REMARKS BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS’ FORUM BY THE NIGERIA CIVIL SOCIETY SITUATION ROOM HELD AT THE NIGERIA AIR FORCE (NAF) CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, ON WEDNESDAY 23RD NOVEMBER 2022REMARKS BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS’ FORUM BY THE NIGERIA CIVIL SOCIETY SITUATION ROOM HELD AT THE NIGERIA AIR FORCE (NAF) CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, ON WEDNESDAY 23RD NOVEMBER 2022
The Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation RoomLeaders of Civil Society OrganisationsNational Commissioners of INEC Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am happy to be here today and wish to especially thank the Civil Society Situation Room for the invitation as a Special Guest and for the opportunity to speak on Preparations for the 2023 General Election. I am glad that the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (CSSR) has remained in the forefront of the advocacy for credible elections in Nigeria. I want to seize this opportunity to once again appreciate the umbrella body of civil society organisations in Nigeria for all you have been doing. The repeal and re-enactment of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) into the Electoral Act 2022 is so far the most progressive legislation in the history of elections in Nigeria. While this is a good development, I am confident that civil society will track issues arising from the implementation of the law and make suggestions for future review as the need arises.
2. For today’s event, the Civil Society Situation Room has rightly chosen to focus on the 2023 General Election. As you are aware, the election is just 93 days away and preparations started immediately after the 2019 General Election. You may recall that over a period of 45 days (28th May – 12th July 2019)., the Commission organised a series of consultative meetings with stakeholders to review the 2019 General Election and published a report entitled Review of the 2019 General Election: Report of the Commission’s Retreat and Stakeholder Engagements in which over 170 recommendations were made. Over the last three years, the Commission has implemented most of the recommendations requiring administration action. Those requiring amendments to the law have been substantially addressed in the Electoral Act 2022 while some of those requiring constitutional amendment are currently under consideration.
3. With basically three months to the next General Election, the CSSR has chosen the most appropriate issue of the moment and Nigerians would like to know how far is INEC prepared for the election. We have said repeatedly that based on the 14 activities listed in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the Commission on 26th February 2022, we have so far implemented nine of them on schedule. Similarly, we have made tremendous progress in the production and delivery of critical sensitive and non-sensitive election materials to our State offices. Recruitment and training of ad hoc staff for the election are ongoing.
4. On electoral logistics, particularly the arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to various locations during elections, the Commission met again with the service providers and reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road transport unions. Arising from our experience in previous elections, the Commission has expanded the scope of collaboration to include the marine union for the the riverine areas. Very soon, the revised MoU will be signed with the service providers to cover both land and maritime transportation.
5. However, there are four broad areas that Nigerians would like to receive assurances of the progress the Commission is making and challenges (if any) being encountered. They are security, campaign finance, technology, the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and assurances that their votes will count on Election Day.6. On security, the Commission has said repeatedly that it is an area of concern. The Commission has the responsibility to conduct elections. However, securing the environment for the deployment of personnel and materials as well as the peaceful conduct of elections is a shared responsibility involving the security agencies, the political actors and their supporters, the media and all other critical stakeholders. The perennial insecurity in the country is a source for concern. This existing challenge is compounded by the unfortunate incidents of attacks on campaigns, rallies and processions across all political parties. Although the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for Political Parties are clear, the Commission has found it necessary to remind political parties, candidates and their supporters on the provisions of the law and their responsibilities. Accordingly, tomorrow Thursday 24th November 2022, the Commission will release a summary highlighting the legal provisions governing the conduct of political rallies, processions and campaigns. This will be uploaded to our website and social media platforms.
7. Beyond the provisions of the law, the Commission held an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in the wake of the recent condemnable attacks on our Local Government offices in Ogun and Osun States. Far-reaching resolutions were arrived at, including the deployment of joint security teams to our facilities nationwide. Beyond that, the Inspector General of Police summoned an extraordinary meeting with leaders of political parties on the imperative of peaceful campaigns. We will continue to follow up on that bold step in our engagement with political parties and other critical stakeholders.
8. Turning to campaign finance, the Commission is determined to tackle the matter frontally. Areas of violation include party and candidate expenditure beyond what is provided by law and the diabolical practice of vote buying at polling units on Election Day. Here again, the Commission will tomorrow Thursday 24th November 2022 publish a summary of the guidelines on finances and election expenses of parties and candidates. Beyond that, we are mobilising every national institution with the responsibility for tracking and combating the illicit flow of funds as well as the broadcast and print media regulatory agencies to confront the problem head-on. The details of this will be unveiled shortly.
9. On technology, the Electoral Act 2022 requires the Commission to deploy technology on Election Day for voter accreditation and the upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. These processes will be achieved through the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). I wish to reassure Nigerians that the BVAS has come to stay as the only means of voter accreditation. There will be no incident form on election day. Results from polling units will be uploaded to the IReV portal in real-time. Nigerians will view the results as they are uploaded. For the last two years beginning from August 2020, the Commission has published results direct from polling units in 105 off-cycle Governorship and bye-elections in real-time and the results can still be viewed on the IReV portal. The 2023 General Election will not be different. There is no truth in any insinuation to the contrary. This should put to rest the erroneous notion that Nigerians will not have the opportunity to view polling unit results uploaded by Presiding Officers in real-time on Election Day.
10. On the collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for fresh registrations in 2022 as well as applicants for transfer to other polling units and the replacement of damaged or lost cards, we wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will soon release the timelines and procedure for the collection of PVCs. With the ongoing display of the register for claims and objections, the Commission considered it appropriate to conclude the process so that the cards will not be in the hands of ineligible registrants who may attempt to use them during the election. We understand the anxiety of Nigerians to collect their PVCs and appeal for a little patience as we speedily conclude the necessary safeguards for a transparent process.
11. The cleaning up of the voters’ register is critical to elections. We have been transparent in making the register available both online and manual copies in 9,583 locations nationwide (8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas) for scrutiny by citizens as required by law. The voters’ register is the largest database of citizens in Nigeria. Like all databases of this size, it cannot be perfect. However, the Commission believes that Nigerians are the real owners of the voters’ register. They are therefore in a best position to point out ineligible persons on the register, including deceased persons, that will help the Commission to improve on this critical national asset. I want to reassure you that based on the observations made by Nigerians, we will dutifully clean up the register ahead of the election.
12. Election is a multi-stakeholder activity. We are working with all stakeholders to deliver credible and transparent 2023 General Election. We are only answerable to Nigerians and will continue to defend the integrity of the electoral process. It is for this reason that we cherish our partnership with the civil society. I wish to reassure you that we will continue to work together for the improvement of our electoral process.
13. I thank you and God bless.