Less than 90 days to 2023 polls: How prepared are INEC, parties, security agencies?




INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu

…Despite continuous attacks, threats, we’re ready – INEC

…Our party and the presidential flag-bearer Tinubu are ready – APC

… We’re very, very prepared – LP

…We’re organised, prepared, confident – PDP

…Personnel have been equipped with anti-riot gears, personal protective equipment, others – NPF

…2023 polls’ success depends on improved synergy among security agencies – NSCDC

The hope for free, fair, credible and acceptable 2023 elections is a concern to most Nigerians. In this report, BODE OLAGOKE and ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU in this report, seek the preparedness of the Independent National Election (INEC), political parties and others stakeholders are within less than 90 days to elections.

As contained in the INEC’s timetable, the presidential and National Assembly elections will be held on Saturday, February 25, 2023, followed by the governorship and state assembly elections on Saturday, March 11, 2023.

The presidential candidates and their political parties are Accord Party (AP), Imumolen Christopher; Action Alliance (AA), Al Mustapha Hamza; African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore; African Democratic Congress (ADC), Kachikwu Dumebi; Action Democratic Party (ADP), Yusuf Sani Yabagi; All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Pepoles Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.

Also expected to be on the ballot in next year’s election are All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Umeadi Chukwudi; Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Ojei Princess Chichi; Action Peoples Party (APP), Nnadi Osita; Boot Party (BP), Adenuga Oluwafemi; Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi; New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso; National Rescue Movement (NRM), Osakwe Johnson; Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Abiola Kolawole; Social Democratic Party (SDP), Adebayo Adewole; Young Peoples Party (YPP), Ado-Ibrahim Abdulmalik, and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Dan Nwanyanwu.

With 84 days to the elections, Blueprint Weekend’s investigations revealed that it’s going to be a three-horse race and Nigerians have narrowed down their choice to Tinubu, Atiku and Obi. Although a few have concluded who to vote for, the rest are likely to vote for one out of the three major presidential candidates.

INEC’s assurances

Meanwhile, INEC has given assurances that despite the unending attacks on its facilities and staff it would conduct free, fair and credible polls in 2023.

The commission’s commissioner for information and voter education, Festus Okoye, in an interview with Blueprint Weekend, declared that the debate on the place of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was “unnecessary and unhelpful.”

Okoye said it was a misplaced assumption to think that attacking INEC offices would abort the holding of the 2023 general elections, stressing that “the elections will hold and will hold on schedule.”

On INEC’s A-level of reparations, Okoye said, “The Commission is conscious of the expectations of Nigerians on the 2023 general elections. The chairman of the Commission has consistently and repeatedly assured the nation and continues to assure the nation that the processes and procedures for the conduct of the 2023 general elections are in place and proceeding as planned and on schedule. On February 26, 2022, the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the conduct of the 2023 general elections and out of the 14 critical items therein, the Commission has implemented nine.

“The Commission has taken delivery of and delivered over 50% of the non-sensitive materials required for the conduct of the 2023 general elections. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) required for the conduct of the election is being moved to the various states of the Federation by the Nigerian Air Force. The Commission has adopted the validated Regulations and Framework for Voting by Internally Displaced Persons and it is being implemented.”

He added that, “The Commission has adopted the Report of its Expert Meeting on Harmonised Logistics Framework for 2023 General Elections and consequently set up an Electoral Logistics Committee to drive the framework. The Commission has approved and adopted the Standard Operating Procedure for the collection of Permanent Voters Cards and set the date and modalities for PVC collection.

“The Commission is working hard on delivering the Nigerian people’s election in 2023. The delivery of free, fair, just, credible, and inclusive elections is a commitment, and the chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, is courageously and firmly leading this drive.”

 When asked whether or not the continuous attacks would deter the Commission, Okoye said, “Section 132(2) and other corresponding sections of the Constitution have circumscribed the conduct of elections in Nigeria. The time and period prescribed in sections 132(2) and 178(2) of the Constitution are firm, fixed, and immovable.

“The Commission is moving and firming up preparations for the conduct of the elections. The conduct of elections is a shared responsibility. While it is the responsibility of the Commission to organise, undertake and supervise elections, it is the responsibility of the Nigerian Police Force as the lead agency on election security to collaborate with sister security agencies to secure the nation for elections.

“We have received assurances from the security agencies that they will secure the nation and elections will be held in all parts of the country. It is a misplaced assumption to think that attacking our offices will abort the holding of the 2023 general elections. The elections will be held and will be held on schedule.”

LP’s declarations

On their level of preparedness, the Labour Party (LP) spokesperson, Diran Onifade, said, “We are very, very prepared. You’ve seen we have been going around the country; we’ve been addressing town halls, and the reception has been tremendous. So, you see, we have addressed rallies and town halls in Nasarawa, Abia, Edo, and Oyo states.

