Nigerian printers from the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria have threatened to sue the Independent National Electoral Commission for allegedly printing a large part of their election materials abroad.
The agency said this was illegal and a violation of the CIPPON Act 24 of 2007 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The council has the duty to regulate, control, manage and administer the printing presses, printing business and other printing related matters in Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, CIPPON President Mr. Olugbemi Malomo admitted that the electoral body had been awarding printing jobs to local printers, but insisted that they outsource the contracting of printing contracts to foreign companies. it was a violation of the law. .
Malomo explained that by law, INEC was obliged to award the printing of all electoral materials, including ballots, to local printers through CIPPON.
He cited Section 23b of the CIPPON Act, which states: “By regulating the registration of printers, the council ensures that no company or partnership will practice as a printer in Nigeria unless it is registered by the council.”
Malomo said there was an improvement in awarding contracts to Nigerian printers after the CIPPON council visited INEC President Mahmood Yakubu in Abuja last year.
The CIPPON president said: “There was an increase in patronage from our members. To that extent, that promotion was significant. The second point is what percentage were we able to get? We have not been able to verify that.
“Was there a percentage (in INEC printing jobs) that was removed? Certainly, but we don’t know what percentage was taken. We are thinking about doing the next level of promotion and I want to be quoted about it; it’s that we need to approach a court to interpret the law because the Law that established us says: ‘If you’re not our member, you can’t get a printing job in Nigeria.’
“But we are aware that they sponsor people who are not our members, so we will eventually seek an interpretation of that (in court). But overall, more people are sponsored, but we can’t say to what level or how many people were sponsored.
“But with the help of the fourth kingdom estate (the media) and for the benefit of all Nigerians, we must all work together. People are taking jobs out of the country and I can tell you that it is not for lack of capacity, it is for other interests”.
In response to suggestions that Nigerian companies may not have the capacity to deliver work on time at the required time, Malomo argued that ballot papers had been demystified by the transition to electronic voting.
Emphasizing that no single company could deliver the number of ballot papers and other material required for elections, he said the excuse of lack of capacity often used against Nigerian printers had also been removed by the Electoral Act. amended, which had given INEC sufficient time to prepare for the elections.
He noted: “About four, five elections that we have had. I’m not talking about presidential elections; The election has gone from ballots to card readers and electronic voting. The choice is now one man, one vote.
“In other words, the people who compromised the ballots, even if you give them a million ballots now, they don’t count anymore. So, when it comes to capacity, there is not a single printer in the world that can take on this job (INEC) at the required time.
“Capacity is also a function of time. The Electoral Law was also modified to allow more time for printing. Thus, the excuse of lack of capacity has also been reduced or eliminated.
“INEC is one of the largest users of paper, in particular, in this election. We hold a paper conference so that paper issues can be addressed so that we can use locally produced paper. How can we talk about capacity when the biggest spender isn’t even interested in an Olympic solution to the challenges he has? Rather, it’s taking the easy way out by going abroad because someone else is going to earn more dollars.”
The council president said money should be spent to build local capacity as is the practice in developed countries.
“The US government will give you some grants and ask you to spend them on your company because they know what they’re doing. That is why we have this post-electoral session a few years ago to talk about the future and draw many lessons,” he said.
When contacted, the chief press secretary to the INEC president, Rotimi Oyekanmi, declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the General Secretary of the Abuja Printers Forum, Bissala Bello, said that INEC had contracted six local printers to print the ballot papers for the upcoming elections.
According to him, four are in Abuja and two are in Lagos.
Commenting on the CIPPON threat, Labor Party Presidential Campaign Council spokesman Tanko Yunusa said there was nothing wrong with INEC’s decision to print ballot papers for use in the 2023 elections off the country’s coasts. , provided that the law does not prohibit the commission for doing so.
Yunusa said: “Unless they point out the exact provision of the law that prohibits INEC from printing election materials abroad, we cannot formally react. But I think the commission is free to do whatever helps it achieve free, fair, and credible elections.
