2023 polls: We’ll embark on legal reforms –INEC boss

‘…EU’s recommendations on 2019 polls will form benchmarks’

Prof. Yakubu

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has said that steps “are already being taken to reform” the nation’s electoral process ahead of the 2023 polls.

He said recommendations to be provided by the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in the 2019 polls would form major inputs in the areas of reform expected to be submitted to the recently inaugurated Ninth National Assembly, soon.

Yakubu said this Friday in Abuja, at a meeting with the Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), Maria Arena.

He said “the 30 observations and recommendations provided by the EU election observation mission in 2015 were instrumental in improving Nigeria’s electoral processes, including consolidating our democratic system since 1999.”

Specifically, the INEC chairman said the recommendation by the EU, that INEC should merge the accreditation and voting processes on Election Day, a system which was test-run during the Bayelsa governorship election of December 2015, remains invaluable till date.

He commended the EU for her interest in Nigeria’s democratic processes, especially for the deployment of 91 observers to 261 polling units and 94 collation centres in 31 states of the federation during the last presidential and national assembly elections.

Yakubu also commended the EU for the deployment of 73 observers to 223 polling units and 81 collation centres in 22 states of the federation for the governorship, state assembly and FCT area council elections.

He said: “Every election in any democracy around the world is work in progress. We, therefore, look forward to the full EU EOM report and recommendations on the elections. We are confident that there will be useful lessons for the commission as we prepare for future elections. Indeed, the report is coming at the right time as it will feed into our ongoing review of the conduct of the elections.

“Let me assure you that the commission will again quickly focus attention on the electoral legal framework in addition to several other areas of reform. We will study in detail all your recommendations as part of our ongoing internal review of the 2019 general elections which we hope to conclude in the next two months.

“Immediately thereafter, we shall engage with the leadership of the 9th National Assembly on areas that require legislation while implementing aspects of the reform within the powers of the commission in full consultation with stakeholders. There is so much work to do but little time ahead of us.”

Speaking further, he said, “The EU has been part of Nigeria’s steady progress towards democratic consolidation since 1999. The observations and recommendations of the EU Election Observation Mission to the 2015 general elections were particularly useful not only in the design of some important proposals for reforming the electoral legal framework, but also in improving our electoral processes and procedures.

“One of the key recommendations was that we merge the accreditation and voting processes on Election Day, which was subsequently implemented during the Bayelsa governorship election of December 2015 and in all subsequent elections. The implementation of some of the other recommendations went a long way in enhancing our organisational and operational planning and strengthening our engagement with stakeholders.”

No fewer than 75 political parties passed a vote of confidence on the leadership of INEC, especially for bracing all odds to conduct the general elections nationwide peacefully.

Blueprint Weekend reports that the EU observation mission will officially release the report and recommendations arising from the 2019 general elections on Saturday (today) in Abuja.

Speaking earlier, Arena said the EU was returning to the country to give the final report.

She said, “We are here in Nigeria covering the whole country elections processes for three months here in Abuja. The return visit is for presentation of the report. The last visit is meant to give the different stakeholders the final report.

“The final report is the report being written on the EU observation mission with the recommendation on the electoral process and these recommendations are meant to make the necessary improvements, to improve democracy in a country just like Nigeria.

“You know that democracy is something that Nigerians are hopeful and I think that they deserve the best of democracy, a show that they are committed to and these recommendations are for the different stakeholders and stakeholders are important and INEC is one, I may say, perhaps, on the electoral process, the most important one and so you will see that a lot of these recommendations are addressed, of course, to INEC, but they are not the only one.

“I think the government, the parties, the parliament, and also the civil society are concerned about these recommendations on the electoral process.”

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