“We are on the ground, our support groups are organic, they are multiplying, and getting stronger and we are finding more means to work together in unison.

On whether they have confidence in INEC and security agencies, he said, “We have no reason to think that INEC will be unfair or do they even have the capacity to be unfair under the present circumstance. And as per the security people, their loyalty should be to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not the current APC-led federal government.”

APC

Likewise, the APC’s national publicity secretary, Felix Morka, said it was “utterly ridiculous for any to think Tinubu is not prepared or medically fit to lead Nigeria.”

“The APC as a party and our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are ready for the 2023 elections. Tinubu is the most prepared candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. He’s running the most organised and rigorous rally across the country telling Nigerians what our manifesto, the Renewed Hope, is all about.

“We have met many Nigerians, had consultations with leaders of all sectors across the country. So, for anyone to suggest that he is incapable is utterly ridiculous.

“So, yes, we’re very happy with our rallies. And we’re going to continue irrespective of some of these limb comments that people make. And come February 2023 our candidate will win.

“We have full confidence in INEC and the capacity of security agencies in ensuring that the elections are free, fair, credible and acceptable.”

PDP

For the PDP, it declared its readiness for the polls. Its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, in an exclusive interview with Blueprint Weekend, said with Atiku’s performance in the 2019 Presidential election, they were confident that PDP would win.

He said, “The PDP and its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, are very prepared. And it’s not what I said; it is what is available on the field. We are organised and you can see us going methodically with our campaigns, state to state.

“This election is critical; it isn’t just about Atiku, it’s about us. That gives us confidence, but we’re not taking that for granted. So, we are prepared for 2023 and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP will win.”

The police

When this reporter made efforts to reach the spokesperson of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Olumuyiwa Adejobi, to ascertain their level of preparedness for the elections, considering the country’s dire security situation, he neither took his calls nor responded to the text messages sent to his phone.

However, in a recent statement, Adejobi disclosed that, “The IGP has ordered a fresh distribution of gadgets, anti-riot gears, and personal protective equipment for police officers across the federation in preparation for the 2023 general elections security management duty.

“The items include non-lethal weapons such as electro-shocks, rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas, riot guns, etc., for crowd control and to minimise casualty risks in eventual confrontations with subversive elements.

“The IG re-affirmed the commitment of his administration to the protection of our democratic heritage and national security interests, while he called on other security agencies and stakeholders who constitute ICCES, as well as members of the public to deliberately aid the NPF in its drive to ensure the safety and security of all and sundry before, during, and after the 2023 general elections.”

NSCDC

Meanwhile, the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Dr Ahmed Abubakar Audi, has said the success of next year’s general elections “depends on improved synergy amongst security agencies on one hand and collaboration with the citizens on the other hand.”

He said this Friday in Abuja while delivering a keynote address on the theme, “Fixing Nigeria’s Security Before, During and After 2023 General Elections: A Task for All.”

Audi, represented by the Commandant, NSCDC FCT Command, Dr. Peter Maigari, said the upcoming 2023 general elections required “new approaches and improvement on the electioneering process through conscious and deliberate efforts to ensure its success.”

According to him, elections are better conducted in peaceful and secured environments; hence, no act of lawlessness, impunity, killings, arson, assassinations or wanton destruction of lives and properties will be condoned or allowed to mar the peaceful conduct of coming elections.

“Building a secured and safer Nigeria is a herculean task that requires sincere efforts, determination, commitment and sacrifices from everyone. We are still standing as a nation because the government is alive to its responsibilities as provided for in Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“Insecurity in the country has been significantly degraded and the government is in control of the security architecture of the country having recorded meaningful progress in the fight against insecurity to a large extent,” he said.

He charged the populace on the need for prompt Intelligence and Information-sharing with security agencies to help stem down the rate of crimes and criminalities before, during and after the elections.

“The need to be security conscious in our immediate environment at all times should not be re-echoed again and again before we understand that credible information and tip-offs given to security agencies is a major component in fighting insecurity.

“Just like the way a secured and enabling environment boosts investor’s confidence, the same way a safe domain is key to the turnout of voters and credibility of the polls.”

The NSCDC boss expressed readiness to work closely with relevant security agencies, noting that such synergy would strengthen National Security.

“Without mincing words, synergy and cooperation among security agencies fosters national security. Happily, the level of collaboration among members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security (ICCES) is poised to ensure adequate security is provided for the people, Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) offices, its officials and sensitive and non sensitive election materials.

“No agency has the monopoly of intelligence and tactics, the Corps will continue to partner with the Nigeria Police who is the lead agency in Internal Security and other security and law enforcement agencies to ensure a hitch free poll and guarantee a crime free environment to enable eligible voters exercise their voting rights come 2023.

“The NSCDC remains apolitical and only interested in working for the collective good of the country.”

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