- Accuses politicians, political parties of plots to subvert Electoral Act
- Insists on transparent, credible elections
- Says preliminary register of voters stands at 93,522,272
BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
The Independent National Electoral Commission has reassured Nigerians and international observers of its resolve to conduct a free, fair, transparent and credible election in 2023 after identifying 23 registration officers involved in some cases, where some politicians made as many as 40 attempts or more to register one fake voter.
The National Chairman of the Commission, Mahmood Yakubu who made this known during the third quarterly Consultative meeting with the representatives of the registered political parties in Abuja on Wednesday, also said there is no going back on the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and INEC Results Viewing portal.
Yakubu said, “Already, we are at the most critical stage in the implementation of the activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the General Election. Working with political parties and other stakeholders, the Commission has so far successfully implemented nine of the 14 activities for the General Election. We are also making steady progress in other critical areas of preparation for the election, including the provision of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, the recruitment of staff and planning for the movement of personnel and materials for the election.
“Only last week, we commenced the training of master trainers on election technology to ensure a seamless process. Beginning from tomorrow, we will commence the same training at zonal level and subsequently train all the ad hoc staff for the 176,846 polling units nationwide. On this note, let me once again reassure Nigerians that there is no going back on the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation.
“There is no going back on the transmission of results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in real-time on Election Day. There will be no Incident Form that enables ineligible persons to vote using other people’s Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) during elections. We are committed to ensuring that the 2023 General Election is transparent and credible, reflecting the will of the Nigerian people.”
The Chairman reiterated that the critical foundation for credible election is the voters’ register.
“You may recall that the CVR which started on 28th June 2021 lasted for 13 consecutive months until its suspension on 31st July 2022. During that period, the Commission gave Nigerians a regular weekly update showing the progress of the exercise nationwide, including analysis of the distribution of voters by age, occupation, gender and disability for our planning purposes and for public information.
“At the end of the exercise, 12,298,944 Nigerians successfully completed the registration as new voters. All along, we have repeatedly assured Nigerians that our process of cleaning up the register is robust. After a rigorous cleaning-up of the data using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), a total of 2,780,756 (22.6%) were identified as ineligible registrants and invalidated from the record, among them double/multiple registrants, under aged persons and out rightly fake registrations that fail to meet our business rules. Consequently, the number of valid registrations (post-ABIS) is 9, 518, 188,” he noted.
The INEC boss further noted that in terms of demographic distribution, 7.2 million new voters or 76.5% are young people between 18-34 years while there is a slightly higher number of female (4.8 million or 50.82%) than male (4.6 million or 49.18%) voters while in terms of occupation, 3.8 million (40.8%) are students.
He told them that the hard copies giving the full details of the distribution of the new voters are included in their folders for this meeting. The soft copy has already been uploaded to the Commission’s website and social media platforms.
While confirming attempts by some politicians and their cronies to corrupt the Commission’s registration officers, Yakubu said, “The Commission deployed thousands of diligent staff for the CVR exercise and the vast majority of them discharged their duties conscientiously. Unfortunately, a few of them did not. The fictitious registrations were carried out by some of our Registration Officers involved in the field exercise and could easily be traced. Each registration machine is operated using an access code tied to a dedicated email assigned to a staff.
“There is therefore an audit trail that gives the total number of persons registered by each official involved in the registration exercise. In some case, some of them made as many as 40 attempts or more to register one fake voter. As a result, the Commission has so far identified 23 Registration Officers involved in this unethical conduct and disciplinary action has commenced. We shall continue to protect the integrity of our voters’ register. It is pivotal to credible elections. It is also a national asset and easily the largest database of citizens in Africa and one of the largest in the world.”
He revealed that the 9,518,188 new voters have been added to the existing register of 84,004,084 voters adding that the preliminary register of voters in Nigeria now stands at 93,522,272.
According to him, “It is preliminary because Section 19(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 requires the Commission to display the hard copies of the register of voters for each Registration Area (Ward) and Local Government Area (and simultaneously publish the entire register on the Commission’s website) for a period of two weeks for scrutiny, claims and objections by citizens not later than 90 days to a General Election.
“Accordingly, he continued, “in the next few days, the Commission will print 9,352,228 pages of the register. The hard copy will be displayed for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) and 774 Local Government Areas nationwide while the entire register will be published on our website for claims and objections as required by law. The display of the physical register will take place at the designated centers from Saturday 12th – Friday 25thNovember 2022. Further details, including the procedure for filing claims and objections, will be released by the Commission next week. I would like to appeal to all Nigerians to seize the opportunity of the display to scrutinize the list and help us to clean it up further so that the final register of voters for the 2023 General Election can be compiled and published.”
