Less than 20 days to the first ballot in the highly anticipated 2019 election , the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), will no doubt brace up for a lot of challenges that are expected from a general election of this magnitude. With the plethora of political parties contending for the various executive and legislative positions across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT, INEC will definitely experience a different kind of challenge, as against previous general elections with fewer political organisations featuring in the ballot papers.The electoral umpire has also set the ball rolling by convoking several stakeholders forum, with political party leaders , civil society organisations, media executives, etc. where it unveiled the guidelines for the coming elections. The regulations and guidelines cover all elections: the general elections, bye-elections, re-run elections, as well as supplementary elections.
These regulations come as part of a ‘decision extract’ of the commission on January 12th, 2019.The INEC said it took the action in line with the powers conferred on it by the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010. INEC noted the regulations and guidelines supersede all other regulations and guidelines on the conduct of elections earlier issued by it and shall remain in force until replaced by new regulations or amendments”.
STATISTICAL REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISION (INEC) AS OF DECEMBER 2018
Statistics obtained from the INEC reveal that the North-West Geopolitical region has the highest number of registered voters in the country while the South-East has the lowest in the country. The North West has a total of 18,505,984 voters as of January 2018 Statistics of other zones show that the South West ranked the second highest with a total number of 14,626,800 registered voters, although it is followed by the South-South voters with total of 11,101,093.The news report stated by INEC gave a voter’s register analysis of six states classified into the highest and lowest number of registered voters as well as percentage increase and also a proportion of the male to the female this year election is to be held in 119,973 polling units while results were to be collated in 8,809 wards.
During a presentation of the voters register in Abuja on Monday 7th January 2019, INEC’s Director of Voter’s Register, Iro Gambo revealed the following statistics according to geo-political zones. INEC started earlier the number of registered voters high about 84 million( 84,004,084) between the months of December 2018 to January 2019 due to a percentage increase in the number of registered voters allocated in these states. Although at the end of the 2015 general elections the number of registered voters was recorded to be 68,833,476 which means that there is an increase in number of registered voters this year by 18.1% signifying a relevant improvement in the conduct and creation of awareness for potential voters.their PVCs.
RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR THE CONDUCT OF THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
In exercise of the powers conferred by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) herein referred to as “the Commission” issues the following Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of Elections (General Elections, Bye elections, Re-run Elections and Supplementary Elections). These regulations and guidelines are issued as a Decision Extract of the Commission of the 12th day of the month of January 2019 . These Regulations and Guidelines supersede all other Regulations and/or Guidelines on the Conduct of Elections issued by the Commission and shall remain in force until replaced by new regulations or amendments supported by a Decision Extract of the Commission or an official gazette.
• These regulations and guidelines shall apply to the conduct of elections to the following offces:
(I) President and Vice President;
(ii) Governor and Deputy Governor;
(iii) National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives);
(iv) State Houses of Assembly;
(v) Chairmen and Vice – Chairmen of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Councils; and
(vi) Councillors of FCT Area Councils Legislature.
(a) Election to the office of President and Vice President as well as National Assembly shall hold on the 3rd Saturday in February of any General election year, while election to the office of Governor and Deputy Governor and the State Houses of Assembly shall hold two (2) Weeks thereafter.
(b) Whenever the end of tenure of FCT Area Council coincides with a General election year, election into the office of Chairman and Vice Chairman and Councillors of the Area Councils shall be combined with election for Governor and Deputy Governor and the State Houses of Assembly.
(c) Where the end of tenure of FCT Area Council does not coincide with a General election year, the election to the office of Chairman and Vice Chairman and Councillors of the Area Councils shall hold on the Saturday closest to 100 days to the end of tenure of the elected Officials of the Area Councils.
• A person is eligible to vote at an election conducted by the Commission if:
(i) he/she is a Nigerian;
(ii) he/she is registered as a voter;
(iii) his/her name appears on the Register of Voters; and
(iv) he/she presents a valid Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) at his/her Polling Unit.
