The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday, disclosed that 530,538 security agents would be deployed for the next general election.
He explained that the commission needed 1,265,227 external officials ahead of the 2023 elections, adding that it had accomplished 11 out of the 14 activities in its timelines for the exercise.
Security personnel, who will man the polling units, will include policemen and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps personnel.
This is as the Senate said the electoral body had no excuse as far as the required credibility of the coming general elections was concerned because the upper chamber had met all the requirements of the commission.
But speaking at the Chatham House, London, United Kingdom, the INEC chairman in his presentation titled, ‘Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Preparations and Priorities for Electoral Integrity and Inclusion,’ allayed fears, stressing that the election would be held as scheduled.
To this end, he disclosed that 707,384 presiding officials and 17,685 supervisory presiding officers and 9,620 collation/returning officers would take charge of the polling units, totalling 1,265,227.
Yakubu stated, “For the 2023 general elections, the commission requires at least 707,384 presiding and assistant presiding officers, about 17,685 supervisory presiding officers, 9,620 collation/returning officers as well as 530,538 polling unit security officials, making a total of 1,265,227.
“These are not staff of the commission and must be painstakingly recruited and trained to ensure that they are both fit-for-purpose and non-partisan.
“However, the greatest number of election officials in Nigeria are these temporary or ad hoc staff recruited principally from among young Nigerian university and polytechnic graduates enrolled in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps, students of tertiary institutions, staff of federal agencies and university lecturers. Preparing them adequately for their roles as polling officials, supervisors and result managers is central to a successful election.’’
Speaking further, the INEC boss said issues such as the security challenge and attacks on its assets were beyond the commission’s powers, noting, however, that it was tackling vote-buying or voter bribery by political parties and candidates.
Yakubu observed that the insecurity across the country posed a major security threat to credible elections, adding that violence made deployment for elections difficult, particularly where some of the attacks were targeted at the electoral process and participants.
The commission assured that it had been working with security agencies and other stakeholders to establish mechanisms to understand, track and mitigate security challenges.
“We are working collaboratively in the context of ICCES and we also have the Election Violence Mitigation and Advocacy Tool, which is a research and diagnostic tool for predicting and mitigating election violence before elections. In addition, there is the Election Risk Management Tool, which tracks and reports general risks to elections.
“In all, we feel assured by the actions we have taken and our collaboration with the security agencies. The 2023 general elections will proceed as planned. There is no plan to postpone the election. A more pertinent issue for the commission is the fate of displaced voters,” Yakubu said.
The INEC boss argued that elections might not be conducted in areas of displacement, noting that despite this challenge, the commission had since 2015 put in place a policy and framework for voting by IDPs.
He added, “If they are organised in camps, we can recreate the polling units and enable them to vote. It was done in 2015, and 2019 and only recently, we convened a meeting with stakeholders to validate the revised framework and policy for voting by IDPs.
“The difficulty we face is with those who are not living in the displaced people camps but are living with relatives in safer communities. It becomes difficult to organize elections for them.
“We have over two million persons in displaced camps across several states and we will organise elections for them the way we did in 2015 and 2019.’’
Yakubu said the amended Electoral Act would, among other things, would reduce the challenge faced by the commission in the area of inconclusive elections as polling is now defined in terms of accredited and not registered voters.
He also told his audience that the law empowered the commission to review the result of elections to ensure that declarations were made voluntarily and that results emerge by the law, regulations, guidelines and manuals for elections.
The electoral body said it had received the last batch of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines which would be used in the election.
He added, “That puts us on course to perform functional and integrity tests on every BVAS to be deployed for the election, which has been concluded in many states nationwide.
“In addition, we plan to conduct a series of mock trials of the BVAS with actual voters in real-time in parts of the country to further ascertain their functioning in actual election situations.
“Other sensitive materials such as the ballots and result forms are being printed. The commission is progressively taking delivery of them and deploying them to locations across the country.’’
Speaking on the voter register which has 93.4m eligible voters, Yakubu said many claims and objections led to the deletion of several names.
The clean-up of the register, he disclosed, was painstakingly conducted using the automated biometric identification system to detect and delete many multiple registrants.
“Expectedly, several other claims could not be backed by evidence for verification, as provided by law, thereby making it difficult for the commission to take any further action.
