This is an opinion piece by Salisu Abdulai, Publisher Page 36.
As the 2023 general elections quickly approach and Nigerians continue to wish and hope for very free, fair and transparent elections, especially the Presidential election, that would allow the most demanded Candidate be voted in without rigging, I have come up with a few steps the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, under the leadership of its Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, can adopt, if it is really sincere about holding credible elections next year.
The issue of vote-buying has been of very major concern in the past elections in the country, a problem the new Electoral Act 2022 does not seem to address, and which INEC has stated clearly is not its job, but that of the Security Agencies, to tackle.
Since the very wealthy Politicians and Candidates cannot be fully prevented from trying to lobby voters with their money, in order to secure votes to win elections in the country, the following steps if adopted in the next general elections and future elections, I believe will help make vote-buying useless and hopefully see to its end in Nigerian elections.
- Provide very secured voting rooms in all Polling Units nationwide, with just an entry and exit and no windows.
- Allow one voter at a time into the secured voting room to cast their vote.
- No voter should be allowed into the secured voting room with their mobile phones, iPads, cameras, or any device that can take pictures to show who and what party they voted for.
- Ensure nobody else, including INEC Officials, Party Agents and Security Agents are allowed within the secured voting room at anytime after voting has commenced.
- Simplify how the votes should be cast in the secured voting room to avoid any confusion.
- Before voters go into the secured room to vote, explain to them in the language they understand on how to simply cast their votes.
- On exiting the secured voters room, provide each voter with a stamp or a tag to signify they have voted, for example, “I HAVE VOTED”, and nothing more.
- When the votes are done at a particular Polling Unit, the INEC Officials present should proceed into the secured voting room in the company of Security Agents, all Party Representatives present and the Press, to monitor the counting of the votes.
- Finally, follow every other measure to ensure fair counting of the votes and transmission, without any alteration or rigging.