3. (a) Voting in any election to which these regulations and guidelines apply shall take place at Polling Units and Voting Points. In the case of the FCT, voting takes place at Polling Units , Voting Point Settlements (VPS) and Voting Points.
(b) Voting Points (VPs) are created out of Polling Units based on multiples of 500 and a maximum of 750 registered voters or as may otherwise be determined by the Commission.
( c ) Where a VPS is created, it shall be treated as a Polling Unit.
(d) As much as practicable, all voting locations shall be located within enclosures in public places accessible to every voter, including Persons With Disability (PWDs). Where they are in open spaces, canopieswill be provided.
(e) Public facilities include public schools, civic centres, town halls and communal open spaces. They do not include places of worship, palaces of traditional rulers and private homes.
4 Each Polling Unit (PU) will be manned by a Presiding Officer (PO) and three (3) Assistant Presiding officers (APOs) namely, APO I, APO II and APO III.
5. (a) Where Voting Points are created, there will be for each Voting Point an APO (VP) and 3 APOs appointed by the Commission under the supervision of the Presiding Officer.
(b) The Presiding Officer shall delegate the responsibility of accreditation , preparing and issuing of ballot papers to the Assistant Presiding Officer APO(VP) in-charge of a Voting Point.
6. (a) A political party sponsoring a candidate may by notice appoint one person as its polling agent for each Polling Unit, one polling agent for each collation centre and a representative at each point of distribution of electoral materials in the constituency where it is sponsoring candidate(s) for an election.
(b) Where Voting Points are established, political parties may appoint polling agents for each Voting Point.
(c) The notice referred to in sub- Clause (a) of this Clause shall be in writing, signed, addressed and delivered to the:
i. Chairman of the Commission in the case of polling agents for collation at the Presidential election;
ii. Resident Electoral Commissioner in the case of polling agents for Collation at the Governorship election; and
iii. Electoral Officer in all cases of polling agents for Polling Units/Voting Point Settlements/Voting Points, and polling agents for Registration Area/Ward and LGA Collation;
(d) The notice shall contain the names, addresses and recent passport photographs of the polling agents and the respective Polling Units/Voting Point Settlements/Voting Points or Collation Centers to which they have been assigned and to be submitted not later than 14 days before the election. Any notice sent in late will be rejected.
(e) Only a Polling Agent whose name had been submitted to the Commission in the prescribed manner shall receive a copy of the result sheet at a Polling Unit or Collation Centre.7.
(a) No person shall be qualified to be appointed or serve as a polling agent of any political party if, being a person employed in the public service of the Federation or of any State or Local Government/Area Council, he/she has not resigned or withdrawn or retired from such employment at least 90 days before the date of the election.
(b) A Polling Agent who aids and abets election malpractices at a Polling Unit or Collation Centre shall be disqualified and on the instruction of the Poll Official/Collation Official shall be removed from the Polling Unit/Collation Center and shall be liable to prosecution.
ACCREDITATION AND VOTING PROCEDURE AT ELECTIONS
8. (a) Voting shall be in accordance with the Continuous Accreditation and Voting System (CAVS) procedures as specified in these Regulations and Guidelines, the Election Manual and any other Guide issued by the Commission.
(b) No person shall be allowed to vote at any Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement/Voting Point other than the one at which his/her name appears in the Register and he/she presents his/her permanent voter’s card to be verified by the Smart Card Reader (SCR), or as otherwise determined by the Commission.
(c) Each Voter shall cast his/her vote in person at the Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement /Voting Point where he/she registered or was assigned, in the manner prescribed by the Commission.(d) The Presiding Officer shall regulate the admission of voters to t h e Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement/Voting Point and shall exclude all other persons except candidates or their Polling Agents, election officials , security personnel, accredited observers and any other person who in his opinion has lawful reason to be admitted.
(e) Attendance Register in PU booklet will be signed by these categories of election personnel: POs, APOs, Polling Agents, Security Personnel, Accredited Media and Accredited Observers.