He also disclosed that the Commission is working hard to ensure the completion of printing of remaining PVCs for new voters as well as those that applied to transfer or the replacement of their lost or damaged cards saying, “In the coming days, we will also inform Nigerians of the detailed plan to ensure a seamless collection of the PVCs. We are aware that Nigerians expect an improvement in the procedure for PVC collection. Since the end of the CVR in July this year, we have been working to ensure that citizens have a pleasant experience when they come to collect their cards.
“Beyond voter registration and the compilation of the voters’ register, the Commission has released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the three off-cycle Governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States to be held on Saturday 11th November 2022.
“Last week, the Commission cautioned political parties, candidates and their supporters to eschew violence during the electioneering campaign. The statement was necessary against the background of clashes among supporters of different political parties, including allegations of denial of access to public facilities and the destruction of billboards and other outdoor campaign materials by acts of thuggery.
“The campaigns have just begun. As party leaders, you should remain committed to peaceful electioneering. We will continue to work together to remove encumbrances to the right of parties and candidates to freely canvass for the support of the electorate. The Commission will continue to track the campaigns and will not hesitate to initiate the prosecution of violators as provided by law.
“It is clear to the Commission that as the General Election approaches, there will be a need to meet more frequently with leaders of political parties. We hope that in spite of your campaign activities, you will oblige us. In fact, we plan to invite you very soon for a discussion on political rallies and the issue of campaign finance, including the limits on expenses set by the Commission after consultation with political parties.”
Responding to the INEC Chairman’s remarks, National Chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council, Yabagi Yusuf Sani condemned without hesitation attacks and moves by some politicians and political parties to subvert the quality works by the INEC Chairman and his staff towards ensuring that credible and transparent elections are conducted in 2023 and also assured the INEC boss of total support from the IPAC in his bid to give Nigerians a free, fair, transparent and credible elections.
He said, “On the basis of our evaluation that INEC has been well on track, the leadership of IPAC additionally, wishes to use this occasion to condemn the emerging antics and smear campaign by certain shadowy and cowardly figures who clearly have embarked on the treacherous and unpatriotic conspiracy of reversing the outstanding landmarks, the INEC has recorded in recent years in the annals of the nation’s electoral history.
“Going further, I wish to firstly, reiterate the continual commitment of IPAC to the longstanding cooperation and mutually beneficial relationship between us and the INEC. I want to use this occasion to also reaffirm the confidence of IPAC in the leadership of INEC for its consistent demonstration of diligence, uncommon zeal and patriotism in the pursuit of the agency’s statutory mandate.
“To us in IPAC, the real object of the darts of venom being directed at the person of the Chairman and the institution of the INEC are merely a decoy. The real target of the machinations is the circumvention of the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, the Electronic Transfer of results and the other security devices INEC has deftly and painstakingly put in place to enhance the integrity of the electoral process.
“The spurious allegations they are orchestrating especially in the online platforms are part of the strategies to prepare the grounds for their planned onslaught to achieve their nefarious goal within legal frameworks. It is also aimed at blackmailing and intimidating Professor Mahmoud Yakubu to surrender by compromising the stance of the Commission on the strident, airtight security measures against the maladies of rigging and other electoral malpractices that had perennially tarnished the integrity of elections in the country in the past.
“However, we believe that they will not have their way no matter their desperation and whatever their pranks and machinations. The use of technology in the conduct of elections in Nigeria has become sacrosanct and fait accompli. Every player in the country’s power game must come to terms with the new reality that they can no longer rig elections brazenly and with impunity.”
Reassuring their unflinching support, Dani said, “Mr. Chairman Sir, you can count on the usual support of IPAC, and as it is, the goodwill and backing of most citizens of the country in the present circumstance. We urge you to remain steadfast and strong in the consciousness that you have your hard-earned reputation to protect; that the eyes of the entire nation and indeed, the wider global community are keenly focused on you.
“At the end of the day, your choice on the issues currently at stake, will go far in defining your legacy, long after our generation. In other words, history beckons on you. May the Almighty God guide and provide you with the needed strength and wisdom to wither the storm.”
The IPAC also used the occasion to express concern on the emerging negative signals against peaceful, credible conduct of the 2023′ general elections which include the brazen breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act and other extant laws on the use of money with impunity, during the last off-season governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.
IPAC leadership also noted the spikes in the use of divisive languages and hate speeches by several chieftains and spokespersons of some of the political parties in the mass media and at political rallies. “We want to assure you that the reprehensible, irresponsible and reckless utterances which are already heating up the polity with the potential of leading to the even more dangerous dimension of igniting mutual hate, animosity and violence along the nation’s existing tenuous fault lines is being addressed by IPAC.
“Sooner than later, our effort in ensuring decency and issue-based campaigns will manifest in the conduct of our members; the political registered parties, candidates and their spokespersons.
“To deepen the roots of democracy and good governance, violence in all its ramifications must be uprooted from the political space. We are in this regard, calling on the nation’s security agencies and other relevant bodies to gear up in the performance of their statutory responsibilities professionally and objectively.”