Challenges won’t stop us from holding elections – INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it is determined to ensure that elections are held in 2023, despite the challenges confronting it and the entire nation.
INEC said this on Thursday while presenting the 2022-2026 Strategic Plan (SP) and the 2023 Election Project Plan (EPP).
While the SP is a blueprint designed to help the commission develop a pragmatic roadmap that will serve as a practical guide for its work in the next five years, the EFF is the collection of activities of INEC departments/directorates with their timelines for the successful conduct of the 2023 general election.
Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, in his speech at the public presentation of the documents in Abuja, described them as the third in the series of strategic election plans since the era of deliberate planning of elections started in 2012.
Yakubu explained that the Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and the 2023 Election Project Plan drew lessons from and thoroughly reviewed the level of implementation of the last plans and built on the successes of the preceding plans, especially in the planning and conduct of the 2019 general election as well as off-cycle and bye-elections.
He said: “Against the backdrop of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current security situation in the country, both plans had to prioritise the institutionalisation of the commission’s processes for the effective delivery of its mandate by focusing on capacity-building, the promotion of professionalism, encouraging greater synergy among departments, improving efficient utilisation of resources, increased deployment of technology as well as greater sensitivity to threats to the electoral process as well as election personnel and infrastructure.
“These concerns are reflected in the plan’s five strategic objectives, each of which identified several key actions, key activities and key outcomes that constitute a broad guide to the vision of the commission to provide electoral operations, systems and infrastructure to support the delivery of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections.”
According to him, the plan also forms the basis for the EPP, which focuses on five key objectives identified by the commission as critical for the successful conduct of the 2023 general election.
Yakubu also disclosed that by next week, the commission would conclude the revision of the regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
He said work had also commenced on the review of the manuals for the training of election duty personnel and with the planning processes virtually completed, the commission would focus its attention on election technology and election administration.
The INEC chairman said the 2023 election would be conducted for 1,491 constituencies nationwide, made up of one presidential constituency, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 28 governorship elections and 993 state constituencies.
He said the election would involve an estimated one million electoral officials (both permanent and temporary or ad hoc staff) deployed to 176,846 polling units in 8,809 wards and 774 Local Government Areas across the country.
According to Yakubu, the election will be governed by a new Electoral Act 2022, which contains many progressive provisions that will enhance the capacity of the commission to conduct elections and manage the electoral process better.
He acknowledged the security challenges and their impact on the electoral process but said INEC would continue to engage early and intensely with the security agencies to ensure the safety of its personnel and materials, accredited observers, the media and the voters.
He said: “Clearly, these are challenging times but we are determined that elections must hold in 2023. However, this is a shared responsibility. INEC plays a critical role but the commission alone cannot deliver the elections we all desire. I therefore appeal to all Nigerians to join hands with us in ensuring that we make a success of the process.
“Let once again reiterate that the dates for all activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election are firm and fixed and all stakeholders are advised to take this into consideration in planning their activities.
“The ongoing continuous voter registration exercise will end on June 30, 2022 and all eligible voters that are yet to register are advised to do so on or before that date if they intend to vote. Furthermore, the PVCs of validly registered voters from the first and second quarters are already available for collection at designated centres nationwide.”
According to Yakubu, permanent voter’s cards have no expiry dates and registered voters that cards issued by the commission remain valid for all elections.
He urged those who have lost their voter cards or whose cards had been damaged to approach any of the INEC registration centres to apply for replacement.
Development partners, civil society organisations and other stakeholders who spoke at the presentation pledged to collaborate with INEC for the success of the 2023 general election.
Seray Jah, country director of international foundation for electoral systems (lFES), said the foundation was ready to continue its support to INEC for the success of the forthcoming elections.
Jah, who was represented by Obaje Ukeh, IFES deputy country director, said the five-year plan and the EPP would act as a road map that would provide focus and guidance for INEC to succeed in achieving its mandate by ensuring seamless conduct of the 2023 general election.
He said: “The launch of the SP and EPP serves as a milestone in INEC’s preparation for the upcoming 2023 general elections, and IFES stands ready to continue its support to the commission for the success of the election.
“lFES over the years has supported and continues to support the commission in the area of training, electoral operations, voter education and its gender and inclusion efforts.”
Hamza Fassi-Fihri, project director of the European Centre for Electoral Support, said the centre would give the same technical assistance it had given INEC over the years to achieve credible and transparent elections in the 2023 polls.