INEC’s timely warning to political parties

The warning issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to political parties, their candidates and supporters not to complicate the security situation of the country is not only timely but also germane to the successful conduct of peaceful, credible and acceptable general elections scheduled for February next year.

INEC expressed worry that, even as it is working hard to ensure a credible process in the forthcoming elections, there are reports of clashes among parties and their supporters in some states during campaigns.

It decried the reported denial of access to public facilities for parties and candidates in some states, and cautioned parties and their supporters to focus on issues and steer clear of attacks.

Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, raised these concerns at the training of master trainers on technologies for the 2023 general elections held in Abuja last week.

INEC’s warning came barely 24 hours after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaign was reportedly attacked by suspected thugs in Kaduna, Kaduna state.

Yakubu said these acts were not only violations of the Electoral Act 2022 but also negated the voluntary commitment by all political parties and candidates to the letter and spirit of the Peace Accord signed about three weeks ago under the auspices of the National Peace Committee.

“Parties, candidates and their supporters should not by acts of commission or omission further complicate the prevailing security situation in the country. A peaceful electioneering campaign is critical to the conduct of peaceful and credible elections,” he said.

Yakubu said the commission would continue to monitor the situation closely and would convene a meeting with leaders of political parties, to discuss, among the other issues, the imperative of peaceful campaigns and equal access to public facilities.

He said the commission would meet with the security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security this week.

On the training, Yakubu said: “From the experience of recent off-cycle elections, the commission is convinced that a critical success factor in the deployment of technology in elections is training.

“We need to build the capacity of the staff involved not only to competently handle the devices during the accreditation process but also respond effectively to any glitches that may occur during elections.”

He said INEC’s plan for the 2023 general elections is to commence the training of election officials early and for a longer period of time for optimal understanding of the processes and procedures in order to serve Nigerians better, adding that a key component of this effort is election technology.

Yakubu said: “Today, we begin the process with the training of master trainers to serve as Registration Area Technical Support. A total of 82 officials drawn from our offices nationwide will form the nucleus of the training.

“Over the next three days, they will receive intensive hands-on training on the new technology. Thereafter, they will train more officials at zonal level to cover all the 8,809 registration areas (or wards). In turn, these officials will be involved in the training of ad hoc staff for the 176,846 polling units nationwide.

“I urge the 82 staff involved to pay special attention to the training that you will receive at this workshop. Your role as master trainers is critical to the success of training at subsequent levels and ultimately the successful deployment of the devices during elections.

“For this reason, the commission will not accept laxity on your part. Much as we have confidence in your ability to understand and discharge your responsibilities to the officials you will subsequently train, there will be consequences for unethical behaviour or any act of misconduct. I wish you a successful training.”

The INEC boss reiterated that the combination of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and the INEC Result Viewing portal have come to stay as a means of voter accreditation and transmission of election results.

He said: “Over the last two years, the commission has increased the deployment of technology in the elections in Nigeria. Systems and portals have been designed and developed to cater for different electoral activities ranging from voter registration and accreditation, result transmission from the polling units, the nomination of candidates by political parties to the accreditation of polling agents, observers and journalists for elections.”

It is instructive that all the candidates and the national chairmen of their parties signed a peace accord organised by the National Peace Committee in Abuja on Thursday, September 29, 2029, a day after the start of the national campaigns.

It is regrettable that despite the peace accord signed by presidential candidates of all political parties committing themselves to a peaceful campaign for the 2023 elections some hoodlums, obviously sponsored by unscrupulous and desperate politicians, could resort to unleashing violence on their opponents.

Parties to the peace accord need be reminded that signing the accord to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner devoid of acrimony, hate speech and character assassination during the electioneering and even beyond is sacrosanct. We, therefore, urge them to respect and keep the peace as Nigeria cannot afford to exacerbate its already bad security.

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