The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has described the role of Collation and Returning Officers in an election as crucial and critical; and commended the individual and collective roles played by Vice Chancellors, Professors and University staff who participated as ad hoc staff in the 2019 General Elections, saying the ‘’partnership with the Universities is critical and must be maintained’’, to make the electoral process seamless.
Recounting the contributions of Vice Chancellors who served the Commission during the past general elections the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said, ‘’Beyond welcoming you, the Commission is also under obligation to thank you for your service to the Nation. Remember the sleepless nights, the media exposure, the criticisms, the condemnations, the commendations and in some cases the recognition earned after the election’’.
Prof Yakubu made the statement at the opening of a Debriefing Session for selected State Collation and Returning Officers organized by the Commission with support of development partners in Lagos, today.
The Chairman noted that ‘’only those who are involved (in elections) would appreciate what it means to conduct elections.
‘’The Commission deeply appreciates your service and sacrifice resulting in some cases to verbal confrontations. We saw the way you handled these on the Election Day. We also read the social media assaults and in some cases even physical assaults’’, he said.
Speaking on the reasons for the meeting, Prof Yakubu said ‘’this is the 8th meeting with stakeholders, the purpose is to review what happened in the 2019 general elections and share your experience on how we can manage not just the collation and declaration processes but also the logistics of your movement from your states to Abuja’’.
The Chairman who urged the Collation and Returning officers to freely discuss all issues especially relating to recruitment and deployment of personnel recruited from the Universities; collation and announcement of results, also said the Commission was open to objective criticisms that would help improve the process.
He said INEC was convinced that the role played by State Collation Officers was truly unique and critical and that their field experience when harnessed would greatly enrich the Commission’s plan for future elections.
Earlier in his remark, the National Commissioner and Chairman of Planning, Monitoring and Strategy of the Commission, Dr. Mustafa Lecky noted that ‘’collation and declaration of results are critical and very tense stages in our electoral process’’; and that ‘’failure to complete the collation and transmission of results in a quick, transparent and accurate manner can jeopardize public confidence and the credibility of the elections and will likely affect whether Candidates or Political Parties accept the final results.
‘’Many examples abound wherein the integrity of our electoral process had been compromised because of challenges that occurred during collation and declaration of results. We witnessed all manner of assaults, from within and without on the collation and declaration of results processes’’, Lecky declared.
Commissioner Lecky however restated that the meeting with Collation and Returning Officers was ‘’to comprehensively evaluate the conduct of the 2019 General Elections and learn vital lessons that would allow the Commission the opportunity to review its policies and programs during the last General Elections and to serve as a roadmap to future elections, including forthcoming off-season elections and the 2023 General Elections.
In his welcome address, the Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Sam Olumekun lamented that ‘’the Commission has been criticized for inconsistent numbers during collation in some cases, and that we did not put out sufficient information about the exercise. This is in spite of the fact that results were pasted/posted at polling units through our Form EC60E announcing results at these polling units and making copies available to agents and security officials’’, said the REC.
Olumekun who earlier informed the meeting that in Lagos State 60, 560 ad hoc served the Commission during the 2019 elections also reaffirmed the need for the meeting to suggest that would enhance service delivery and add value to the process through the work of collation and returning officers.