By Amaka Ezeno, MCLArb

The presidential election is ongoing, and a lot of irregularities are being alleged. We have witnessed people threatening eligible voters who are not supporting their candidates; ballot boxes being thrown about; videos of men and women who have or attempted to manipulate results, and very little children queueing to vote.

The law has not left any loophole for such irregularities. It offers a step-by-step protection to the electioneering process to ensure a free, fair and credible election. However, enemies of democracy will stop at nothing to scuffle the will of the people.

The instant election is being organized pursuant to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the Electoral Act 2022, and Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections 2022. According to the guideline by INEC, voting is based on the Continuous Accreditation and Voting System (CAVS). Those allowed into polling units are those who have any lawful reason to be there, such as voters, security operatives, polling agents, election officials and accredited observers.

The election commences with the observation of electoral materials to crosscheck for adequacy by the accredited observers, polling agents and officials. This process is allowed by law to be recorded in writing or video coverage. This should be followed by an open display of the empty ballot boxes and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to all present. Then the presiding officer explains the voting procedure to the people, and voting begins afterwards.

The law makes it mandatory that every voter must be verified to be the same person on the register of voters by the use of BVAS. In fact, the failure to do this renders the officials liable to prosecution. Voting begins proper with accreditation. The accreditation process includes checking the PVC, positive identification of the voter in the BVAS, completing the voting forms, and applying indelible

link to the cuticle of the finger of the voter (where available). After the accreditation processes are completed, the voter proceeds to the cubicle and votes. Phones and other gadgets capable of taking pictures are not allowed in the cubicle.

In the event of a sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the law requires that the presiding officer shall immediately inform the LGA and other relevant officers for replacement.

If the replacement of BVAS is not made available by 2:30pm, then the presiding officer shall file a report to the relevant officers and inform the voters that election shall continue the following day.

However, where a BVAS is replaced in the middle of an election, the data of verified voters in the faulty BVAS shall be merged with the data in the replacement BVAS for the purpose of determining the number of verified voters. A voter is entitled to another ballot paper if by accident he or she spoils the one earlier given, and the spoilt one shall be marked as cancelled and recorded in the appropriate form.

Any person who is reported or suspected to be impersonating, underage or non-Nigerian shall be required by the presiding officer to fill a prescribed form accepting to substantiate the charge in a court. If the person owns up, the presiding officer shall not allow him to vote, and may request the security to arrest him.

However, if the person proves to the satisfaction of the officer that he is not impersonating, underage or non-Nigerian, he shall be allowed to vote. Given the circumstances of our election processes, this requirement is not even remembered.  Also, the voters have the leave to remain at the centre to witness sorting, counting and announcement of results.

After voting, the presiding officer shall cancel all the unused ballots by crossing them out. He shall then sort out and loudly count the votes in the open according to the political parties. The officer shall recount only once upon request by any agent. The scores are recorded in the prescribed form, signed by the officer and countersigned by party agents. He shall then loudly announce the scores of the parties.

A duplicate copy of the completed result is given to party agents and the police. The hardcopy is required to be pasted conspicuously at the polling unit. A scanned copy of the results of the polling unit are then electronically transmitted to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV). There is no gainsaying that the results were not pasted at the polling units.

The law stipulates that any case of over voting in any polling unit shall be declared null and void. Collation shall begin only when the collation officer has ascertained that the number of accredited voters agrees with the number recorded in the BVAS and votes scored by political parties on the result sheet is correct and agrees with the result electronically transmitted from the polling units. In case of any discrepancy, the results electronically transferred shall be resorted to. Where this is not available, then the duplicate copies handed to agents and police shall be used.

To win the presidential election, a candidate is required to have the majority or highest number of votes cast at the election, and not less than one-quarter (25%) of the votes cast at the election in at least two-thirds (24) states including the FCT.

A run-off election is organized within twenty-one days after the general election if none of the candidates wins the required votes. It is a pity to note that the law states that election shall commence by 8am but we have seen that in some places, election did not start until evening.

Given the irregularities we have witnessed in this election, one is left to wonder how independent the INEC really is. The results from the polling units were not immediately transmitted to the INEC portals.

The results being announced on TV do not tally with what the people including party agents, calculated, and recorded in the polling units. In Osun, the records have shown that there was an over voting as the figures are not in agreement. How can we repose confidence in the process?