The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is working to make permanent voters card (PVC) available in November to all voters who registered this year.
The Chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, stated this while addressing journalists after the opening of a validation workshop on the study cost of elections in the ECOWAS region.
“The update is that we have printed the PVCs for those who registered in the first quarter of 2018 and we are simultaneously printing for those who registered in the second and third quarters. So we looking at the end of November for all the PVCs to be printed.”
Mr Yakubu assured everyone who registered and applied for transfer or replacement of their cards of getting their PVCs ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Asked if there was still room for those who want to request for transfer, he said the request of transfer was suspended alongside voter registration on August 31.
“No, we have closed simultaneously as we suspended the registration until after the general election. But what we are doing is processing the applications we received before the August 31st deadline for the suspension of voter registration.”
The workshop was based on a study carried out on Benin Republic, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau. Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal, to review and validate findings on the increasing cost of conducting elections.
Mr Yakubu, who is also the president of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), said the study which is part of ECONECs two-year Work Plan (2016-2018) is borne out of the serious concern by all electoral commissions in the sub-region about the spiraling cost of conducting elections.
“The task of meeting such extensive expenditure has increasingly challenged the national resources of many countries in our region. It is against this background that Governing Board of ECONEC inaugurated this study to explore what we can do as election managers, working together with national stakeholders and development partners, to find ways to reduce the cost of elections without jettisoning new innovations or compromising the quality, transparency and credibility of elections.”
He said ECONEC had undertaken needs assessment, solidarity and mid-term review missions to several member states for Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in the sub-region to share experience, expertise and even pool resources.
This, he said, was “not only with a view to ensuring best practice through peer review, but also in order to reduce the cost of conducting elections among our member states.”
He noted that it was in this light that member countries began to support each other to conduct their elections.
“Burkina Faso assisted neighbouring Niger Republic with ballot boxes and the printing of the voters register for the February 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Similarly, Ghana provided support to the Republic of Liberia with the printing of the voters register for the October 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.
“Indeed, INEC Nigeria assisted the Republic of Liberia with the deployment of ICT experts to clean up the disputed voters register in order to break the logjam to the conduct of the December 2017 presidential run-off.
“At a bilateral level, countries within the region have also provided material and technical assistance to one another to support the conduct of credible elections. The latest example is Nigeria’s support for the ongoing voter registration exercise in Guinea-Bissau.”
He said election is a sovereign national responsibility, but in the past multi-lateral agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union (EU), working together with other development partners, had, in some cases, provided support through the donor basket to fund certain electoral expenditure.
INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu and participants at the workshop.
Mr Yakubu said although this was commendable, electoral commissions in the ECOWAS region need to rethink the way elections are funded in such a manner as to make the electoral process more cost-effective yet free, fair and credible.
“This is because of the contending expenditure of government on other aspects of national development. An expensive election that ushers in a Government that lacks the resources to fulfill its campaign promises to citizens may, in the long run, erode public confidence in elections in particular and the democratic process in general.
“The obvious first step is to conduct a study on why elections cost so much. From such a study, we can then determine what can be done to reduce the cost.
“Mindful of the different jurisdictions within the ECOWAS region, we selected six countries for the study, consisting of two countries from each of the three official linguistic blocs: Nigeria and Liberia (Anglophone), Benin Republic and Senegal (Francophone) and Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau (Lusophone).
“The three experts that anchored the study were drawn from Nigeria (Prof. Adele Jinadu), Benin Republic (Francis Laleye) and Cape Verde (Jose Cabral Sanches). On behalf of ECONEC, I would like to thank them for deploying their experience and expertise in undertaking the study in spite of the short period of time available and limited resources.”
The INEC chairman said the idea of pooling resources (ballot boxes, vehicles for electoral logistics etc.) together to be deployed in support of elections in countries within the region on the basis of need is now more urgent than ever before and assured of ECONEC’s full support.
“ECONEC is in full support of the establishment of an election materials depot in Lungi, Sierra Leone, where some facilities such as trucks for electoral logistics already exist. We support this initiative and would cooperate with ECOWAS for its actualisation in line with the organisation’s mandate on electoral assistance to member states.”
He appreciated ECOWAS and ECONEC for championing the idea of pooling electoral resources together in support of the electoral process in the region.
He also expressed gratitude to the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for helping to equip and sustain the permanent secretariat in Abuja as well as the grant to undertake this study, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) for sponsoring this validation workshop, in addition to the mid-term review of elections in the region, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Development in Africa (EISA).