Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu on Wednesday disclosed plans to mobilise relevant national institutions saddled with the responsibility for tracking and combating the illicit flow of funds before and during the 2023 general elections.
Professor Yakubu gave the assurance during the National Stakeholders Forum on the 2023 General Elections, held at the instance of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room (NCSTR) supported by UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), where the CSOs and other stakeholders expressed grave concerns over conduct of elections amidst security, economic challenges.
While speaking on the Commission’s preparation for the 2023 general election, Professor Yakubu described the repeal and re-enactment of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) into the Electoral Act 2022 as the most progressive legislation in the history of elections in Nigeria, as it enables CSOs to track issues arising from the implementation of the law and make suggestions for future review as the need arises.
The INEC Chairman who disclosed that the general election is just 93 days away, affirmed that the Commission has “made tremendous progress in the production and delivery of critical sensitive and non-sensitive election materials to respective State offices, while recruitment and training of ad hoc staff for the election are ongoing.
While speaking on security, campaign finance, technology, the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and assurances that their votes will count on Election Day, Professor Yakubu lamented that 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.”
He also disclosed the Commission’s plan to release a summary highlighting the legal provisions governing the conduct of political rallies, processions and campaigns on Thursday, 24th November, 2022.
“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.
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.
On electoral logistics, he disclosed that arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to various locations during elections are in top gear as the Commission has signed MoU with service providers including Road Transport Unions and planned to expand the scope to include the marine union for the riverine areas.
On her part, the Convener of Civil Society Situation Room, Ms. Ene Obi who applauded all the Partnering Organisation working towards strengthening democracy in Nigeria and contributed tremendously to the improvement of the electoral process, holding Stakeholders accountable and enlightening citizens.
ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
She affirmed that the coalition has achieved a lot since the re-launch of the ‘Credibility Threshold for the 2023 General Elections, last year which outlined the minimum standards that the election needs to fulfil to be regarded as credible.
While noting that “Nigerian is on a test, the citizens are on trial, INEC of Nigeria is on trial and we are all on trial together, the security is on trial, the IGP is on trial, and so how we -play this role, Nigeria is about writing history because we have seen tremendous improvement in our electoral process. IBVAS are now working so gone are the days for ballot box snatching and thumbprinting, we are in a new environment.so as we move in the new system, we appeal to Nigerians in INEC, because the role of citizenship is a big man. That wherever you are standing, you need to stand upright for Nigeria.”
She said: “Nigeria is currently grappling with multiple security challenges across the country. We also witnessed the most monetized political primaries ever in the just concluded political party primaries for the 2023 general elections. What do these all portend for the 2023 General election?
“This year’s stakeholders forum on elections is focused on the role of Stakeholders in Ensuring Free, Fair, Peaceful and Credible Elections. The fact that the 2023 general elections will take part in this context of a grave security crisis is of huge concern.
“We wish to use this forum to critically assess the current political environment and make recommendations and suggestions in the preparations and conduct of the 2023 General Elections. As we inch closer to the 2023 General Elections, all eyes and attention will be on the elections and expectations will be very high considering that this will be Nigeria’s sixth general elections since 1999.
“We will also use the forum to advocate for building political power in order to address civic engagement and voter mobilization. It is our hope to see an improved electoral environment in Nigeria as we head toward the general elections in 2023,” she urged.
Speaking on the British High Commission, FCDO’s Head of Government & Stability, Elizabeth Drew who acknowledged various milestones achieved by INEC and its partners in preparations to execute the elections effectively, averred that: “There have been commendable reforms and innovations introduced by the Commission since the last general elections. This indicates that citizens can look forward to a more transparent and inclusive process in 2023.
“The active contribution of civil society to these reform processes through Nigeria. And are able to engage in a process that is inclusive and efficient. How well the reforms and innovations introduced by INEC perform is also critical to strengthening the trust of citizens and the benefits that democracy holds for Nigeria and its development.
“Nigeria’s democracy really matters. As the largest democracy in Africa, Nigeria’s leadership on electoral reform and practice is important for the continent and beyond. Other countries look to Nigeria on democracy issues.
“The execution of the 2023 polls will be a significant milestone in this respect. As a long-standing partner, we believe in Nigeria. And we believe in democracy in Nigeria. We are keen to see a successful general election in Nigeria next year.
“Civil Society Situation Room has been laudable. There are admittedly concerns as we approach the polls, Nigeria is going into the general elections against a backdrop of security concerns and a challenging economic situation.
“These are all factors that can potentially impact on the successful execution of the polls and hinder the meaningful participation of citizens across the country. The UK stands ready to continue to support INEC and all relevant actors in efforts to effectively execute the polls within this context.
“We are proud of our long-term partnership and support for INEC as it has worked to continue to improve the electoral system. And of our decade-long support to the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room that has allowed the active participation of citizens in the electoral process.
“It is fundamental to that process that citizens are able to turn out and exercise their franchise in a peaceful and conducive environment on election day,” she noted.
In his presentation, ACP Onaghise Osayande who spoke on behalf of the Nigeria Police Force, who expressed the readiness of the Police to ensure peaceful conduct of the 2023 general elections as well as safety of lives and property, averred that the “current legal framework of elections and election security in Nigeria is founded, on the constitution of 1999 (as altered), the electoral Act, 2022, regulations and guidelines for conduct of elections, and the code of conduct & rules of engagement for security personnel on election duty, 2020.
“While the constitution is the foremost legal instrument on election in Nigeria, for the avoidance of doubt, section 2140f the 1999 constitution of Nigeria recognizes the Nigeria police force as the lead agency for internal security in the country (CFRN, 1999). It prohibits the existence of a parallel Police Force in any part of the federation.
“Section 4 of the Police Act and regulations reinforces the provisions of the constitution as it specifies the general function of the police. According to the Act, the police are employed to prevent and detect crime, protect life and property, preserve laws and order, apprehend and prosecute offenders, enforce all laws and rules as well as performing other military duties within and without the country as may be directed by the Act of National Assembly or any other relevant authority (Police Act, 2004).
“It is followed closely in hierarchy by the electoral Act which in turn empowers INEC to provide guidelines and regulations for the conduct of elections, as well as the code of conduct applicable to security personnel during elections.”
While highlighting the challenges, he observed that: “Although the proviso to section 27(3) of the electoral Act, 2022 limits the role to which INEC may request the deployment of the Nigeria Arm Forces only for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials, there is no clear guidelines for such deployment.
“This role has tendency of potentially bringing the Nigeria Armed forces into the arena of voting on election day, as electoral materials are delivered at distribution points and at polling units, with the potential of involving the Military more directly in the electoral process, albeit to play what might be perceived as limited role but which constitutes a crucial element in the polling exercise. Without electoral materials, voting or polling cannot hold.”
He maintained that “whatever the Military can provide by way of security can be provided by the Nigerian Police Force, which is a civil force with direct training in engaging the civil population, unlike the Military.”
While speaking on lack of clear guidelines on command and control, ACP Osayande disclosed that: “the feedback from personnel from the other security agencies other than Nigeria Police force over the past three election cycles reveals that there is no proper command and control structure for operatives deployed under the ICCES.
“Since the Nigeria police force is the lead security agency in election security management, its personnel usually serves as the team lead for the multi-agency proud, there are disagreements and inter-agency rivalries where there are senior officers from other agencies that are being led by a junior officer from the NPF. Reports also abound by the Nigeria Police force of ignored requests of personnel of sister security agencies that be deployed.”