With just 47 days to the start of the much awaited 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has once again said that the conduct of the exercise hangs in the balance due to increasing insecurity in the country.
Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this while speaking at the validation of election security training resources held in Abuja yesterday.
Yakubu, who was represented at the event by the chairman, Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Mr. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, said the elections which is slated February 25 face serious threat of cancellation if the security situation across the country fails to improve.
Besides, he said a cancellation and/or postponement of elections in certain constituencies due to the prevailing security situation in the areas may not only hinder the declaration of elections results, but also cause a constitutional crisis.
“We all appreciate the fact that election security is vital to democratic consolidation through provision of an enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process.
“Consequently, in preparations for the 2023 general elections, the commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security is provided for election personnel, materials and processes.
“This is particularly significant to the commission given the current insecurity challenges in various parts of the country and the fact that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members constitute the core of the Polling Unit Election officials.
“Moreover, if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis. This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen,” he said.
The chairman called on the security agencies and their personnel in particular and all election officials in general to up their game and be alert to unusual activities in their various domains.
“Therefore, security personnel in particular and all election officials in general must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge at all times.
“To this end, the national security adviser, Major-Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), and the INEC chairman have jointly assured the nation that a conducive environment would be provided for successful conduct of the 2023 general election.
“Similarly, the inspector general of police (IG) Usman Alkali Baba, has conducted Election Security Management Workshops across the six geopolitical zones. On its part, the commission, through the Electoral Institute, has institutionalised the development and implementation of a cascaded training mechanism for security personnel as a critical component of its training plan.
“We are also aware that there is a new Electoral Legal Framework that will guide the 2023 as a result of the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022 which prompted the review of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for Conduct of Elections 2022.
“In particular, Sections 47(2), 60(1, 2 & 5), 62(1), 64(4a & 4b) and 64(5) of the Electoral Act 2022, which confers INEC with the power to use any technological device to transmit or transfer election results electronically are instructive in this regard.
“Emboldened by these legal protections, the commission introduced new innovative technologies and procedures and made commitments to the Nigeria People that (a) continuous verification, accreditation and voting will be conducted at the polling units using the bimodal verification and accreditation system (BVAS) and (b) real-time polling unit-level results will be uploaded on to the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) Portal using the same BVAS.
“These commitments require innovative security strategies and deployments for protection of voters, election personnel, materials, equipment, the electoral processes as well as the general public and infrastructure,” he said.
Yakubu believes that the innovative systems and processes minimise human errors and delays in results collation and improve the accuracy, transparency, and credibility of the results collation process thereby ensuring credibility of the process.
“They were tested during the Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections, held on June 18, 2022 and July 16, 2022, respectively. The Hon. Chairman INEC has severally assured the nation that the BVAS and IReV will be deployed during the 2023 general elections.
“Reports on the conduct of security operatives during the elections conducted by the commission, specifically stand-alone governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states have shown progressive and commendable improvement in their disposition to electoral training and professionalism on election duties,” he added.
Recall that as if the end of 2022, it was reported that more than 50 INEC offices had been attacked in four years, across 15 states. Of the number, 11 incidents were reported in Imo state alone, seven in Osun, five in Akwa Ibom, five in Enugu and Ebonyi, four in Abia and Cross River, two in Anambra, Taraba, Borno, and one in Ogun, Lagos, Bayelsa, Ondo and Kaduna.