The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu has restated the Commission’s preparedness to go ahead with the 2023 elections as scheduled and promised Nigerians that the Commission will deliver credible elections. The first set of elections will hold on February 25. Speaking in an interview with BBC News Africa, Professor
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu has restated the Commission’s preparedness to go ahead with the 2023 elections as scheduled and promised Nigerians that the Commission will deliver credible elections. The first set of elections will hold on February 25.
Speaking in an interview with BBC News Africa, Professor Yakubu insisted that the commission remained non-partisan and committed to the allegiance sworn to, to be transparent and conduct credible election. And, working with security agencies will make sure elections hold in every part of Nigeria as at when due.
He words: “Preparations are on top gear, elections in Nigeria is a huge undertaking, the total number of registered voters for the 2023 elections is 93 million that is 16.7 million more registered voters in Nigeria than the other 14 countries in West Africa put together. So in other words, an election in Nigeria is like conducting an election for the whole of West Africa and beyond, so it is huge”, he noted.
On the purported news of the postponement of the general elections due to insecurity and several arsons on INEC facilities across the country, Professor Yakubu stated that the commission has found its feet on recovery from the attacks on the commission’s offices across the country.
He noted that the challenge of insecurity has been in existence for a long time, and it will not deter the commission from conducting the elections as earlier stated in the commission’s official statement. He added that the parts of the country with more insecurity have been identified and the commission has already promised the electorates that it can recover from the attacks in due time.
“Yes, there is insecurity, but insecurity it is perennial but we are committed to conducting elections as scheduled. So to answer your question directly, the 2023 general elections will not be postponed. The commission is not even contemplating adjustments to the timetable. We are good to go for these elections.
“We have identified those locations where facilities have been attacked and we have assured Nigerians that we can recover from those attacks. This year in particular, we have had attacks in a number of places, 11. But these are attacks from which we can recover, so I can’t see that as an obstacle to the conduct of elections nationwide, we are going to proceed as scheduled.
n the disparities discovered in the voters’ registration and how the commission tackled the irregularities found which include double registrations and underage registrations, the INEC boss stated that the commission deployed Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to clean the data.
Professor Mahmoud further explained that after the clean-up with the technology, 2.7 million voters with invalid registrations were screened out of the voters, indicating that the current data for voter registrations is more reliable.
“Well, we have a robust system of cleaning up the voters register, using what we call Automated Biometric Identification System under the continuous voters’ registration, that we did for, over a period of one year, some 12 million Nigerians were registered.
“But when we apply our business rules to clean up the data we dropped 2.7 million out of them among then the invalid registrations. The invalid registrants may be those who are not qualified by age because the minimum age for registration is 18 in Nigeria or those who are not Nigerian citizens or deceased persons whose names are on the register or multiple registrants.
“So, we are reasonably confident that we have cleaned up the register. However, cleaning up the register is a continuous process. But I want to say that the voter register in Nigeria is a national treasure. It is simply the largest database of citizens in the country and the largest database of citizens in Africa. So we will continue to clean up the voter register but the core of the register is solid and I’m happy with the register”, he expatiated.
When asked about some politicians’ doubts about the electronic transmission of results and deployment Bimodal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS), which the electoral commission insists on deploying during the elections, the electoral chairman expressed his confidence in the technology.
He added that the commission has a strong belief in the BVAS and IReV, noting that the results from the previous elections since conducted using the machines have proved credible and reliable. He also noted that the commission has partnered with network providers to provide network for the blind spots in the country.
“ We did the pilot in August 2020 at Nasarawa state in Central Nigeria, when we conducted a by-election in the state constituency. And since then, we piloted the transmission of results. And since then, we piloted the transmission of results in 105 constituencies nationwide, including major governorship elections. We did it in Anambra, we did it in Ekiti and Osun, and we also did it in the Federal Capital Territory.
“Now, some of them may be small elections in the Nigerian context. But the state with the least number of registered voters in places where we transmitted election results is Ekiti. But Ekiti has more registered voters than the Gambia and Cape Verde put together. So we are happy with the pilot that we have conducted and we are reasonably confident in the strength of the processes.
“The machine on election day doesn’t rely on the Internet to accredit voters. It works offline, now when it comes to the transmission of results that is where it needs to network. But if there is no network in the immediate vicinity, the scanned image of the polling unit level results which is taken using BVAS (Bimodal Voters Accreditation System) will be transmitted as soon as the staff move from the polling unit to the collation centres. And we have been working with the major telecom companies in Nigeria and we are satisfied that the number of blind spots can be addressed in the country. And the number of blind spots where you have no network is really small”, he noted
Dismissing the allegations that the electoral commission is compromised and that the chairman is close to the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC), and that can affect the credibility of the coming election, Professor Mahmoud noted it is just an allegation, which is common on all electoral commission across the world.
He stated that the electoral body does not have allegiance to the political parties and political actors. He stated that the commission will continue to uphold its integrity and to ensure that all votes count.
” That’s just an allegation. People always say so of all electoral commissions, including electoral commissions in Nigeria and other countries as well, the usual accusations. But look at the kind of elections we have been conducting of late, different political parties have won different elections and believe that the votes are counting and will continue to count and they are confident in the process.
So my assurance to the citizens is that we’ll continue to do what is necessary to ensure that we protect the integrity of the process. As I said, our allegiance is to the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not to any political party or any political actor”, he reassured.