With few hours to the 2023 Nigeria general elections, it is important that, as an electorate, you are informed and up to date with the correct information.
The February 2023 elections conducted under the Electoral Act 2022 have many “dos and don’ts” for different stakeholders, but this article will focus on electoral officers.
While there are powers given to electoral officers to control the conduct of others at the polling centres, these officers must be held to account, seeing there are certain behaviours or actions not to be displayed on election day.
- Not wearing INEC-approved tags or jackets
On election day, the function of a polling station is prioritised and, as such, regarded as a highly sensitive environment. With this, any officiating personnel who fails to wear an INEC-provided tag or jacket could be an intruder trying to impersonate accredited officials.
In other words, the presiding officers, party agents and electoral observers must, at all times carry identity tags and wear INEC jackets where such is provided.
If you notice otherwise, it is a situation to flag.
- Engaging in a shoddy accreditation process
The Presiding Officer (PO) is expected to verify all voters before permitting them to cast their votes.
However, if you observe that voters are not being accredited before receiving ballot papers; or an indelible ink is not applied to the cuticle of their fingers; or that a voter is allowed to use another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) for accreditation, you may have enough reasons to call the attention of authorities available.
This is in accordance with section 47(2) of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended).
- Allowing visible underage voting
In the past, elections in Nigeria have been categorised with many cases of underage voting. And despite that the electoral act frowns at this, there are possibilities it will reoccur in the 2023 general election.
Asides from being a Nigerian, the constitutionally recognised age of a voter is 18. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the PO not to accredit such voters if he/she finds a visible case.
- Assistive voting for a person without a disability
The amended Electoral Act permits the PO to allow a voter who is visually impaired or with other forms of disability to be accompanied into the Polling Unit and be assisted to vote by a person chosen by him or her.
This means that if there is no convincing disability, a voter is expected to go into the cubicle and drop papers into the ballot boxes unaccompanied. If the contrary happens, it should be escalated in an orderly manner.
- Permitting Party Agents’ interferences
At the polling unit, the sole responsibility of party agents is to observe the distribution of election materials, the conduct of accreditation, voting, counting of ballots and the collation and declaration of results.
Hence, if any is seen campaigning; sharing gifts and money; or escorting accredited voters to cast their votes, the amended act permits such to be disqualified and, on the instruction of the PO, arrested by the security personnel present.
- Using telephone and camera-enabled devices
Although the Electoral Act does not frown at the use of telephones in the vicinity of the polling station, it prohibits the use of such or other electronic devices that are capable of taking pictures inside the voting cubicle.
Similarly, Collation and Returning Officers are not allowed to make or receive telephone calls during the collation of results.
Having known these as electorates, it is important to raise an alarm when and where you see any of these actions taking place tomorrow.