9. (a) At 7:30am, the Presiding Officer of a Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement , or the Assistant Presiding Officer (VP) in the case of a Voting Point shall cross-check the adequacy of materials.
(b) At 8:00am, Presiding Officer shall:
(I) declare the Polling Unit open for accreditation and voting;
(ii) allow voters into the Polling Unit in an orderly queue;
(iii) introduce the poll officials, polling agents and observers present;
(iv) separate the queue between men and women, where the culture does not allow the mingling of men and women;
(v) create a separate queue for PWDs; and
(vi) explain the accreditation and voting procedures to all present.
10. (a) In accordance with Section 49 (2) of the Electoral Act, a person intending to vote shall be verified to be the same person on the Register of Voters by use of the Smart Card Reader (SCR) in the manner prescribed in these Regulations and Guidelines.
(b) Any poll official who violates the provision of Clause 10 (a) shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to prosecution.
(c) Accreditation and voting shall commence at 8.00am and close at 2:00pm, provided that all voters already on the queue by 2:00pm shall be allowed for accreditation and voting.
(d) The accreditation process shall comprise reading of the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) and authentication of the voter’s fingerprint using the SCR; checking of the Register of Voters and inking of the cuticle of the specified finger of the voter.
(e) The voter shall present himself/herself to the APO (III) for the Polling Unit, Voting Point Settlement or Voting Point who shall:
I. determine that he/she is at the correct Polling Unit or VotingPoint Settlement or Voting Point;
ii. confirm that the voter has not voted anywhere by inspecting the cuticle of the fingernail, and if satisfied direct the voter to the APO I; and
iii. upon inspection of the PVC held by the voter, if the APO III discovers that the PVC is not for the Polling Unit, the APO III will advise the voter to proceed to the appropriate Polling Unit or Voting Point Settlement or Voting Point.
The APO I shall:
i. request for the PVC from the voter;
ii. read the PVC using the Smart Card Reader to ascertain thatthe photograph on the permanent voter’s card is that of thevoter and that the Polling Unit details correspond with those of the polling unit.
iii. request the voter to place the appropriate finger in the place provided on the Smart Card Reader for authentication; and if the fingerprint matches, request the voter to proceed to APO II.
(f) The verified voter shall then proceed to the APO II who shall:
(i) request for the permanent voter’s card;
(ii) check the Register of Voters to confirm that the voter’s name, details, and Voter Identification Number (VIN) are as contained in the Register of Voters;
(iii) tick the appropriate box of the horizontal boxes on the right margin beside the voter’s details on the Register, showing the category of election, if the person’s name is on the Register of Voters;
(iv) tick the appropriate box at the left margin of the Voter details in the case of SCR failure to read (FR) or failure to authenticate (FA);
(v) document the status of the voter; if the voter is a PWD by completing the PWD Form EC40H as prescribed; and
(vi) apply indelible ink to the cuticle of the specified finger on the left hand to indicate that the voter has been accredited to vote in that election.
11. (a) The accredited voter shall proceed to the who shall:
(I) Check the cuticle of the appropriate finger/thumb-nail of the voter to confirm that he/she has been accredited;
(ii) On being satisfied that the person before him/her has been duly accredited, stamp, sign and write the date on the back of the ballot paper(s) for the respective categories of elections;
(iii) Pre-fold the endorsed ballot paper(s) using the roll andflatten method;
(iv) Issue the pre-folded and endorsed ballot paper(s) to the voter;
(v) Request the voter to remove his/her cellphone or any photographic device before proceeding to voting cubicle;
(vi) Direct the voter to the voting cubicle to mark his/her choice on the ballot paper; and
(vii) Ensure that the voter deposits the marked ballot paper in the appropriate ballot box.
(b) Where a voter’s PVC is read but his/her fingerprint is not authenticated, the APO 1 shall refer the voter to the APO 11 who shall:
(i) request the voter to thumbprint the appropriate box in the Register of Voters;(ii) request the voter to provide his/her phonenumber in the appropriate box in the Register of Voters;
(iii) continue with the accreditation of the voter; and
(iv) refer the voter to the PO or APO (VP) for issuance of ballot paper(s).
