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2023: We are worried about continued delay in passage of Electoral Act – Igini

Mike Igini is the Akwa Ibom State Resident Electoral Commissioner. In this brief exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK on the sidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) national retreat on the validation of the draft INEC 2022-2026 Strategic Plan (SP) and Strategic Programme of Action (SPA) last week in Lagos, he spoke on the spate of arson against the commission’s facilities across Nigeria and delay in passage of Electoral Act. Excerpts:

What is the significance of the national retreat and 2022-2026 Strategic Plans (SP) towards delivery of INEC mandate?

Well, this is what we have been doing in the last three years because as an organisation we are saddled with the responsibility to conduct elections which means that we must have short- and long-term plans.

So, what we are doing is the revalidation of strategy plan and strategy programme of action of INEC 2022-2026 to ensure we are able to provide standard operations, infrastructures, which would support the conduct of regular free, fair and inclusive elections that would meet the aspiration and yearning of Nigerians.

So, at the zonal level, state level we have done that. This is what we call a national retreat for all the state Commissioners to harmonise them to a single document from now till 2026.So, all the Commissioners across the country would meet and brainstorm.

We have heard of INEC facilities being attacked in Akwa Ibom State, similar attacks are also happening in some other states. What is your take?

The attack is unfortunate, as the national chairman has said, INEC has what it calls the rational plan and emergent plan for all situations. But my appeal to all Nigerians is that for all the 774 INEC offices nationwide, there is a clear presence of INEC in those places, and interestingly, we are appealing to people in these areas because these offices serve the interest of the people in those areas.

Ninety percent of all INEC offices, beyond the INEC Commissioner and a few other management staff, the rest people in these state offices are basically from those areas. So, no matter the hunger, the bitterness, the issues that we have, those INEC facilities that we have and looking to have more, we should not destroy them.

These are self-negating contests, no matter what, and I know that there is anger in the land but we should not visit that on the few properties that we have. So, we are appealing to leaders, youths to please stop the attacks on the facilities of INEC.

Of course, look at the numbers, 42 so far. In Akwa Ibom State, so far in the 2019 election, three local governments, Ibesikpo-Asukan, which is the prototype modern facility, were brought down, as I speak to you, we don’t have money to put even one block.

In Mkpat-Enin, the same thing, in Eastern-Obolo, where we are hiring a facility, the same thing is happening. Now, look at what is happening in the South East. It is despicable and that is not the way to go, and that is why we are appealing to everybody to assist us to serve you.

In Akwa Ibom, apart from me and a few other people, ninety-eight percent of the staff in the INEC office are indigenes of the state. That is why we are calling on everybody. So, when you destroy those facilities in Akwka Ibom when there are elections in Edo, Delta, those who are to work there would work from their offices. We are appealing that this should stop and leaders of thought, youths to please stop what is going on now.

There is increasing fear among stakeholders that the 2023 general election may be affected with the worsening insecurity in Nigeria; what are you seeing?

We all must work together to ensure that what is going on now we put a stop to it. Because we cannot have meaningful progress, in all areas of national life, inclusive of election when we have this kind of insecurity. So, we are appealing to everybody that there is need for peace to reign.

There is increasing worry among stakeholders on the delay in the passage of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly, especially since the Anambra gubernatorial election is fast approaching. What is happening?

We are concerned, we also know that work is on-going, but we are concerned that up till now we have not been able to get it. But we are hopeful that sooner or later, it will be sorted out; we have been engaging with them.

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