TASIEC strategizes for a seamless Council Election excise in Taraba State
By Mary Lateef
The preparation of the Taraba State Independent Electoral Commission for the conduct of local government election in the state has climaxed last week with the delivery of sensitive materials to TASIEC. Chairman of the Commission Dr. Philip Duwe invited newsmen for the verification exercise of the materials.
Sensitive election materials are in the state capital ready for the election which comes up on the 18th November 2023. He said, there are customized ballot papers that captured all the 19th registered political parties, but added that only six political parties, including APC, NNPP, PDP, AA, APGA and Labour party, are participating in the election. Every zone, he further explained, has its customized ballot papers and ballot boxes.
Before now, the Taraba State Independent Electoral Commission under the Chairmanship of Dr Philip Duwe had embarked on series of interactive sessions with critical stakeholders in the state. Heads of security organizations, the media, traditional and religious leaders were the focal point of the sensitization drive that spanned across several months.
The physically challenge were not left out as the Commission carried the sensitization drive to their doorsteps. The session took place at the Blind Workshop Training Centre, Angwan Baraya, Jalingo, Taraba State capital.
During the interaction, the chairman of TSIEC, Dr Philip Duwe said the local government system under the rule of caretaker chairmen was unconstitutional. Therefore, the Taraba State Government, under the leadership of His Excellency Dr Agbu Kefas decided that he will operate by the constitution, hence the need for local government election that is being put in place.
“In order to achieve this, the commission has made it such that each and every one would be carried along to exercise their rights. We want to ensure that people living with disabilities are not left out. That is why we are here; to intimate you on our activities so that together we can work on modalities for a hitch free exercise.” He told the physically challenged people.
He also revealed the Commission’s arrangement for a preferential treatment for the disabled saying that they will be given a separate queue during the voting exercise.
The Hallmark of the commission’s preparation for a hitch free election was a meeting with the Electoral Officers and their assistants from the 16 Local Government Areas of the state. The meeting, which was interactive in nature, shapes the operational modules and guidelines for the smooth conduct of the exercise.
Update on the voter register, which will enable the electoral officers prepare for the rainy day were discussed. In this direction, early distribution of the Register to the Electoral Officers was agreed upon. This according to Dr Duwe: “Will enable each Electoral Officer to scrutinize the register with the view of noting where there are omissions or relocation of names. So that when we come to the proper dissemination of the voter register, wards by wards, polling units by polling units, we wouldn’t be confronted with the challenges of where they are supposed to be and where not.” He explained.
The issue of Adhoc staff was also discussed and concluded that they have to be domiciled in their localities, for easy identification of polling units within their locality. It was a unanimous decision that Electoral Officers should play a role in the selection of the Adhoc staff.
“Provided they adhere to the standard guidelines and criteria for qualification, they must be literate. They must be able to read and write and must be domiciled in that area because you will be trained in that Local Government. “We can’t choose you from the Headquarter here to go and be an Electoral Officer there and that you don’t know anyone there.
“We want those that are resident there, they may be indigene or not, but as far as they live there they must have some minimum qualifications to read and write and I think that is very ideal” Dr Duwe stated.
The issue of voter apathy and how the commission intent to tackle it surfaced in one of the several media interactions that the Commission has been enabling, Dr Duwe said the Commission has done a lot in the area of sensitization and social mobilization, through media channels and media outlets.
“There is that liberty of purpose, there is always a cause and effect of actions. So if you choose that you don’t want to vote, I don’t think it will be right by any authority to compel you to go and vote. You have disfranchised yourself from voting and that simply mean that nothing can be done about that.
“At our own side, what we are doing is to stimulate or to help people recover from apathy, which is why the principal stakeholder on this is the media and I am happy that you are here. The essence is to let the people know that something good will happen. You are given the opportunity to choose your leaders and it behoves on you to choose the leader that you want.
On the involvement of security in the process, Dr Duwe said security has their different roles to play. “While we are in charge of the entire process the sub section of the process is directly manned by the security agencies. We are able to network with all security agencies in the State, the Police are the lead agency, the Army, DSS, the Civil Defense, were all here. We have gone far to engage the Correctional Service, the Immigration, the NDLEA, because there are security issues that are keen to election.
“You can have immigrants coming in to vote, you may have people involved in a hard drugs wanted to be Chairman or Councilor. That is the most reason why we had a screening committee in company of these security agencies and the essences is to try as much as possible to ensure that wrong people don’t get into authority. So we try to be holistic within the context of the process that we want to create by Law and to create the universality of participation. We want everyone involved in the process to be truly involved
In the last election June, 2020, out of the over 1.4 million voters that registered, only 2/3 of them participated in the election, the chairman revealed. The voter update on register, the total number of voters registered in Taraba State is two million and twenty thousand.
“So the voters are aware they are domiciled in the Local Government and the Local Government don’t have the same capacity, they differ based on the Local Government number of polling units. There used to be what we called a baby polling units, those baby units emerged from the actual polling units and simply because a number of voters were quite large. INEC does the registration of voters; TSIEC doesn’t do that, so we rely on the same data. We are expecting that Tarabans would have over 2.02 million voters if they all turn up.
Dr Duwe ruled out the possibility of deploying modern technology or any date platform for the conduct of the election
“We are not using any technology. We are pure analogue because technology has to be complete or sometime you have a fall back. We have seen the challenges that technology has posed in the country’s electoral process. But developed economies have succeeded in using technology. Do we have stable electricity? Do we have stable network system? Do we have a sustainable system? The answer is that we are still trying.
“So our election definitely will be mechanically analogue. You see your name, you have a voter card, we check then we give you your ballot papers for Chairman and Councillors and then you vote.” He said.
As the time of going to press, candidates of various political parties were busy in their campaign activities. Some of them who spoke with our reporter expressed confidence in the process, adding that the Chairman of the Commission’s body language forecloses his willingness to create a level playing ground for the exercise.