With exactly 43 days to the 2023 general election, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has promised Nigerians that the exercise would hold as scheduled.
He stressed that INEC was not contemplating postponing or cancelling the polls.
Yakubu said this on Wednesday, while presenting the national register of voters to political parties in Abuja. He insisted that the repeated assurances by the security agencies for the adequate protection of its personnel, materials and processes also reinforced the commission’s determination to proceed with the polls.
He stated categorically that any report to the contrary was not the official position of the Commission.
The clarification became imperative following a statement credited to the Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Abdullahi Zuru, who had warned that the polls faced threat of cancellation if the level of insecurity across the country continued.
But Yakubu recalled that on February 26, 2022, the commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election, saying since then, the commission had been relentlessly implementing the 14 step-by-step activities listed in the timetable.
He noted that some of the major activities included the conduct of primaries by political parties, nomination of candidates, the publication of list of candidates and commencement of campaign by political parties.
According to him, with the presentation of the register of voters to political parties at the meeting, the commission has now successfully implemented 11 out of the 14 activities on schedule, adding that the implementation of other activities has proceeded in earnest.
The INEC chairman stressed that already, substantial quantities of sensitive and non-sensitive materials had been deployed to the various locations across the country while the last batch of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) had been received, adding that the ongoing configuration of the critical technology in readiness for elections would soon be completed.
Yakubu stressed that in the last two days, the commission has commenced the airlifting of other sensitive materials to the states across the country.
“Already, some of the materials for 17 states in three geo-political zones have been delivered. 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.
“In short, at no time in the recent history of the commission has so much of the forward planning and implementation been accomplished 44 days ahead of a general election.
“Therefore, the commission is not contemplating any adjustment to the election timetable, let alone the postponement of the general election.”
The chairman noted that for the avoidance of doubt, the presidential and National Assembly elections would hold on Saturday, February 25, 2023, while the governorship and state assembly elections would hold two weeks later on Saturday, March 11, 2023.
“The repeated assurance by the security agencies for the adequate protection of our personnel, materials and processes also reinforces our determination to proceed. The 2023 general election will hold as scheduled. Any report to the contrary is not the official position of the commission,” he clarified.
Yakubu pointed out that as a further affirmation of the Commission’s readiness to conduct the election as scheduled, the final register of voters had been compiled.
He said Nigeria had a voter population of 84,004,084 in the 2019 general election, adding that after the cleaning up of the data from the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise held between June 2021 – July 2022, 9,518,188 new voters were added to the previous register resulting in the preliminary register of 93,522,272, which was presented to Nigerians for claims and objections as required by law.
Yakubu stated: “At the end of the period for claims and objections by citizens, the commission received 53,264 objections from Nigerians to the prevalence of ineligible persons on the register by virtue of age, citizenship or death. These names have been verified and removed from the register.
“Consequently, the register of voters for the 2023 general election stands at 93,469,008. Of this cumulative figure, 49,054,162 (52.5 per cent) are male while 44,414,846 (47.5 per cent) are female.
“The distribution by age group shows that 37,060,399 (39.65 per cent) are youth between the ages of 18 and 34; 33,413,591 (35.75 per cent) are middle aged persons between the ages of 35 and 49; 17,700,270 (18.94 per cent) are elderly voters between the ages of 50 and 69 while 5,294,748 (5.66 per cent) are senior citizens aged 70 and above.
“In terms of occupational distribution, students constitute the largest category with 26,027,481 (27.8 per cent) of all voters, followed by 14,742,554 (15.8 per cent) Farmers/Fishermen and 13,006,939 (13.9 per cent) housewives.
“The data on disability was not collected for previous registration. However, the cumulative figure of 85,362 persons from the recent CVR indicates that there are 21,150 (24.5 per cent) persons with Albinism; 13,387 (15.7 per cent) with physical impediment and 8,103 (9.5 per cent) are blind.”
Also, voter distribution per state revealed that Lagos State leads with 7,060,195 registered voters; followed by Kano with 5,921,370; Kaduna, 4,335,208; Rivers, 3,537,190; Katsina, 3,516,719; Oyo 3,276,675; Delta, 3,222,697.
Yakubu reiterated INEC’s commitment to transparent, credible and inclusive 2023 general election, while promising that the commission would continue to take every step to protect the sanctity of the votes cast by citizens and to deal with infractions, “including the arrest and prosecution of persons that attempt to perpetuate illegality at polling units on election Day, be they underaged voters or vote buyers.”
Also speaking at the meeting, the Secretary of Inter Party Advisory Council, (IPAC), Yusuf Dantale, commended the commission for ensuring that power was transferred to the common man with its effort to conduct free and fair elections.
He added: “We are equally aware of some of the frictions in the system to ensure that efforts of the commission are truncated. But political parties have resolved to ensure that we cooperate with the commission to ensure that the commission has smooth and successful elections.”
Dantale said IPAC had resolved to cooperate with the commission and vowed that political parties would resist anti- democratic forces in the system.
He said the forthcoming election would be different because of the new Electoral Act which has given rise to many innovations.
Meanwhile, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Kwara State, Mallam Attahiru Madami, has also said the general election would hold as planned.
He disclosed this in Ilorin, the state capital on the sideline of the symposium organised by veteran journalists group in the state.
The title of the symposium was, “Towards a Peaceful 2023 General Election.”
The guest speaker of the event was a legal luminary, Mallam Yusuf Ali.
He charged Nigerians to be responsible and avoid violence to ensure peaceful polls.
Madami, who said that the commission was prepared to sustain peaceful conduct of elections in the state, added that the state had been recognised for achieving peaceful conduct of elections over the years, especially in 2019.
While assuring the political parties of unbiased process in the elections in the state, Madami said one of the reasons for violence during any election is a biased umpire.
He also identified the presence of adequate security, involving all law enforcement agencies, as measures to achieve peaceful conduct of the elections.
“Let’s sustain the peace in the state. Elections can be violent when the umpire is biased. Adequate security should be provided and be civil.
“INEC has assured that election will hold despite the doubts by some Nigerians. Youths should be admonished to shun violence. Women should do that, especially mothers. We should all preach unity. Violence will take us nowhere”, he said.
The state governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who was represented by his special adviser on Strategy, Alhaji Saadu Salahu, restated his administration’s continued support for the media and newsmen, serving and retired in the state.
He said his administration was committed to peaceful coexistence of the people of the state, adding that Kwara remains one of the most secured states in the country as attested to by the Inspector General of Police during his recent visit to the state.
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin