CROSIEC, BIVAS And 2023 LG Election In Cross River

Prof. Mike Ushie, Chairman, Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission (CROSIEC). 

By Inyali Peter 

Since the issuance of notice for the commencement, conduct and conclusion of  local government election in Cross River State by the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission, (CROSIEC), there have been agitations that the state electoral umpire must deploy technologies granted by Section 47 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) in the conduct of the polls. 

The section under reference provides that "To vote, the presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission, for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the particulars of the intending voter in the manner prescribed by the Commission". 

Recall that Commission as used in this section was defined by the electoral act as "The Independent National Electoral Commission as established by section 153 of the Constitution". 

Specifically, the agitators are insisting that CROSSIEC must deploy the BIVAS and other technologies deployed by INEC in the recently held Abuja Area Council and other elections conducted by the Commission in the 2023 Local Government polls in the state. 

While these technologies are good and have improved the credibility of elections conducted by INEC, the big question remains that, is there any law that mandates  State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) to use  Smart Card Readers or any other technological device (BIVAS as agitated) for local government polls as argued? 

To answer this question especially with regards to the Abuja Area Council elections that many have referenced, it's important to firstly clarify the misconception that Nigeria has 774 local government areas. Local government, although not a federating unit is a creation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Section 3 (6) of the 1999 constitution clearly states that Nigeria has 768 local government areas and six area councils of the federal capital territory. 

Similarly, while the election of the 768 local government areas is conducted by  SIEC, amongst other functions of INEC as contained in Section 15, Part 1 of the third schedule of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2 of the Electoral Act 2022 (As Amended), INEC conducts elections into the offices of the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputies, Senate, House of Representatives, state Houses of Assembly and the six Area Councils. 

Each of the 36 states of the federation has its own SIEC, created by laws enacted by their respective state houses of Assembly to conduct local government election. Every State electoral commission is independent and does not derive its powers from the electoral act or INEC. 

Even Section 47 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 (as amended) that gave legal backing to INEC to deploy Smart Card Readers and any other technological device did not say such mandate is binding on SIEC. 

The CROSSIEC Chairman, Prof. Mike Ushie made a fundamental error by making reference to Section 28 (1) of the 2022 Electoral Act, (as amended) when issuing notice of election for the 2023 polls, few months ago. This is because he does not derive his powers from the electoral act but CROSSIEC establishment law. 

If the agitators are serious about causing this change, what they should be doing now is to lobby and persuade the State House of Assembly to domesticate the relevant sections of the the electoral act that mandate INEC to deploy these technologies in the State. Anything other than this, and despite the error by CROSIEC Chairman, the agitation ia but a wild goose chase.

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