“But then again, will the materials be protected if they are printed here? If INEC can guarantee the security of these materials, there is nothing wrong if they are printed here as well”.
Neutrality of security agents
Meanwhile, INEC has said that a loyalty and neutrality oath will be administered to all police and other security personnel deployed in next month’s general elections in accordance with the 2022 Electoral Law.
According to the commission, said security officials will also swear, under oath, not to take bribes or gratuities and that they will carry out their electoral tasks in the interest of the country.
This was expressed by the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of the State of Bayelsa, Emmanuel Hart, when presenting a paper entitled “The Electoral Law and the Role of the Police in the Electoral Service” at a workshop on electoral management in Yenagoa Thursday.
The workshop with the theme “Empowering Police Officers for Effective Election Management” was organized by the Bayelsa State Police Command in partnership with the Bosinde Araikpe Global Peace Initiative.
Hart, who was represented by the Head of Legal Services at the state INEC office, Ayi Obaseki, revealed that any official who breached the law contained in sections 26 and 120 of the Electoral Act would be penalized with a maximum fine of N500,000. or imprisoned for 12 months or both, upon conviction.
Citing relevant sections of the electoral law, it said: “It is mandatory for security officials involved in the conduct of an election to affirm or swear an oath of loyalty and neutrality that they will not accept bribes or gratuities and that they will not carry out their duties and duties and to perform them in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without fear or favour.
“Any official who violates the provision of Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act commits a Dereliction of Duty offense and is subject to a maximum fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both.”
The REC emphasized that the new Electoral Law of 2023 strengthened Nigeria’s electoral process and the statutory role of the police before, during and after the conduct of the elections.
He said that the role of the police as the main security agency in the electoral process went beyond voting and other activities that would take place on election day.
Hart stated: “The most crucial and fundamental element in the duty of the Police Force is the protection of the life and property of the citizens.
“As we move toward the 2023 general election, it is important that you use your good offices to prevent election violence caused by political thugs at polling places. Where there is widespread violence in the state, the commission may not go ahead with holding the election,” he said.
In his remarks, Police Commissioner Ben Okolo said the workshop was necessary to sensitize officers and stakeholders to the need to ensure violence-free and transparent elections and refresh their minds on ways to behave and manage elections. electoral activities.
He said: “This is a very important process. We will do this and other activities to ensure that our officials deliver on the promise made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, that this election will be free, fair and credible; and the process will be transparent.
“To make sure that happens, we want to start sensitizing people and other stakeholders.”
In a related development, the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party have disagreed over the 93.4 million voter registration released on Wednesday by INEC.
The PDP’s undersecretary for national publicity, Ibrahim Abdullahi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said that something was wrong with the figure.
On record, men outnumber women.
The PDP deputy spokesperson noted: “I disagree with that disclosure. There is no way that women are less than men in terms of registration, participation and active participation in politics. Women have shown over the years that they have more strength, more population.
“So INEC is insincere, I don’t agree with that and I don’t think the majority of Nigerians would agree with that.”
But the SDP’s national fractional advertising secretary, Alfa Muhammad, noted that “there is an improvement when you compare it to the old one. That you have more men is probably due to the involvement of young men these days. The increase in number is the result of increased awareness and determination of young people to participate this time.
He added: “We also pray that people base their choice of candidate on merit and dedication. Efforts will be fruitless if people vote based on religious or tribal sentiments. That will not help the country.
“What we need now is a leader who has experience, who doesn’t use the first four years to learn how to operate, a leader who is visionary and knows how to bring his vision to life.”
Corroborating the SDP, the national publicity secretary of the Nigerian New People’s Party, Major Agbor, noted that the figures were good because they were signs that Nigeria’s democracy is maturing.
“Before now there were more women than men, now we have more men than women. It’s an indication that people are becoming more aware and aware,” she said.