INEC Assures Global Community on the Delivery of Credible Polls

INEC Assures Global Community on the Delivery of Credible Polls

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday took his assurances to deliver a free, fair, transparent and credible election to the world stage as he delivered a 24-page lecture on the Commission’s preparedness for the 2023 polls to Chatham House in the United Kingdom. Speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday took his assurances to deliver a free, fair, transparent and credible election to the world stage as he delivered a 24-page lecture on the Commission’s preparedness for the 2023 polls to Chatham House in the United Kingdom.

Speaking at the Royal Institute of International Affairs which is watched by millions of people globally, the INEC boss Prof Mahmood Yakubu gave a stage by stage account of what the Commission has done so far. He said the Voters register for 2023 elections runs into 9 million pages describing it as the largest data base in Africa today.

Intimating his audience, the Commission’s preparedness for the coming elections, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu highlighted some focal areas of the activities of the commission stating that about 53,000 underage registrants have already been deleted from the voters register.

“The issue of underage voters were raised in 15 states of the federation, and it was identified that 21,000 of such underage registrants came from those 15 states. But further analysis shows that the 21,000 represents 0.06 percent of the total of 37 million voters from the 15 states”. That means more than 98 percent of the register was credible.

Professor Mahmoud again reiterated that the polls will neither be postponed or cancelled under any guise. He said INEC will be deploying technology for the purpose of accreditation and uploading results from the polling units. Explaining the functionality of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Report Viewing(IReV) portal, the INEC chairman revealed that the commission encountered a few security challenges which have been solved by experts, hence, the commission has insisted on deploying the machines for the election.

He assured his audience that the design of machines was done in-house but the manufacturing was done abroad. He said the in-house competence of the Information Technology staff was so high that they wanted to add body odour to the biometrics but he prevailed on them to pause on the features captured so far.

Professor Mahmoud added that the process of Permanent Voters Cards collection has progressed very well so far. “We have extended the closing date for the collection and devolved the collection to the wards and registration areas. The process may appear slow because of our insistence that the cards must be collected by the owners not by proxy. If we were to be distributing the cards using different channels we would have gone far.

But, we have to stop the issuance at some point the Electoral Act, demands that we publish the total number of cards collected polling unit by unit. The final voters register will be displayed at those centres and also published on our website”.

He acknowledged the receipt of some complaints regarding the collection process and we have warned our staff in the field about bottlenecks and sundry allegations. Any of such that is brought to our attention will be investigated and deal with such staff. We also have complaints of discriminatory issues on PVCs collections, these are allegations we are looking into to deal with, he stated.

Speaking on inclusivity and diasporan voting, the INEC chairman noted that the commission has been audible in its commitment to encourage general participation, particularly among youths and women. He noted that the young to run act has improved youth and women’s participation in the coming election.

Professor Mahmoud noted that the participation among the young ones ahead of the general elections has been massive and encouraging. He stated that the percentage of voters in the coming polls has been largely dominated by people between the ages of 18 and 34. He further noted that the youth and middle age voters are taking 75.39 per cent.

“We have 93.4 million registered voters of which 37 million, that is 39.5 percent, are young people between the ages of 18 and 34. Then, there are closely followed by 33.4 million or 36.75 per cent middle age voters between 35 and 49. Put together, these two categories constitute 75.39 per cent of registered voters in Nigeria,

“Actually, the 2023 election is the election of the young people because they have the numbers. Even the majority of the PVCs collected are collected by young people. So, out of the 93.4 million registered voters, 70.4 million are between the ages of 18 and 49.”

Additionally, the electoral umpire also said that it has augmented its activities to improve participation among People with Disabilities, in which there will be a provision of needed materials for the PWDs to exercise their voting rights.

“Our commission remains fully committed to making Nigeria’s elections inclusive, inclusive election constitutes an essential part of democracy and that is the reason why in our commission we regularly speak up about our commitment to free, fair, credible, transparent, verifiable and inclusive elections, and over the years, we have worked with various stakeholders to improve the participation of young people and women.

“In addition to that to that, we have been engaging with the disability nationwide, online last week we met with inclusive friends and the Albino Foundation, and we are going to be providing assistive devices both as a requirement of the law and as a practice”.

Despite having one of the largest diaspora communities in the world, and INEC’s willingness to conduct elections for Nigerians living abroad, Professor Yakubu expressed his concerns that the Nigeria constitution and the electoral act do not assent to such activity, hence, it becomes an impossibility for the electoral umpire to operate beyond the stipulations of the law.

“Our quest for a fully inclusive electoral process would not be complete as long as Nigerians who are living outside the country are unable to vote, unvoting by the millions of Nigerians living outside the country remains a recurrent issue for the commission. Nigeria is set to have one of the largest diaspora communities in the world, our people are everywhere. However, the commission can only act in accordance with the electoral legal framework, which remains the main reason we cannot implement the diaspora voting for now, much as we will like to do so”, he noted.

Speaking on the incessant attacks on the commission’s facilities, the Electoral umpire chairman expressed his worries over the growing attacks, noting that the attacks seem to be coordinated. He noted that the commission has called for more efforts from the security agencies to combat the challenge. “Related to the problem of insecurity is the rising attacks on INEC facilities, materials and staff. In four years (2019 – 2022), the Commission experienced fifty attacks on its facilities, mostly in the form of arson and vandalisation.

In these attacks, buildings, election materials and vehicles were destroyed. Sometimes, these attacks have even targeted staff. For instance, during the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), some staff of the Commission in Imo State were attacked, resulting in injuries and death.

However, the 2022 attacks constitute the deepest concerns for the Commission. This is so not only because they are increasingly happening closer to the general election, but also because some of them seem to be coordinated”, he said.

While answering the questions posed to him about the growing insecurity challenges in Nigeria, particularly in some parts of the country, the INEC chairman reiterated his confidence, that with its policy no electorates will be disenfranchised. He added that the electoral commission has planned for the Internally Displaced Camps which will make them reachable to vote in the coming election.

“We have over 2 million persons displaced in Nigeria, across the states, and we will organise voting for them, the same way we did in 2015, 2019, and we will do so in 2023. Provided they are in camps that are organised and we can reach them,” he explained.

On the Credibility of the Election

Speaking on the readiness of the commission for the election, the INEC boss reaffirmed the commission’s commitment to conducting credible elections. He reflected on the past polls conducted by the commission and their credibility, assuring that the election umpire will not deflect from the standard it has set for Nigerians.

“Election is a multi-stakeholder activity, INEC has been giving you this assurance, I think we have demonstrated this, particularly in some of the more recent elections and that is what we are going to carry forward in the general election. So as far as the electoral commission is concerned, there is no go area the votes cast by a citizen should determine who becomes who in our country’” he answered.

On the secrecy in voting and the issue of vote buying, Professor Mahmoud he noted that the electoral commission is working critically to curb vote buying during the election, by training its staff on the folding of ballot papers.

“We had issues in Anambra and FCT when we deployed the BVAS in November 2021, last year February 2022, we went back to the drawing board, we have found the solution to the problem, that is why in the subsequent elections, and we did not see all of the glitches. We are confident, we have the machines for the 2023 general elections, each and every machine has been tested, and confirmed that the machine is functional, for the last two weeks, our officials were all testing those machines.

On whether there were attempts to remove him as INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu said;” I am here and I am still Chairman of INEC. He stated that on election day, any prospective voter who is on the queue before 2:30pm will be allowed to vote. Voters, he explained can now do accreditation and voting simultaneously.

Below is the complete speech of Prof Yakubu at the Chatham House


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