(c) Where a voter’s PVC is read but the name of the voter is not on the Register of Voters, APO 11 shall refer the voter to the PO or APO (VP) who shall politely request the voter to leave the Polling Unit.
(d) In the event that the PVC fails to be read by the Smart Card Reader, the APO 1 shall refer the voter to the PO or APO (VP) who shall politely request the voter to leave the Polling Unit.
(e) Where a voter’s PVC is read and the SCR shows the details of another person, rather than the details of the cardholder as printed on the PVC, the APO 1 shall:
(i) Refer the voter to APO 11 to confirm that the details of the voter in the Register of Voters correspond to those on the PVC;
(ii) APO II if satisfied that the holder of the card is on the Register of Voters, shall record the phone number of the voter in the appropriate box on the Register of Voters; and
(iii) Proceed with the accreditation of the voter.
(f) In all cases from 11(b) to 11(e) the Presiding Officer shall fill the appropriate forms in the PU booklet and make a report. Affected voters in 11(b) and 11(e) qualify to be issued ballot papers after consultation with Polling Agents.
12 (a) Where the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) presented by the voter is not for the Polling Unit, the APO 1 shall politely inform the voter and advise him/her to proceed to the appropriate Polling Unit.(b) Any person who presents the PVC of another person with an intention to use it to vote, shall not be allowed to vote and may be liable to arrest and prosecution.13 (a) In the event of sustained malfunction of the Smart Card Reader (SCR), the Presiding Ofcer (PO) shall:
( i ) Immediately inform the Supervisory Presiding Officer (SPO), the Electoral Officer (EO), and the Electoral Operations Support Centre (EOSC) for replacement;
(ii) Suspend Accreditation and Voting until a new Card Reader is made available;
(iii) File a report of the incident; and
(iv) Inform the voters and polling agents of the situation.(b) Where a replacement Smart Card Reader is not available by 2:00pm, the Presiding Officer or APO(VP) as the case may be shall:
i. inform the SPO, EO, and EOSC of the situation;
ii. file a report of the incident; and
iii. inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected Polling Unit, Voting Point Settlement, and Voting Point shall continue following day.
(c) Where a Smart Card Reader (SCR) is replaced in the middle of an election, the data of verified voters in the faulty SCR shall be merged with data in the replacement SCR for purposes of determining the number of verified voters.
14. The Presiding Officer shall allow a voter who is visibly impaired or blind or is unable to distinguish symbols or who suffers from any other physical disability to be accompanied into the Polling Unit/Voting Point Settlement/Voting Point and be assisted to vote by a person chosen by him/her, other than an election official, a polling agent or a security personnel on election duty.
15. Visually Impaired/Blind registered voters may, where available, use the Braille Guide or magnifying glass.
16. PWDs, visibly pregnant women and the aged, shall be granted priority access to voting at the Polling Units, Voting Point Settlements and Voting Points.
17. A voter shall not make any mark on the ballot paper by which he/she may be identified. If he/she does so, such ballot paper shall be rejected provided that any print resulting from the staining of the finger-print of the v oter in the voting compartment shall not be deemed to be a mark of identification.
18. A voter who by accident spoils his/her ballot paper such that it cannot be used for voting may present it to the Presiding Officer and if satisfied that the ballot paper is spoilt, the Presiding Officer shall issue another ballot paper to the voter in place of the spoilt ballot paper and the spoilt ballot paper shall be marked “cancelled” by the Presiding Officer, and recorded in appropriate form in the PU booklet.
19. If a person claiming to be entitled to vote applies for a ballot paper after another person has voted in the name given by the claimant, he/she shall, upon satisfactory answers given to any questions put to him/her by the APO II, shall be entitled to receive a ballot paper in the same manner as any other voter; but the ballot paper shall be a tendered ballot paper and deposited in the Tendered Ballot envelope in accordance with the procedure in the Electoral Act.
