Nigerian printers under the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria have threatened to drag the Independent National Electoral Commission to court for allegedly printing a large chunk of its electoral materials overseas.
The agency said this was illegal and a violation of the CIPPON Act 24 of 2007 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The council is charged with the duty of regulating, controlling, managing and administration of printers, the business of printing and other printing related-matters in Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, the President of CIPPON, Mr Olugbemi Malomo, admitted that the electoral body had been awarding printing jobs to local printers, but he insisted that outsourcing contracting printing contracts to foreign firms was a violation of the law.
Malomo explained that by law, INEC was obligated to award the printing of all electoral materials, including ballot papers to local printers through CIPPON.
He cited Section 23b of the CIPPON Act, which states, “In regulating the registration of printing practitioners, the council ensures that no firm or partnership shall practise as printers in Nigeria unless it is registered by the council.’’
Malomo stated that there was an improvement in the awards of contracts to Nigerian printers after the CIPPON council visited the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in Abuja last 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.
“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.’’
Responding to insinuations that Nigerian firms may not possess the capacity to deliver the job on time at the required time, Malomo argued that ballot papers had been demystified by the transition to electronic voting.
Stressing that no single company could deliver the quantum of ballot papers and other material needed for the election, he said the excuse of lack of capacity usually levelled against Nigerian printers had also been eliminated by the amended Electoral Act, which had given INEC adequate time to prepare for elections.
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.
“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.
“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.
When contacted, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, declined comment.
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