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Is INEC Ready for 2023 General Elections?

2023, NGIGE, ASUU AND THE LIMITS OF FALSEHOOD

Emameh Gabriel interrogates INEC’s readiness for a hitch-free general elections next year.

Political parties in the country recently held their primary elections for various elective positions as the nation
move towards another election circle. The public exchange of taunts and dares between supporters of
candidates for the election have taken a new dimension just as the biles and bites among opposition party’s
faithful have also been raised to the bar.
While all of these would linger till the general elections are over next year, attention has however been
shifted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as stakeholders interrogate the
Commission’s readiness to conduct a hitch free election come 2023.
All this comes against the backdrop of the rise of a Third Force led by youth across regional divide in the
country, a movement that has put the Commission under pressure to register more Nigerians ahead of the
election.
Consequently, Nigerian Labour Party has called on the Commission to do everything possible to ensure
that prospective voters are not disenfranchised in next year’s polls.
National Chairman of the party, Julius Abure, commended the Commission for the progress recorded in
the last few months in addressing some of the technical challenges witnessed during the Anambra State
governorship election late last year and the FCT council polls in February, this year.
He said: “We need to improve on continuous voters registration because a lot of young people who want
to register have not been able to register in the past two weeks across the country.
“You know registration is the Commission’s precedent for people to have their PVCs and then to be able
to participate in the election.
“We want to appeal to INEC that they should deploy more officials to the field to continue with the
registration of prospective voters”.
Abure who gave a pass mark to the Commission, said, “I have confidence in INEC that they would not be
overwhelmed in terms of their preparation for the 2023 general elections. I know that INEC is prepared for
the election. I know part of the defaults we noticed in the Anambra and FCT elections were corrected. But I
am sure that it’s going to be put to test in the EKiti and Osun elections”.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had at different fora cleared all doubts about its
readiness for the 2023 general elections.
Analysts, however, believe that the outcome of next year’s polls would have far-reaching implications for
the country beyond 2023. They have, therefore, appealed that INEC must be at its best this time, warning
that poor results could affect democratic transition in the country.
The analysts further submitted that the electoral body must do all it takes to preserve not only its integrity,
but also to sustain the existing political stability in the country by conducting a free, fair and credible
elections to the satisfaction of the Nigerian public and the international community.
Several stakeholders, including civil society organisations are skeptical about the elections given the
irregularities that characterised political parties congresses in most states and challenges connected with
the deployment of technology.

In its review of the 2019 general elections, INEC confessed that the deployment of technology in the
electoral process came with challenges. The Commission also disclosed that it recorded over 1,689
litigations arising from the 2019 elections.
This was not only the challenge, logistic and operational plans also came up as a result of shortage of
voting materials, especially ballot papers in many states.
The National Peace Committee led by General Abdusalami Abubakar, has also expressed fear that the
forthcoming 2023 general election could not meet the expectations of Nigerians for a free, transparent and
credible electoral process.
In a recent statement signed by the former Head of State, the peace committee said, “judging from the
experience at the recent party primaries, where politicians monetised the entire process, the hope of
ordinary Nigerians that their interest and aspirations will be reflected in the outcome of the 2023 general
election may be lost.
“We are aware that the 2023 election may not be the best – as can be attested to by the monetisation of
the process, the acrimonious conduct of the recent party primaries, and the elevation of the ‘delegate
position’ over and above the welfare of ordinary Nigerians,” the committee said.
INEC which had come under public criticisms over failure of the technology the Commission deployed
during last year’s governorship election in Anambra State and the February FCT local government polls,
was also criticised when the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mamood Yakubu, who was perceived to
be under pressure from the ruling party, extended the deadline for party primary elections in a bid to give
the parties enough time to prepare for the exercises.
The decision did not go down well with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who accused
INEC of altering the goalposts in the middle of the game, emphasising that election certainty is the
backbone of democracy.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on 25 February 2022, signed the Electoral Bill into law. The law has
now toughened the country’s electoral laws, adding to the tension and signalling that it could, for the first
time in years, have elections that could widely be considered credible.
Provisions in the new law give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) more decision-
making powers and set aside early funding for it to avoid embarrassing technical and logistic lags that have
characterised past elections in the country.
The INEC had in February this year disclosed that it has received substantial amount of funds for the
election, this was even before the signing of the electoral law.
Similarly, the law also gives legal backing to the use of electronic card readers for voting and electronic
methods for transferring results for collation, to the disappointment of some politicians who had argued that
the state of the country’s telecommunications network system could hinder voting in some areas.
With barely nine months to the general elections, civil society organisations have advised that beyond the
new Electoral Act that gives more power for the country’s electoral umpire, the INEC has the duty to purge
itself off moles in its midst across the country.
On its part, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has maintained that for the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a free and credible elections in 2023, it must summon the courage
to dismantle its current technical department to consolidate on its ongoing reforms.
The group also warned that if the advice was not heeded, INEC would continue to harbour moles just as
it would continue to experience technical hitches that might cause the Commission serious embarrassment
that could put its credibility into question.
Chairman of the group, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, raised the alarm that despite ongoing reform efforts by the
Commission, Nigerians were still skeptical of the credibility of next year’s election due to several allegations
of manipulation of sensitive electoral materials, especially BVAS by staff of the Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) to favour selected political actors during election.
Auwal said the very reason why election in Nigeria was a do or die affair, was because “some politicians
and some security agencies as well as some officials in the electoral body have turned election into a
money making business”.
He explained that although there have been improvement in the electoral process by the way of reforms,
however civil society organisations would continue to support INEC and provide them with credible
information on how to improve on the electoral process in the country.
According to him: “We have seen that transformation since Attahiru Jega came into INEC and this current
INEC has also consolidated on those achievements.
“We will urge the leadership of INEC to carry out a kind of deployment of some people within INEC
headquarters because part of the observation that many people have made is that when you have some
people sitting in a particular department, especially departments that has to do with logistics, they are used
to this arrangement that continue to fail.
“So it’s important that INEC leadership redeploy and reorganize sensitive staff who have stayed long and
whose contributions have not helped improve the electoral process. By so doing, the allegations made
against these people would have been addressed.
“There are allegations that politicians have individual contacts in INEC. If you are able to reorganise the

