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INEC ‘ll create additional polling units ahead of 2023 general election—Prof Yakubu

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.UNDP trains INEC staff

 

BY KELVIN EGERUE

 

Authorities at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that they are insistent on making the 2023 general election in the country to stand as the most credible election in Africa.  Chairman of the electoral umpire Professor Yakubu Mahmood who made this known in Lagos said that INEC  is not only retooling but also fortifying its processes and procedures towards ensuring that the power to choose Nigeria’s next generation of  leaders rests on the electorates.

The INEC chairman who gave the affirmation during an interactive session with media executives revealed that the basic ingredient for determining the outcome of any election is primarily what happens at the polling units hence INEC’s new resolve to strengthen activities at the polling units against the backdrop of ensuring that votes are not only counted but that every vote counts.

It is consequent upon this that he disclosed of plans by the commission to create additional polling units before the 2023 general election which is scheduled to hold in February. The idea behind the planned creation of additional polling units is to ensure that people are encouraged to come out to cast their votes with minimal difficulties in accessing polling units.

It would be recalled that INEC had in June of 2021 created additional 56,872 polling units in its expansion of voter access drive. That was the first time additional polling units were created in Nigeria since 1996, when the Commission established 119,974 polling units. Efforts to create additional polling units since then proved controversial until 2021 in spite of Nigeria’s growing population and the apparent need for more polling units. To address this issue then, INEC created voting points in states and voting point settlements in the Federal Capital Territory ahead of the 2015 general elections. The 2021 polling units’ creation exercise brought the total number of polling units in Nigeria to 176,846. But INEC said that more are still needed if only to encourage people to come out and vote.

“Now that we know that the basis for a credible election is what happens at the polling units, INEC is determined to make that very important segment more functional. INEC is going to create additional polling units before the 2023 general election”, Prof Mahmood emphasized.

According to him the deployment of the Biometric Voter Verification System (BEVAS) which guarantees the identity of every voter will also ensure the sanctity of the votes cast as it will transmit the results generated from every polling unit to a central server thus eliminating the incidence of ballot box snatching and falsification of results. He further explained that BEVAS does not require internet connectivity to function at the polling units so long as they have been configured prior to their deployment. The results of the polling units as contained in the BEVAS he explained will be uploaded at any point that the device makes contact with the internet.

“Our vision is to conduct one of the best elections in Nigeria. The most important is the polling units; ones you protect what happens at the polling units, the rest is transmission. INEC will create more polling units before 2023 election”, he reiterated.

Prof Mahmood had gone further to explain that the other ingredient  for a credible election is the generation of a credible voter register hence the efforts by INEC to first clean the existing voter register before adding more names to it.

The INEC boss is optimistic that Nigeria is moving gradually towards embracing electronic voting process. He counted such exercises  as continuous voter registration, updating  and cleaning of the voter register, achieving electronic  voter verification and electronic transmission of election results as preludes to the eventual adoption of electronic voting exercise which will enable Nigerians to cast their votes without shutting down the whole country on the excuse of an election.

He counted the security situation in the country, impact of social media and the attitude of politicians as major defining moments for the outcome of the 2023 general elections.

However, The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says democratic elections will contribute significantly to the advancement of Nigeria’s development aspirations.

Mr. Deryck Fritz,  Chief Technical Adviser for Election from UNDP, made the statement at a two-day workshop for INEC staff ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Fritz spoke at the event with the theme: “Review of indicators and capacity building on Election Monitoring and Support Center (EMSC) Report Validation.”

He said UNDP, as an entity entrusted with organizing elections, should not be partial, rather it should serve interests of all Nigerians, including women, youths, persons with disabilities, internally displaced persons, and traditionally marginalised groups.

According to him, “We are all aware that democratic elections can contribute significantly to the advancement of Nigeria’s development aspirations.

“This is only possible if the elections are organised in such a manner that the voters believe that their votes will matter.

“In line with SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, UNDP continues to support inclusive, transparent and credible electoral processes for peaceful and cohesive societies.”

Fritz further explained that outcomes of elections well organised would be viewed as legitimate, and thus, the social contract and the resulting governance were strengthened.

He added that INEC was a service entity; and to serve the public effectively and efficiently, it must be self-organised internally, with each of its component parts complementing the others.

“The EMSC will ensures the efficient planning and organisation in the work of the INEC, promoting consistency and responsiveness, minimising delays and building confidence of the key political actors in the conduct of the electoral process.

He said it would also assist in countering disinformation, building trust and credibility in the overall process.

Also, the National Commissioner in charge of Planning Committee, Prof. Rhoda Gumus, said it was timely because it shall focus on the review of EMSC indicators and build on the capacity of HODs on EMSC report validation.

According to her, “the Commission has started implementation of the 2022-2026 strategic project plan, 2022 Electoral Act as amended, and time-line electoral activities for 2023 General Elections.

She said EMSC had played a very important role in the off-cycle elections, engaging on prompt and proper reporting and validation.

Gumus said the training would provide the HODs a better understanding to perform their duties, as the commission prepared for the 2023 General Elections

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