By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
“Those who crave for the high office of the land should not break the law of the land”.
With these words the former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Akwa Ibom, Barrister Mike Igini, cautioned Nigerian politicians to play by the rules ahead of tomorrow’s Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections in 28 states of the federation.
This is even as he has defended the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) by the electoral umpire to conduct elections in Nigeria, arguing that the introduction of the technological device has cured the evil of gross electoral malpractices in the polling units.
Speaking on African Independent Television (AIT) 2023 Elections programme monitored in Abuja on Friday, Igini exonerated BVAS from the criticisms that have trailed the results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023.
According to him, BVAS performanced its functions on the election day and should not be blamed for the inability of the public to view the results realtime as promised by INEC because of the alleged glitches which made the INEC Results Viewing portal (iREV) not work when it mattered most.
On if it is possible to use BVAS to rig elections, Igini said the BVAS can’t be used to change the results of election, pointing out that the device has instead helped to reduce the widespread rigging of elections which has been the order of the day in previous elections in Nigeria.
Said he: “I can say without fear of contradictions that BVAS has put the people in the center of Nigeria elections. The evil at polling units have been cured by BVAS to a large extent Also, the essence of BVAS is the transmission of results to INEC Server and iREV hence its the duty of Presiding Officers to do the needful regardless of the presence of Political Party Agents.
“Indeed, BVAS has eliminated the sharing of unused ballot papers by politicians at the polling units just as BVAS has helped to stop the fictitious numbers of votes hitherto recorded in most states before the introduction of BVAS.
“Again, it is in the public domain that in previous elections across the country, from Abia to Zamfara states, in alphabetical order, candidates were scoring millions of votes but with BVAS no candidate in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections scored one million votes unlike in 2019 and years before then”.
To buttress his point Igini used an illustrations with election results across states in Nigeria, insisting that fraudulent election results have dried up. He said that while the result of the Presidential election in Ika North in Delta state was 67, 417 in 2019 it dropped significantly in 2023 with a paltry
5, 403 votes recorded.
On what he thinks happened to INEC that the iREV faild to function optimally on February 25 even when the transmission of National Assembly election results to INEC Server and IREV portal were without issues on the day, the outspoken former REC said he is not in the position to say.
“I am asking for explanations on what happened in the President election from INEC too. After February 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, I have received over 3,000 messages from across the world asking about what happened.
“But what I do know is Section 60 Sub-Section 5 of the Electoral Act 2022 prescribed that the presiding officer shall transfer the results including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.
“In this case, the Electoral Act, INEC Election Guideline and even the Constitution of the Federal Government of Nigeria have conferred on INEC to transmit the results”, Igini argued.
Meanwhile, Igini who is a veteran of the Nigeria elections has opined that to forestall election manipulations in the March 18 Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections, citizens should set up state-wide Results Viewing Centers (RVC) where citizens will see realtime the results of the election.
He however cautioned Nigerian politicians to refrain from election manipulations and allow the laws guiding the election to prevail, adding that there should be punishment for bad behaviour as those who try to compromise the elections should be prosecuted.
Said he: “The Electoral Act 2022 was designed to deal with electoral mischief. The criminal jurisdiction of states should be invoked against those caught in elections malpractice. Any society that makes corruption an Article of Faith will not make progress.
This is because society makes progress in the altar of Punishment and Reward”.
The retired INEC REC also encouraged Nigerians to cast their votes for the candidates of their choices on Saturday without fear of intimidation, saying that: “The Redness of the Eyes cannot Light a Cigarette”.
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