2 0 . (a) Telephones and other electronic devices capable of taking pictures are not allowed in voting cubicles. Voters may come to the Polling Unit with telephones and other electronic devices provided that they do not take them to the voting cubicles or take pictures of other voters while they are voting.
(b) After thumbprinting the ballot, while still in the voting cubicle, the voter shall carefully fold the marked ballot paper in the same manner that the Presiding Officer had pre- folded the ballot before issuing it to the voter and proceed to drop it in the appropriate ballot box . Additional ballot boxes will be provided where necessary.
(c) Presiding Officers shall place the ballot boxes not more than two meters away from the voting cubicle, in the direction of the Presiding Officers and away from the Polling Agents.
(d) After casting his/her ballot, the voter is free to remain within the vicinity of the Polling Unit to witness the sorting and counting of votes and the announcement of results, provided he/she is orderly.
21. After every voter on the queue has voted, the Presiding Officer shall declare voting closed.
22 (a) At the close of voting, the Presiding Officer shall:
(I) cancel all the unused ballot papers by crossing them out;
(ii) sort out the ballot papers by party and thereafter loudly count the votes scored by each political party in the presence of the Polling Agents and observers;
(iii) allow recount of votes on demand by a Polling Agent, provided that such a recount shall only be allowed once;
(iv) cross-check the scores;
(v) enter the scores of the candidates in both figures and wordsin the appropriate forms EC8A/EC8A(VP) series; and
(vi) Fill the Form EC 60E and paste it conspicuously. Pasting of Form EC 60E is mandatory and failure to do so may amount to dereliction of duty.
(b) Where Voting Points have been created the APOI shall:
(i) enter the result on form EC8A (VP); and(ii) submit to the presiding officer who shall consolidate the result using form EC8A and attach the EC8A(VP) to form EC8A.© The Presiding officer shall then:
( i ) sign , date and stamp the appropriate EC8A forms;
(ii) announce loudly the votes scored by each political party;
(iii) Request the candidates or their polling agents where available at the Polling Unit to countersign;
(iv) Refusal of any candidate or polling agent to countersign the appropriate form EC 8(A) series shall not invalidate the result of the Polling Unit;
(v) Keep the originals of EC8 series and the first pink copies for the Commission;
(vi) Give to polling agents and the Police, a duplicate copy each of the completed forms;
(vii) Post the completed Publication of Result Poster EC60 (E) at the Polling Unit;
(viii) Complete the EC 40H(I) for PWD Information and Statistics;
(ix) Complete the PWD information boxes in the PU booklet;
(x) Transmit the result as prescribed in the Electoral Act;
(xi) Take the card reader and the original copy of each of the forms in tamper evident envelope to the Registration Area/Ward Collation Officer, in the company of security agents; and
(xii) The polling agents may accompany the Presiding Officer to RA/Ward Collation Centre.
23 (a) Where the total number of votes cast at a Polling Unit exceeds the number of registered voters in the Polling Unit, the result of the election for that Polling Unit shall be declared null and void, and a report in that regard shall be made to the Collation officer.
(b) Similarly, where the total number of votes cast at a Polling Unit exceeds the total number of accredited voters, the outcome of the election shall be declared null and void, and a report in that regard shall made to the Collation officer.
24. Where after a crosscheck and recount, the sum of spoiled ballot papers, rejected ballots and valid votes is not equal to the total number of used ballots, an anomaly exists, and the Presiding Officer shall submit a written report to the RA/Ward Collation Officer.
25. The RA/Ward Collation Officer shall examine the report and reconcile the figures. Where the figures cannot be reconciled, the RA/Ward Collation Officer shall locate the source of the discrepancy, rectify it and make a report to the LGA Collation officer.
26. For a Polling Unit where election is not held or is cancelled, or poll is declared null and void in accordance with these regulations, the Presiding Officer shall report same in writing to the RA/Ward Collation Officer explaining the nature of the problem and the Collation Officer shall fill form EC 40G as applicable.