2023: We’re better prepared now than we were in 2019 polls – INEC
Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said the umpire body is in a better position to conduct the 2023 general election than it was on the eve of the 2019 polls.
Yakubu said at the visit of the African Union (AU) Special Pre-Electoral Political Mission to INEC in Abuja on Monday.
He said this was possible because, learning from the experience of the 2019 general election, INEC made a case for the amendment to the Electoral Act to allow it more time from the nomination of candidates by political parties to the election.
The chairman said: “As against the 60 days we had under the old law, now parties are required to nominate their candidates 180 days before election day.
“So this will enable us to determine which political parties are fielding candidates for which constituency and to proceed with the procurement processes as well as the production of both the sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the election.
“We have done very well indeed. I am very comfortable to say that at this point with about three months to the election, we have 50% of the non-sensitive materials already deployed to locations, so we are making very good progress indeed.”
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Yakubu said the law also requires the executive to make funds required for the election at least one year before the election, so in terms of disbursement of funds, INEC is in a more comfortable position than it was before the last election.
On the relationship with stakeholders, he said: “We have been doing very well in that respect, take the political parties, for instance, there is a forum called the IPAC (Inter-party Advisory Council) so we meet with political parties just like other stakeholders, the CSOs, the media, the security agencies every quarter.
“So once every three months, we meet with stakeholders whether there is something important to discuss or not. So we can meet many times as possible so long as the need arises. And where we want to communicate with the political parties, short of following a full-blown meeting with them, we then interface with the leadership of the IPAC.
“So we have maintained a very cordial relationship with the stakeholders, our very vibrant stakeholders I must say. So every quarter we meet with them, we brief them and tell them about our plans, our processes, the innovation we are introducing and here in this hall we even demonstrate to them some of the new innovations.”
Yakubu also told the AU delegation that INEC is going to deploy Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) for the next year’s polls to enhance credibility, stressing that there was no going back on their usage.
“We are deploying the BVAS. What it does is to electronically accredit prospective voters using first their PVC to confirm the authenticity of the card once it is confirmed and we confirm the details of the voter, then we do the authentication using the biometrics, the fingerprints, where it fails, we use the facial biometrics,” Yakubu said.
“So we have two-layer biometrics identification and all these are supported and provided by law. Have we tried this in previous elections? Yes we have done so.
“Fortunately, we have been conducting off-cycle elections between August 2020 and July this year, we have conducted elections for 105 constituencies, off-cycle and bye-elections and in quite a number of them beginning with Isoko south 1 state constituency in Delta state, we deployed the BVAS technology and in major governorship elections most recently in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.
“So we are happy that we have discussed this with the stakeholders, we demonstrated to them how its going to work in field and we responded to the initial challenges and hiccups and in the last three elections we have conducted, the machines have functioned optimally particularly in the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections,” he stated.
Yakubu recalled that one of the observations by domestic and international observers in 2019 was that INEC should be more transparent in results management particularly the results emanating from the Polling Units (PUs), hence it is going deploy IReV to achieve that purpose.
The chairman said: “the PUs are the only places where elections take place on election day, what we have subsequently is collation of results from the ward, to the local and to state level and for the presidential election to the national level.
“So we have done something that has never been done in Nigerian election by uploading the PU level result real-time on election day to what we called the IREV and as I said, we have done so between August 2020 and July 2022 in 105 constituencies so we are happy with the pilot that we have conducted and these are results that you can still view on the portal.
“We kept asking particularly political parties to compare the results given to them at the point that is the hard copy signed by their agents and what we uploaded on the IREV portal and we have been asking them if there are discrepancies and so far, all the parties have confirmed that its 99.9% accurate so we are happy with that pilot.
“So I must say that the deployment of these new technologies for election for voter accreditation, for uploading of PU result have come to stay, it is a requirement of the law and it is mandatory for INEC to do so, there is no going back on the deployment of these technologies.”
Yakubu said, inspite of the progress that INEC was making, the commission is still concerned about the security situation generally in the country, particularly the incidence of attacks on our facilities.
“In the last three weeks, three of our local government offices were attacked in three different states of the federation. And the last one occurred yesterday in the south eastern part of the country.
“Now, although there were no casualties but quite a number of the materials already acquired and delivered for the elections have been lost. Now the good thing is so far, we can recover from all the looses but it’s a source of concern.
“This shouldn’t be allowed to continue. So we will continue to engage with the security agencies to make sure that these offices as well as personnel and our facilities are protected ahead of the election,” he stated.
The professor of history said while INEC may express some concern about the attack on its facilities, it will never be deterred from going ahead with the election as scheduled.
“So I want to reassure you that yes we may suffer a little hitches here and there but overall, the commission is required to proceed with the election and to proceed in the manner that the law requires us to do using the deployment of technology for the purpose of accreditation and uploading of PU level result from the PU on election day for transparency.
“And the good thing is that since we started this process, we hear less and less of litigation arising from the conduct of elections by the commission. Now we have more litigations arising from the conduct of primaries by political parties rather than the main election conducted by the commission,” he noted.
Yakubu expressed appreciation to AU for the long -standing cooperation between it and the INEC, saying the commission benefitted tremendously from the union’s observations which have changed way elections are managed today.
He observed that: “Conducting election in Nigeria is not an easy task because of the endowment God has bless us with, having the largest population in the African continent.
“The voter population is 93.5m,
700,000 election duty person, 1.4m election duty staff for both the presidential and governorship elections. So this really huge. The country is vide with a typography. We have to ensure personnel and materials to all these locations irrespective of terrain.”
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, leader of the delegation earlier said, their visit was to assess INEC’s preparedness for the general and to know areas of cooperation for a seamless exercise.
“We would like to hear from you how much u are prepared for this election. How much consensus, is there a margin, on the electoral process and potential dialogue that you may need to encourage among the contesting parties as well as society.
“We would like also to know that the working relationship between yourself and the contesting parties is proceeding as expected. We’re also keen to hear about the role and contributions of CSO, women and young people in particular which we know as people are very much interested in the process and the outcome of this elections.
“And in general all methods that you may want to share yourselves with us about these elections including how much supported you’re financially and the means it takes to work for it. Not every have the means. Let me just emphasis the fact that we’re here on a supportive mission and we are very keen to ensure that we access, peaceful and credible process,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.