“However, the commission believes that it has a solid register for the election, which remains the largest database of Nigerians in existence. In any case, in every jurisdiction, improvement of the voter roll is a continuous process, and ours is no exception,’’ he said.
Clarifying the bottlenecks regarding the collection of permanent voter cards, Yakubu said state offices of the commission had been directed to review the procedure and remove any barriers.
According to him, they are also to deal with allegations of extortion by staff, inducement of officials by registered voters seeking to collect their cards and discriminatory issuance of PVCs.
In the discharge of its responsibilities, Yakubu hinted that the commission had been joined in 791 court cases involving intra-party elections and nomination of candidates by political parties as of January 6, 2023.
In the 2019 general election, the commission said it was involved in 1,689 cases, made up of 852 pre-election, 807 post-election and 30 electoral offences cases.
It pledged to continue obeying clear orders of courts.
Following warnings by INEC that campaign violence and vote buying may impact negatively the 2023 elections, some political parties on Tuesday disclosed what they had been doing to address the challenges.
Speaking on the twin challenges, the Director of Publicity of the All Progressives Congress, Bala Ibrahim, said INEC had nothing to worry about, given the role the APC played in bringing about the 2022 Electoral Act.
He said, “The APC as a party and President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader of the party, midwife the electoral reforms that identified these problems and we are trying to nip them in the bud.
“These are challenges the party has been discussing and telling INEC to ensure that those problems are addressed. So, a party that midwife reforms aimed at sanitizing and bringing changes that will bring dividends to the electoral system will not panic. We will not leave our responsibility of ensuring that the elections are clean, free, fair and credible.’’
On his part, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ibrahim Abdullahi, challenged INEC to tell the world how it would address the challenges rather than re-echoing them.
“They should be informing us of the remedial measures against these familiar vices, not re-emphasising what we already know. Of course, these are factors that would negatively affect the outcome often in favour of the ruling party.
“The PDP is intensifying campaigns against these tendencies and we are sanitising party faithful and Nigerians accordingly,” he said.
The National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Oye, assured that his party would not engage in any illicit acts.
Oye stated, “Our attention is primarily focused on electioneering. We are not engaged in these uncivil acts. We believe that the electorate will vote for us once they are satisfied with our performance.
“For this reason, we concentrate on delivering the dividends of democracy to them. It is the duty of INEC and security agencies to deal with any perceived threats to the election.’’
But speaking on election security, Chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, Auwal Rafsanjani, commended the efforts of INEC and the government, even as he said the job of securing the elections involved the buy-in of everyone involved, from community leaders to political leaders, to ensure the delivery of credible elections.
He further said the electoral body would be able to deliver on its mandate, if the security officials did not sabotage the elections, by letting themselves be bought over by politicians.
“If the security agents are not compromised, in other words, if they have not been bribed by some politicians or political parties to play a funny role, then it is also possible that we can achieve that objective.
‘’So, the security agencies must not be biased, must not be seen to be supporting any candidate or political party. That’s how it can be successful. But if they are biased, then it will be difficult to achieve that aspiration of INEC,’’ he submitted.
The Executive Director, the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, commended the planned security deployment for the poll, noting that insecurity was a big challenge to the elections.
She said, “I think that it is positive, and I think it should give us some sort of confidence that things are being done the right way because our projection before was there will be 400, 000 security agents but with 500,000 now, it is like positive, positive, positive.
“As long as they are well spread, and they would be able to protect the citizens, people can come out and vote during this election because insecurity is a big challenge to these elections.”
Meanwhile, the Senate has said that INEC had been given all the funds and materials needed for the smooth conduct of the elections.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who said this during the plenary on Tuesday, charged the electoral umpire to be on top of its game to ensure that the February 2023 poll met the expectations of Nigerians.
He said, “INEC has gotten everything it has asked for, from the legislature to aid the conduct of a credible election and as such excuses will not be condoned.
“The security agencies have also assured everyone that the environment will be safe and secured for citizens to go out and cast their votes without any hindrance.”
He, however, added that the National Assembly was ready to support INEC and other agencies of government that will work to ensure free, fair and credible elections.
He urged Nigerians to leverage on the window of collection of PVCs in the exercise of their franchise.
“2023 will redefine the future of the country as Nigerians prepare to elect officers to the various positions both in the National and state levels,” he added. ,
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