The countdown to February, March polls




 The recent reassurance by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of its readiness for the February and March 2023 general elections, saying there is no contemplating any adjustment to the election timetable, let alone the postponement of the exercise, is a welcome development.

INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu gave the assurance at a meeting with political parties in Abuja. He said the assurance by the security agencies for adequate protection of its personnel, materials and processes also reinforced the commission’s determination to proceed.

Tension rose among Nigerians when the INEC chairman was reported as saying elections may be postponed or cancelled in “sufficient constituencies” if the rising security challenge does not abate. Yakubu reportedly said this in a message to the validation of election security training resources in Abuja.

The message was delivered by Chairman Board of Electoral Institute Professor Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, who, however, called on the security personnel in particular and all election officials in general to be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment, and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge at all times.

“Consequently, in preparations for the 2023 general elections, the commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security is provided for election personnel, materials and processes.

“This is particularly significant to the commission given the current insecurity challenges in various parts of the country and the fact that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members constitute the core of the polling unit election officials.

“Moreover, if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis.

“This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen. Therefore, security personnel in particular and all election officials in general must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge at all time,” he had said.

But dismissing the report at a meeting with political parties in Abuja, Yakubu said: “The 2023 general elections will hold as scheduled. Any report to the contrary is not the official position of the commission. Therefore, the commission is not contemplating any adjustment to the election timetable, let alone the postponement of the general elections. For the avoidance of doubt, the presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on Saturday 25th February 2023 while Governorship and State Assembly elections will hold two weeks later on Saturday 11th March 2023.

“The repeated assurance by the security agencies for the adequate protection of our personnel, materials and processes also reinforces our determination to proceed,” Yakubu said.

Speaking on the compiled new national register of voters, he said at no time in the recent history of the commission had so much of the forward planning and implementation been accomplished 44 days ahead of a general election.

On the preparations for the polls, he said: “With the presentation of the register of voters to political parties at this meeting, the Commission has now successfully implemented 11 out of the 14 activities on schedule. Furthermore, the implementation of other activities has proceeded in earnest.

“Already, substantial quantities of sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been deployed to various locations across the country. The last batch of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) has been received while the ongoing configuration of the critical technology in readiness for elections will soon be completed.

“Furthermore, 13,868,441 Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) have been printed, delivered to states and are being collected by citizens as new voters or by existing voters who applied for transfer or replacement of cards as provided by law.

The INEC boss also spoke on the new figure of the registered voters to participate in the polls.  He said: “However, the cumulative figure of 85,362 persons from the recent CVR indicates that there are 21,150 (24.5%) persons with Albinism; 13,387 (15.7%) with physical impediment and 8,103 (9.5%) are blind.

“The soft copy of the complete register will be presented to each political party shortly. It is organised by State, Local Government, Ward and Polling Unit. It is also the same register that will be used on Election Day.

“Hard copies of the breakdown of the register by states of the federation and analysis by gender, age group, occupation and disability are enclosed in your folders for this meeting. The soft copy of the breakdown and analysis will be uploaded to our website and social media platforms shortly.”

It is heartwarming that INEC has remained steadfast in its resolve to conduct free, fair, credible and acceptable elections beginning with the national elections for the president and federal legislators on February 25 and state elections for governors and state legislators on March 11.

The commission’s doggedness is commendable on the backdrop of the incessant attacks on its facilities in some parts of the country and attempts by some politicians to frustrate its technological innovations towards a transparent electoral process. We commend the INEC chairman and his team and urge them not to relent or be deterred in their sacred mandate.

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