Posted by News Express | 25 March 2015 | 3,431 times
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and some political parties yesterday engaged in heated argument over the decision of the commission to change its earlier procedure on ballot paper sorting.
INEC had at an earlier meeting with political parties told them of its resolve to introduce two levels of ballot sorting after votes are cast.
While the first sorting would ensure that wrongly-placed ballot papers in any of the three ballot boxes, each for House of Representatives, Senate and President, are picked and invalidated, the second level of sorting would be undertaken to sort out the ballots by party and thereafter loudly count the votes scored by each party in the presence of the polling agents and observers.
However, at a National Stakeholders’ Summit on the 2015 General Elections held in Abuja yesterday, INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega recalled that in spite of the earlier agreement, the commission had since written a letter to all the parties intimating them of the new change.
Explaining further, the INEC boss said: “A representative of one of the political parties had drawn the attention of the commission to the legal implication of invalidating such ballot papers. And you were all there and we said we would go back and consult our legal department. They said we should not do that.”
In the letter, INEC said having consulted with its legal department as well as its consortium of six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, it has decided to amend Paragraph 26 of the Approved Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of the 2015 General Elections on Sorting and Counting of Ballots and Recording of votes.
As part of the amendment, INEC said at the close of voting, the Presiding Officer shall, “Sort all wrongly deposited ballots and transfer them into their appropriate ballot boxes.”
Jega said one out of four INEC personnel in each Polling Unit has also been designated to ensure that ballot papers are dropped appropriately.
However, many of the parties, including All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Citizens Popular Party, CPP, the Progressives Peoples Alliance, PPA, said they never agreed with INEC to amend the sorting procedure.
They said there was never a time they agreed on the new procedure, but accused INEC of merely kowtowing to the demands of a singular party to change the process.
On the fidelity of the electoral process, Jega said the commission as a human organisation has done its best and that the onus is now on other stakeholders and all Nigerians to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
•Adapted from a National Mirror report. Photo shows Jega.
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