By Joy Odor
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has organised a two day retreat on optimizing the operational structure of the Election Monitoring and Support Centre (EMSC) which has become a vital tool in the monitoring, implementation and management of electoral plans and activities in Nigeria.
The lNEC National Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu while declaring open the retreat in Keffi, Nasarawa State on Friday said in the build-up to the 2019 General Election, it became increasingly clear to the Commission that a coordinated early warning, monitoring and implementation system was necessary to track hundreds of inter-related electoral activities in the Election Project Plan for the 2019 General Election.
According to him, the Commission accepted the recommendations of the 2019 Election Project Plan Committee (EPPC) to integrate the three monitoring mechanisms of the Commission – the EMS, ERM and EOSC – into a single unit called the Election Monitoring and Support Centre (EMSC).
” When this Commission was first inaugurated in November 2015, our resolve was to consolidate on the gains of the last Commission (2010-2015) in building systems for the continuous and effective management of the electoral process.
“The goals were not only to address the challenges encountered during the 2011 and 2015 General Elections, but to also develop proactive and knowledge-driven systems that would address these challenges in 2019 and at the same time continue to support the Commission’s efforts in the planning, conduct and management of elections.
“The continuous search for innovative and better systems for the management of our electoral process crystalized into the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan (SP)/Strategic Programme of Action (SPA), the 2019 Election Project Plan (EPP) as well as the Election Monitoring and Support Centre (EMSC).
“The Commission has, over the years, continuously expanded the frontiers of electoral management and governance by introducing innovations and knowledge-driven systems. The EMSC is one such innovation.
“As an electoral early-warning, monitoring, implementation and management tool, the EMSC, relying on field offices and personnel across the 36 States and the FCT, alerts the Commission to the challenges, identifies electoral risks/threats and provides real-time information on the status of an election. In doing so, the EMSC makes available to the Commission the necessary information in making real-time interventions to avert or mitigate potential risks or threats to an election.
“The EMSC has greatly helped the Commission in managing the electoral process. As a testimony to its robustness as an election management tool, many countries in the West African Region and beyond have shown interest in studying and adopting the system for their use.
” The Ethiopian and Malawi Electoral Commissions are already considering the deployment of some aspects of the tool in the management of their elections. The EMSC may well be another contribution of INEC (and indeed Nigeria) to election management in the world.
“As pioneers, we need to keep pushing the frontiers of this system, fortifying its strengths, addressing its challenges and expanding its reach in the conduct and management of elections.
“Having deployed it for the 2019 General Election, the Commission has certainly seen its advantages as well as its challenges. The advantages need to be strengthened and improved upon while resolving the anticipated challenges before the 2023 General Election which is just 560 days away” he stressed.
Professor Mahmood opined that the Retreat is therefore crucial to the EMSC and the Commission and urged all participants to work round the clock in the two days to suggest novel ways of tweaking the EMSC, addressing its challenges and formulating comprehensive policy guidelines for its operation.
According to him, it must be repositioned to discharge its most primary responsibilities of providing early warning, identifying threats/risks, monitoring the implementation of election activities and ensuring real-time and accurate information to the Commission on all field-related activities that have a direct bearing on elections.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Resident Electoral Commission, Nasarawa State, Alhaji Dr Usman Ajidagbe said the retreat is packaged to address challenges to the election management and support centre in the 2019 election.
He hoped that the retreat would be realistic in the review of past election activities with the view to nipping in the bud future challenges as the Commission prepare for 2023 general elections.
In his opening speech, the INEC National Commissioners, Retired Air Vic Marshal Muazu added that the role of technology in Nigeria Electroal process is critical to bridge the gap of EMSC recorded in 2019 election.
In a PowerPoint presentation by Professor Bolade Eyinla observed that the goal of this retreat is to advance the institutioalisation of the Electoral effectiveness and efficiency; bridge the gap between planning and effectively identify, analyse and mitigate real and potential threats in the map and track electoral threats and risks and propose proactive mitigating measures while the EOSC is for monitoring and tracking field operations.