Edo: INEC loses N100m, to reconfigure 6,677 card readers

Two days after cancelling the Edo State governorship election, the  Independent National Electoral Commission has started counting its losses.

The commission said that it lost over N100m to the election, which was cancelled because of the security advice given to it by both the Department of State Services and the police.

The election, which was scheduled to hold today (Saturday) in the state, had now been rescheduled to September 28.

Both the DSS and the police had claimed that there were plans by extremists and insurgents to disrupt the election and also cause mayhem across the country between September 12 and 13.

They had, therefore, called on the commission to consider the possibility of shifting the election to enable them to deal with the issue of security problems.

Before the cancellation of the election, our correspondent gathered that the commission had deployed 18,511 personnel in the state.

The state, which is made up of 18 local government areas, has 1,925,105 registered voters. It also has 192 registration areas, 2,627 polling units, and 4,011 voting points.

For the botched election, the commission has deployed one returning officer, 18 local government area collation officers, 192 registration area collation officers, 263 supervisory presiding officers and 2,627 presiding officers.

It also deployed 12,036, assistant presiding officers I, II and III, 2,530 assistant presiding officers, 728 reserve APOs, 19 LGA supervisors and one reserve and 97 RA cluster supervisors and 1 reserve (2RAs/Supervisor) at the national headquarters.

INEC’s Deputy Director in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Nick Dazang, told our correspondent in an interview in Abuja on Saturday, that the cost of not conducting the election on Saturday was enormous.

He said this was because the commission had fully mobilised for the exercise and was fully prepared for the exercise.

Dazang added that all the officers mobilised for the exercise had been asked to return to their various units and offices, adding that only the ad hoc workers, who were recruited from the state, were asked to stay behind.

Before the election was cancelled, he said the commission had booked hotels, paid for feeding and made other payments needed for the comfort of the personnel to enable them perform their duties.

He regretted that all the money was likely going to be lost.

He said, “Also, we had moblised (before the cancellation). The cost implication of shifting the election would be huge. We are talking of more than N100m on the part of the commission.

“This is different from what the developmental partners have invested, the non-government organisations, media and others. The politicians have also invested in this election.

“For example, most of our personnel have returned to the headquarters, except the ad hoc workers who will stay back. Money paid to hotel is one of the cost we are losing. We have budgeted and paid for them. How do we get refund for most of these?”

Also, speaking with our correspondent, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity at the commission, Mr. Oluwole Ozasse-Uzi, said that the commission would have to reconfigure the card readers, which he said were specifically configured for the cancelled election.

He said shifting the election meant that the card readers would have to be reconfigured.

He said that the commission decided to postpone the election irrespective of cost implication because security agencies were part of the electoral process.

He said, “The card readers were configured for September 10. They have to be re-configured again. We have more than 6,000 card readers because there is at least one for each polling booth and unit. We also have some as back up. We get our funding from the government. We lost money running into millions of naira.

“We can’t do the election alone. The security agencies are part of us because they are to secure the materials and the people- the voters. We could have gone ahead, but if we did that and things went wrong, what will people say?

“We lost people in an attempt to conduct election in Rivers State. If we had proceeded, we would have been seen as an irresponsible organisation.

“We had only distributed non-sensitive materials such as erasers, pens, posters, bags, papers and ink but sensitive materials such as  ballot papers and result sheets had not been distributed.”

Asked if the election could be shifted again, he said there were words of assurance from the security agencies that things would normalise before September 28.

Meanwhile, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, has said the commission would re-train its ad hoc staff for the postponed governorship election.

According to him, what was spent so far on the postponed election included the allowances paid for the training of 18,000 personnel.

Oyekanmi, in an electronic mail exclusively sent to Saturday PUNCH on Friday, said, “They (ad hoc staff) have yet to be paid for the election duty. Now, they will have to be re-trained; a sort of refresher programme for the re-scheduled election.

“INEC cannot afford to put over 18,000 persons in hotels.  The NYSC members were only paid training allowances. The commission’s staff members are resident in the state, except for a few that came from Abuja.

“While it is true that the commission will bear some costs as a result of the re-scheduling, it will not be in the form of keeping anybody in hotels for two weeks. Some staff members, who came to Edo from the headquarters, will return to Abuja, while all those residents in Edo State will also return to their homes.”

In a related development, stakeholders in the botched election in Edo State have also started counting their losses.

It was learnt that while the major political parties would incur additional expenses on campaigns, many of the observers left the state early on Friday in order to reduce the cost of staying behind.

An observer and the Convener of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said, “Some are staying and some are leaving. Of course, a lot of people will not stay for another two weeks. Quite a lot of observers are leaving; we have a few people who are continuing to observe the situation. Some of them are based in Edo State, so they will be keeping an eye on what is going on.

“As you know, the election has to be observed. It becomes even more important now to observe it because we do not know why it was postponed. We rejected the reason given for the postponement.”

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Godwin Obaseki, told one of our correspondents that the impact of the shift on his campaign could not be quantified.

Obaseki explained that the timing and mode of communication adopted by the security agencies could have been better handled, having regards to the hard work and huge resources deployed towards the election by all concerned.

“But clearly, it has not helped me at all because we have used resources. Our followers are very disappointed; that is where we find ourselves, so we just have to prepare for September 28,” he said.

He, however, noted that given the nature of the advice, the exercise was not worth a drop of anybody’s blood.