.INEC

…INEC has water-tight measures against rigging — Yakubu

…To monitor parties on campaigns, funding limits

Former Inspector-General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, and the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday identified insecurity and insufficient manpower as some of the challenges threatening the 2023 general polls and urged synergy among all stakeholders to overcome them.

However, Professor Mahmood Yakubu vowed to deliver free, fair and credible elections, boasting that the electoral commission has mapped out anti-rigging measures that will ensure voters determined the outcome of the elections.

The duo spoke at the sixth annual conference of the Guild of Corporate Online Publishers, GOCOP, in Lagos themed: “2023 Elections: Managing the Process for Credible Outcome.”

Recently, Yakubu raised the alarm that the current security situation in the country could pose a serious threat to the successful conduct of next year’s general elections.

Yakubu expressed the commission’s concerns at the opening ceremony of election security management training organised by the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja. He lamented that the responsibility of ensuring the safety and security of voters, election personnel and materials, candidates, party agents, and observers, among others, is becoming challenging, especially as hoodlums and terrorists target the commission’s facilities in some states.

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Threat to polls

In his remarks, yesterday, Arase identified insecurity and insufficient manpower as some of the challenges that INEC might face in the forthcoming polls.

His words: “The challenge we are likely to face in these elections: in terms of manpower dependence; we have had off-season elections in Ondo, Ekiti, Anambra, so it was easy to mobilise men and material to those areas. In the election that is coming up next, the police will not have that privilege because everybody will be manning their elections in their various states and for the civil defence and all the other extended police families put together, how are they going to come together to ensure that the election goes well?

“Then, the insecurity in the country, look at the North-East, North-West and North-Central. Sometimes some of these insecurities move from one region to the other so you cannot properly situate them. How are we going to deal with them when half of the police have been given to the elites to serve as escorts?

“I recommended to the IG when we finished our training that the people who should manage the communication desk of the police must be people who are knowledgeable enough, who are good at communication that their utterances will not escalate instead of de-escalating events.”

The former Inspector General of Police urged that “institutional synergy between the new media, civil society and security agents” be maintained to bring about an impressive election.

He also urged the INEC chairman to look for a means to penalise electoral offenders, saying: “I don’t know what we are going to do about electoral offences. This is the only country where there are no consequences for such. People do things and get away with them.”

Votes will count

Yakubu, who was the keynote speaker, promised that only genuine voters will be allowed to vote, disclosing that the Commission had learned from past experiences in dealing with issues of multiple voting and impersonation

“Each time Nigerians go to the polls, it’s like conducting elections for the whole of West Africa. Votes will continue to count and will be the sole determiner. For this reason, the Commission has made innovations supported by the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, to ensure that only genuine voters are permitted to vote,” he said.

Measures against rigging

Professor Yakubu also urged Nigerians to draw the attention of election stakeholders to any underage voter seen trying to cast votes in the elections.

His words: “I wish to restate once again the commitment of INEC to credible elections. Votes will continue to count and will be the sole determinant of the electoral outcome. For this reason, the Commission has introduced many new innovations, supported by the deployment of appropriate technology, to protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls ranging from voter registration to voter accreditation and result management.

The deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, with its dual fingerprint and facial biometric accreditation process has ensured that only genuine voters are accredited to vote during elections.

This has curtailed the incidence of multiple voting and other sharp practices associated with voter accreditation during elections. The BVAS has come to stay and will be the only means by which voters will be accredited in the 2023 general election.

“Furthermore, the introduction of the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal has made the result management procedure more transparent. Polling Unit results are now uploaded in real-time to the IReV portal for public view. This has enhanced the transparency, credibility and consequently public confidence in the outcome of elections. The IReV has come to stay and polling unit results will be uploaded to the portal in real-time in the 2023 General Election.”

With INEC’s publication of the final list of 15,322 candidates for the general polls contesting for 1,491 seats (one Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives and 993 State Assembly constituencies, Yakubu noted that the tempo of political activities has increased since September 28 commencement of presidential campaigns.

Fighting fake news

He urged the media and GOCOP to fight against fake news because “a lot of the activities will take place in the media of which the new media is a critical player. We must continue to work together against the spread of fake news, misinformation and disinformation that seek to create or exacerbate tension or de-legitimise processes and outcomes…

“As you are aware, elections are a multi-stakeholder activity. As the Commission is doing its best to ensure a credible process, we also appeal to the media for a continuous partnership. Managing the electoral process for credible outcomes is the responsibility of all of us. As campaign activities get underway, the media will continue to play an important role.”

To monitor parties on funding, issue-based campaigns

Tasking the parties and candidates on issue-based peaceful electioneering campaigns in line with the peace accord they signed last week as well as the limit of campaign funding, Yakubu warned: “For our part, the Commission will pay particular attention to the conduct of parties, candidates and their supporters. As a regulator, the commission will play its role to ensure compliance with the provision of the law as well as our guidelines and regulations.

“We will pay particular attention to peaceful campaigns devoid of abusive, intemperate and slanderous language as well as the use of innuendos or insinuations likely to provoke a counter-reaction resulting in the breach of the peace. Similarly, we will pay special attention to the observance of limits on party and candidate finance. I urge political parties and candidates to carefully study the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and familiarise themselves with their obligations as well as the penalties under the law.”

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