The Forum of Presidential Candidates has raised the alarm over a new Electoral Act which seeks the use of electronic verification of voters and transmission of results, saying it will deliberately disenfranchise voters during the 2019 general elections.
This is even as the forum threatened to drag President Muhammadu Buhari and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court to abort assent to the amended bill.
The chairman of the forum who is a presidential candidate of Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), Alhaji Shitu Mohammed Kabir in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday, said many voters especially in the rural and remote areas of the country will be disenfranchised.
Kabir said the rural dwellers will be disenfranchised owing to obvious constraints of power supply and internet connectivity. He added that this “deliberate hurdles” is capable of derailing the 2019 general elections.
His grouse is informed by what he termed “the stumbling blocks against a free and fair election” next year.
“We don’t see INEC responding fast enough in cases where their devices malfunction. The constraints and impediments of time and resources in difficult terrains will deliberately deny many local communities the opportunity to vote,” he said, shortly after a meeting with 40 presidential candidates under the forum at the weekend.
He argued that the time is rather too close to enable INEC train its staff, especially its ad hoc staff, on how to handle the electronic devices.
“We shouldn’t give INEC any excuse to postpone the elections,” he cautioned.
The APDA presidential candidate is worried that those pushing for assent to the new bill may unwittingly derail the electoral calendar if the electoral umpire is forced to adjust its programme to accommodate the personnel, budget and other logistics in the guise of abiding with the provisions of the new law.
He also picked holes in the provision of Sections 84-87 which is capable of weakening the powers of political party executives on party primaries and choice of candidates.
“My concern is how to avoid unnecessary litigations and protect the sanctity of the electoral process,” he said.
It would be recalled that last week, chairmen of about 70 registered political parties also threatened to pull out of the 2019 general elections if President Buhari failed to sign the amended electoral bill already transmitted to him by the National Assembly.