place, do some deployment, bring some staff from the headquarters to other places. I think it would also
allay the fear that many people are having that one of the reasons why we continue to have logistics
challenges, procurement failure is because some people have entrenched themselves in a particular
department or location. So there is need to unbundle that and do redeployment and also have new
orientation for the staff there. Also contractors who have been there need to comply with Public
Procurement law.
“This is the only explanation on why these machines continuously refuse to work. If there is no
manipulation or deliberate attempt to shortchange the electoral process, why is that we are having issues
with these machines and why is that we have not sufficiently trained the electoral officials to handle these
machines very well? This why I said the technical department also needs reform.
“Deployment is part of the technical issue in INEC, especially dealing with the BVAS which is one of the
departments INEC must unbundle because there appear to be allegations of manipulation in that process.
If we want to have a better election, that department would have to be dismantled. There is no way you will
continue with the way things are structured there. BVAS would come and they would not be working and
people complain. So where are the technicians.
“I think it’s important we take this very seriously because if we want to really see a better election in 2023,
we need to take into consideration all these issues that I have just pointed out otherwise we would continue
to have a repeat of these problems without solutions”, Auwal advised.
INEC has, however, given an assurance that the commission would perform better in subsequent
elections in the country, starting with Ekiti and Osun, noting that it has uncovered the causes of the glitches
experienced at the Anambra State governorship and FCT local council polls.
INEC National Commissioner for Voters Education Committee, Festus Okoye, who gave the assurance
at a recent training workshop for journalists in Abuja, said the commission has been able to uncover what
went wrong and they have been rectified.
Okoye disclosed that the technology was produced locally by INEC engineers, noting that the “back and
forth” experienced during both elections was a building process that was expected.
“It (Bimodal Voters Authentication System) was a product of INEC engineers in Port Harcourt. It’s a
technology built by human. Even human goes through similar process”.
The commission’s recent redistribution of eligible voters to new polling units seems to have discongested
the over crowded existing polling units in the country.
Okoye disclosed that out of the 176, 846 existing polling units, some of the newly created polling units
have zero voters while others have up to 5000 registered voters that needed to be decongested to ensure a
seamless voting process in the future.
He said: “In 2021, the Commission created 56,827 additional polling units in Nigeria to 176, 846.
Populating the newly created polling units is a huge challenge. The Commission is working hard to balance
these polling units”.
INEC has also expressed skepticism on the possibility of the increasing number of internally displaced
persons to vote in the next general elections.
Okoye said although the 2023 general election would come with challenges, the Commission was
determined to surmount it to conduct free, fair, credible and elusive elections but the growing insecurity in
some parts of the country and increasing number of IDPs would pose a biggest challenge to the conduct of
the 2023 general elections.

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