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NILDS wants law to allow early voting for persons on election duty

The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) is preparing a bill for a law that will allow persons on election duty to vote early.

The step is to curb the incessant disenfranchisement of persons who work on election days, the Director General of NILDS, Prof. Ladi Hamalai, said.

Such persons include journalists, security operatives, INEC officials, Ad-hoc staff as well as election observers and monitors.

Hamalai made the plan known in Abuja on Thursday at a one-day sensitisation workshop on election observation in preparation for the general elections.

She noted that other smaller countries in Africa were already taking such step, adding that the institute also planned in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to forward a bill for Diaspora voting.

She said that the bill was aimed at allowing those who had roles to play on election days to vote before the days for elections.

There are two issues, early election is one of the issues that we have been discussing so far and we have a workshop on that sometime in March.

Early voting is a low hanging fruit, and as we have been told, even INEC has been discussing that and we had an interactive session on the matter with social media actors not quite long ago.

I believe that it is something that we can easily handle after the general elections: we will come up with resolutions during the proposed workshop.

One of the outcomes of the workshop would be to draft the required amendment bill to the Electoral Act that would now go through the legislative process.

It is practical and feasible and there is no reason we shouldn’t; even smaller countries than Nigeria are able to organise it; there is no reason why we cannot.

We should not continue to disenfranchise millions of Nigerian, it is an issue of fundamental human rights, I am sure that in principle it is acceptable, the difficult part is to amend the Electoral Act to allow it, she said.

On Diaspora voting, Hamalai noted that beyond legislation, it would require much more work and technology to bring it to fruition.

The Diaspora voting has also been an issue for discourse for quite sometime now but the two have different parameters.

Diaspora voting requires quite an impressive and secure infrastructure to support it and enable it.

It is not just easy to say that you have the internet, you need a secure system, especially with so much talk of irregularities in election, voters’ register and so on.

All stakeholders are very mindful to come up with a secure system before they can embark on that, she said.

On the election observation training which held at the Institute’s Training centre, the director-general said that it was aimed at preparing members of NILDS’ election observation team for the polls.

She said that because election observation was part of the institute’s mandate, it was necessary to get and share experiences with people who are already in the field.

Some of the resource persons at the training included Prof. Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of INEC, and Prof. Sam Egwu, a Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC).

Jega in his paper charged election observers to be conscious of pitfalls in the field.

He said that election observation was not all about watching the process of voting but that observers must start before the voting and continue even after the results had been declared.

Jega said that observers also ought to watch how result sheets and other materials were stored after their declaration, stating that many times during election litigation, materials were usually not found as evidence or exhibits.

While commending NILDS for the initiative to embark on the training, Jega admonished civil society organisations and others involved in elections to do well to train those they would be sending out to the field.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria