By Aaron Ossai
As preparations for the 2023 general elections continue to gather momentum, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has reassured Nigerians that their votes will count on Election Day.
The assurance was given by the Commission’s Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu in his remarks at the stakeholders’ forum by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in Abuja yesterday.
He said the Commission is already tackling the four broad areas of the preparations for the elections which according to him include security, campaign finance, technology, the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and assurances that their votes will count on Election Day.
On security, the Chairman said that while the Commission has the responsibility to conduct elections, securing the environment for the deployment of personnel and materials as well as the peaceful conduct of elections is a shared responsibility involving the security agencies, the political actors and their supporters, the media and all other critical stakeholders.
He decried the perennial insecurity in the country stressing that the existing challenge is compounded by the unfortunate incidents of attacks on campaigns, rallies and processions across all political parties.
“Although the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for Political Parties are clear, the Commission has found it necessary to remind political parties, candidates and their supporters on the provisions of the law and their responsibilities”, he said.
On campaign finance, Professor Yakubu said the Commission is determined to tackle the matter frontally stressing that areas of violation include party and candidate expenditure beyond what is provided by law and the diabolical practice of vote buying at polling units on Election Day.
He disclosed that the Commission will publish a summary of the guidelines on finances and election expenses of parties and candidates and that beyond that, “we are mobilising every national institution with the responsibility for tracking and combating the illicit flow of funds as well as the broadcast and print media regulatory agencies to confront the problem head-on. The details of this will be unveiled shortly.”
Speaking further, he said that on technology, the Electoral Act 2022 requires the Commission to deploy technology on Election Day for voter accreditation and the upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal which according to him will be achieved through the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
The INEC boss reassured Nigerians that the BVAS has come to stay as the only means of voter accreditation and that there will be no incident form on Election Day.
“Results from polling units will be uploaded to the IReV portal in real-time. Nigerians will view the results as they are uploaded. For the last two years beginning from August 2020, the Commission has published results direct from polling units in 105 off-cycles Governorship and bye-elections in real-time and the results can still be viewed on the IReV portal.
“The 2023 General Election will not be different. There is no truth in any insinuation to the contrary. This should put to rest the erroneous notion that Nigerians will not have the opportunity to view polling unit results uploaded by Presiding Officers in real-time on Election Day”, he stated.
On the collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for fresh registrations in 2022 as well as applicants for transfer to other polling units and the replacement of damaged or lost cards, he assured Nigerians that the Commission will soon release the timelines and procedure for the collection of PVCs.
“With the ongoing display of the register for claims and objections, the Commission considered it appropriate to conclude the process so that the cards will not be in the hands of ineligible registrants who may attempt to use them during the election. We understand the anxiety of Nigerians to collect their PVCs and appeal for a little patience as we speedily conclude the necessary safeguards for a transparent process.
“Election is a multi-stakeholder activity. We are working with all stakeholders to deliver credible and transparent 2023 General Election. We are only answerable to Nigerians and will continue to defend the integrity of the electoral process. It is for this reason that we cherish our partnership with the civil society. I wish to reassure you that we will continue to work together for the improvement of our electoral process”, he added.