The Chairman of, the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has said that despite Nigeria’s population aspiring to cast their votes in the 2023 general election, the process will be victorious.
He stated this in an event organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) at the NED Headquarters, Washington DC, United States of America, on Tuesday 11th October 2022.
Mahmood said lessons learned from the 2015 and 2019 general elections have helped the commission to introduce various innovations aimed at increasing the credibility of the electoral process to rebuild the citizen’s trust in the possible election results outcome in the country.
“It is the seventh successive general election since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria 23 years ago in 1999.
“We had over 84 million registered voters in 2019. But with the last Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR), we are going to add at least 10 million Nigerians and that will take the Register of Voters to 95 million.
“In West Africa, there are 15 countries including Nigeria. But the total number of registered voters in the 14 countries combined is 73 million. In Nigeria, it’s going to be 95 million. So, there will be 22 million more voters in Nigeria than the whole of West Africa put together. Each time Nigerians go to the polls, it’s like the whole of West Africa voting. And these 95 million citizens will vote in 176, 846 polling units.
“We were there before and almost there in 2018, but there was no new law passed, which made it very, very difficult for the Commission, because we were waiting for the Electoral Act to be passed, it wasn’t passed. For that reason, we couldn’t conclude our Regulations and Guidelines, which draws from the provisions of the Electoral Act and we could also not speedily conclude our manuals for the training of ad-hoc staff.”
Mahmood while applauding the civil society organization and stakeholders’ effort towards the signing of the new electoral Act noted that it has enabled the commission to implement nine out of the fourteen activities lined up for the 2023 general election.
“The new Electoral Act with its many progressive provisions has provided legal backing to the innovations.
“These innovations are now provided for and protected by law, especially those leveraging on technology to improve voter registration, voter accreditation, result management, and the promotion of inclusivity for marginalized persons such as women, youth,s and persons with disability.
“We have completed the cleaning up of the data using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) that combines the fingerprint and the facial authentication of registered voters. Those who registered twice, those who are underage, or those who had no reason to register as provided by law have been weeded out. “The exercise was completed a few days ago. We have not even shared the information with Nigerians, but we have 2.7 million invalid registrants and they have been weeded out. We’ll continue to take steps necessary to protect the integrity of the Register of Voters because it is fundamental to the conduct of elections. There can’t be credible elections without a credible register of voters.”
The INEC boss however reviewed that 50% of cards have already been printed, thus assuring Nigerians that eligible registrants will certainly have their cards in November 2022.
“Nigerians who have registered should be rest assured that they will have their cards ahead of the general election. We also need to do so in good time because the law now requires us to publish the number of cards collected per polling unit.”
Prof. Yakubu, therefore, used the medium to educate the international community on the functionality of BVAS and IReV to properly equip them on how to follow up on the 2023 election activities.
“Results are uploaded from the polling units in real-time and this has increased transparency in result management. Some of you here may recall that the Observers’ Reports from 2019 harped on the need for the Commission to ensure transparency in result management. This is our response to the request for greater transparency in result management.
“It has helped us to eliminate the falsification of results at the polling unit level to the collation centers. Sometimes, as the results move from the polling unit level where the election is conducted to the collation centers, some of the figures changed. But now everybody sees the results from the polling unit level and some of the political parties that have their situation rooms know the outcome of the elections even before we make an official declaration. But they still have to wait for our official declaration anyway.
“We have deployed the IReV in 105 off-cycle and bye-elections. We believe that the system is robust and we are taking additional measures to safeguard and fortify our web resources generally against threats of attack.”
Speaking on the nation’s security situation, the INEC chair expressed confidence that agencies responsible for securing the lives of voters and officials are up for the game as no stone will be left unturned.
“The first concern is the perennial issue of insecurity in different parts of the country, compounded by the traditional issues of thuggery during elections organized by some of the political actors. I say it is a perennial issue because, at the end of the day, it is nothing new. However, the dimension of the insecurity is concerning in the sense that in the past, it was localized or confined to a particular part of the country, the northeast. But now it is more widespread and we are keeping our eyes, particularly on the northwest and the southeastern parts of the country.
“Elections are conducted by human beings. We worry about the security of our officials, voters and the materials to be deployed. Without them, we cannot conduct elections. We have spoken to the security agencies, and they have assured us that the situation will improve before the elections. So, fingers crossed. Those who are supposed to secure the environment have assured us that they will secure the environment for us to conduct elections. Our responsibility is to conduct elections.”
Mahmood further pledged its commitment to constantly engage with Social Media influencers to curb fake news
on election results which stand as a potential trigger for violence.