a lot of people will have to be taken through the process to know what to do, looking for which party they are going to vote for on the electronic screen.

“I think that will take a lot from us, it will take some time,’’ he said.

Associate Prof. Johnson Adewara, a Collation and Returning Officer in Ojo and Surilere LGAs, said that the reforms were necessary.

Adewara, an Associate of Professor of Statistics, also called for a massive voter education.

“There is the need for a reform in our Electoral Act; many reforms need to be done.

“There must be a very strict law to also address vote buying to make the world to know that we are meant for business in Nigeria.

“If these laws are not reviewed, we are just joking, we have not meant a very serious business as far as our election process is concerned,’’ he said.

The university teacher also supported the call for reduction in the number of political parties in the country.

Adewara said: “Any political parties that cannot feed up to about 12 to 15 governorship candidates should not be allowed to contest in the presidential election.

“In the last election, a lot of registered political parties could not have up to 10 votes or 20 votes in some constituencies and local governments.

“Why should we continue to waste our resources over a political party that cannot even feed up to 20 people for state assembly and feed governorship candidates in 20 states?’’

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