ln spite of challenges, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has given a firm commitment and assurance to Nigeria and friends of Nigeria that the 2023 general elections would be free, fair and inclusive.
According to him, the commission does not take the pledge they have made repeatedly for Nigerians lightly by living no stone unturned in delivering a successful election come February 25 and March 11, 2023.
“We have left no stone unturned in preparing despite several challenges. But all elections, especially those involved in the type of extensive national deployment that we do in Nigeria will naturally come with challenges.
“We have worked closely with stakeholders and development partners to confront these challenges. We are satisfied with our preparations so far.
“Our commission does not take the pledge that we have repeatedly made for Nigerians lightly. We’re living no stone unturned in our preparations and our commitment remains only to Nigerians, and not any political party or any candidate.
“Our commitment and loyalty is to Nigeria and the Nigerian people, only the vote they cast will determine who becomes what. It is not in our hands, it is in the hands of citizens. This is what the law requires of us.
“We cherish our institutional independence and the integrity of the commission and with the enthusiasm of Nigerians the goodwill of stakeholders and partners and the commitment of the commission.
“We believe that the 2023 general election will be among the best conducted in Nigeria,’’ Persecondnews quotes Yakubu as saying on Tuesday at the Chatham House, London.
He said Nigeria’s youth population and middle age people, who constitute about 75 per cent of the voting population would decide the winners in the forthcoming polls.
Giving a breakdown of voter registration and collection of Permanent Voter Cards in Nigeria, Yakubu said records showed that the election would be dominated by the Nigerian youths.
Yakubu, who said he was encouraged by the turn-out of registered voters to collect their PVCs, said over 600,000 eligible voters collected their PVCs in Lagos State alone in the last one month.
“There are currently 93.4 million registered voters in Nigeria out of which 37 million, that is 39 per cent, are young people between the ages of 18 and 34.
“And then they are closely followed by 33.4 million or 35.3 per cent middle-age voters between the ages of 35 and 49.
“Put together, these two categories constitute 75.39 per cent of registered voters in Nigeria. So, actually the 2023 election is the election of the young people, because they have the numbers. Even the majority of the PVCs collected are collected by young people,” the lNEC boss sad.
“So, out of the 93.4 million, 70.4 million registered voters are between the ages of 18 and 49.”
On the use of Bi-modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the polls, Yakubu assured that it would work perfectly during the elections.
“We are confident and this is what we have done and we completed this earlier this week. We have the machines for the 2023 general election, but we didn’t want to take chances. Each and every machine has been tested and confirmed that the machine is functional.
“So actually, for the last two weeks or so our officials who are in all the states of the federation tested those machines and the functionality of the machines is simply very encouraging. So we’re not taking chances.
“The second thing we are going to do and pretty soon is to conduct mock accreditation exercises nationwide ahead of the election. We don’t wait until the midterm election comes. We’ll test the integrity of these machines with real life voters,’’ he told his audience at Chatham House in UK.
On the spate of attacks on the commission’s facilities across the country, Yakubu disclosed that at least 50 facilities have so far been attacked in the last four years, assuring that despite the attacks, the elections would go on as scheduled.
“In four years, 50 facilities of the commission were attacked in various parts of the country. Mainly in the form of arson and vandalization including electoral materials and vehicles were destroyed and sometimes these attacks even targeted staff of the commission.”
On vote buying, he said with the electoral law and the system being deployed it is becoming increasingly clear to everyone that the votes would count.
Yakubu, however, urged the National Assembly to urgently pass the Electoral Offences Commission Bill 2022 to ensure that election riggers and vote buyers are punished according to the laws of the country.
“So let me say the opportunity to renew our appeal as a commission for the National Assembly in Nigeria to speedily pass the electoral Commission’s offices commission so that all violators of our laws shall be penalized accordingly..
“The good thing is that the Senate in Nigeria has passed the bill but it is awaiting concurrence by the House of Representatives.
“So we hope that the National Assembly will do the needful by passing that law, and that law should be assented to speedily before the end of the lifespan of the present Assembly in June,” the lNEC boss said.
On possible run-off in the presidential election, he said the commission was fully prepared for it if the need arises.