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Ballot paper: Local printers set to sue INEC

The Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria has vowed to sue the Independent National Electoral Commission for allegedly printing a substantial portion of its electoral materials abroad.

This, according to the agency, violated the CIPPON Act 24 of 2007 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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The council is responsible for regulating, overseeing, managing, and administering printers, the printing industry, and other topics linked to printing in Nigeria.

Mr. Olugbemi Malomo, president of CIPPON, revealed in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday that the electoral body had been granting printing projects to local printers, but he argued that outsourcing printing contracts to foreign corporations was illegal.InformationGuideNigeria

Malomo noted that INEC was required by law to contract with local printers through CIPPON for the printing of all electoral materials, including ballots.

He referenced Section 23b of the CIPPON Act, which states, “In controlling the registration of printing practitioners, the council ensures that no firm or partnership practises as a printer in Nigeria unless it has been registered by the council.”

Malomo indicated that contract awards to Nigerian printers improved after the CIPPON council met with INEC Chairman Mahmoud Yakubu in Abuja the previous year.

The CIPPON President said, “There was an increase in patronage of our members. To that extent, that advocacy was meaningful. The second point is what percentage were we able to get? We have not been able to collate that.

“Was there any percentage (in INEC printing jobs) that was taken out? Certainly, but we don’t know what percentage that was taken out. The next level of advocacy, we are thinking of doing and I want you to quote me on this; is that we need to approach a court to interpret the law because the Act that established us says, ‘If you are not our member, you can’t get a printing job in Nigeria.’

“But we are aware that they patronise people who are not our members, so, we will eventually seek an interpretation of that (in court). But by and large, more people are patronised but we can’t say at what level or how many people were patronised.

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“But with the help of the fourth estate of the realm (the media) and for the benefit of all Nigerians, we all need to work together. People are taking the jobs out of the country and I can tell you it is not because of lack of capacity, it is because of other interests.’’

Malomo said that the move to electronic voting had de-mystified ballot papers in response to insinuations that Nigerian enterprises might not have the capacity to complete the project on time.JAMB Result

Noting that no single company could deliver the quantity of ballot papers and other materials required for the election, he stated that the amended Electoral Act, which gave INEC sufficient time to prepare for elections, had also eliminated the excuse of lack of capacity typically levelled against Nigerian printers.

He noted, “About four, five elections we have had. I’m not talking about presidential elections; election has moved away from ballot papers to card readers and electronic voting. The election is now one man, one vote.

“In other words, people who were compromising ballot papers, even if you give them a million ballot papers now, it doesn’t count anymore. So, when you talk about capacity, there is no single printing company in the world that can take up this (INEC) job at the required time.

“Capacity is also a function of time. The Electoral Act was also amended to give more time for printing. So, the excuse of lack of capacity has also been reduced or eliminated.NYSC Portal

“INEC is one of the biggest users of paper, in particular, this election. We held a paper conference so that the issues of paper can be addressed so that we can use locally produced paper. How can we talk about capacity when the biggest spender is not even interested in an Olympic solution to the challenges it is having? Rather, it is taking the easy way out by going abroad because somebody is going to make more dollars.’’

The council president said money should be spent to develop local capacity as is the practice in developed countries.JAMB Portal

“The American government will give you some grants and ask you to spend them on your company because they know what they are doing. That is why we have this post-election session a few years ago to talk about the future and learn a lot of lessons,’’ he submitted.

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Emediong Ekpe

Emediong Ekpe is a graduate of English. A professional Sports journalist/analyst, and a spoken word artist. He is passionate about decimating information and putting smiles on people's faces via news writing.

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