Rising attacks, vote-buying threaten polls, INEC cries out

The Independent National Electoral Commission voiced worry on Monday that ongoing attacks on its infrastructure were jeopardizing the success of the 2023 elections.Information Guide Nigeria

The commission also expressed regret that previous efforts to restrict vote-buying had failed, saying that the vice might jeopardize the success of the elections.

The electoral commission aired its worries at two separate events in Abuja on Monday as part of the election preparations.

Speaking at a two-day workshop on political violence and election security organized by the National Defence College in collaboration with the African Global Empowerment and Development Network, INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu insisted that attacks on its facilities, as well as the insecurity ravaging parts of the country, must stop if the commission is to hold free, fair, and credible elections in 2023.

Yakubu went on to say that if the attacks persisted till next year, they could jeopardize the election’s success.

He also stated that if insecurity in some sections of the country did not end, candidates’ chances of receiving the required number of votes to be proclaimed the winner would suffer.

The chairman who was represented by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, stated, “The commission is preparing well for the 2023 general elections. Although, we have recorded some reverses in some of the states of the federation in relation to attacks on some of our facilities leading to the destruction of ballot boxes, voting cubicles, and permanent voter cards. We have the capacity to recover from these attacks.’’

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He noted, “Since the 2019 general elections up till 2022, we have recorded 50 attacks in 15 states of the federation. The ones we recorded in 2022 are the ones we considered systematic and coordinated. They are targeted at derailing our commission from conducting free and credible elections. We are recovering and will recover.

“But if these attacks continue to January and February next year, it will be difficult for us to recover. This is because if you look at section 134 of the constitution, there are thresholds that a candidate must meet before he/she can be declared a winner of any election.’’

Yakubu further stated, “For instance, if no winner emerges on February 25, the law says we have to conduct a second election within 21 days and only two candidates out of the 18 will participate in this second election. The candidate that records the highest number of votes in that election would be considered number one. The second will be the candidate that secures the majority of votes in the majority of the states.

‘’The constitution did not say it is the person who came second. Also, If for instance, we are unable to conduct elections in some of the local governments it will definitely affect the calculation of the threshold required to make a declaration. We also have a constitutionally prescribed window with which we must conduct elections, so if we have sustained insecurity in the country, it may be difficult for the country to achieve this mandate given to us.”

He said, “We don’t want distractions. That is why we have made it very clear to the National Assembly that all our offices must be declared as a high priority that needs adequate protection. We don’t want these attacks to continue although we have assurance from the security agencies to protect our staff and offices.

“Already, we are reprinting the PVC damaged in some of the attacks, we are also purchasing new cubicles and ballot boxes to replace the ones lost to the attacks. We are trying to rent offices for those we can’t repair. But I want to assure Nigerians that we are prepared for this election. The entire BVAS needed for this election will be on the ground before the end of the month. “

The INEC chairman also assured that the Bimodal Voter Registration System cannot be manipulated, adding that those buying up PVCs were doing so to oppress voters.

“There is no way anyone can bypass the BVAS machines. They can only oppress voters by buying their PVCs. It is not possible for a PVC to be used by another person,’’ he assured.

Yakubu also disclosed that the commission had updated its Memorandum of Understanding with the various transport unions and would co-opt their leaders in the commission’s situation rooms.JAMB portal

Also, at a stakeholders’ summit on ‘Addressing the influence of money on the 2023 general election,’ INEC  organised in collaboration with the MacArthur Foundation, in Abuja, Yakubu said inducement of voters could mar the elections.

He said, “The negative role of money in elections goes to the very heart of our democracy. It destroys the very basis of democratic elections which is that citizens should freely choose those who exercise power on their behalf. It renders the emergence of the right candidates for positions extremely difficult, undermines fair electoral adjudication, and destroys the professional and independent conduct of INEC officials and other public agencies involved in elections.NYSC portal

“Even more worrisome is the high prospect that criminal money may find its way into our elections through money laundering. Above all, the pernicious use of money tremendously increases the likelihood of election violence due to a ‘win at all costs’ mentality among contestants who would have invested a fortune in the election.

‘’Surely, elections are not a business venture for profit. Instead, it is an application to serve the people with the understanding that they may prefer someone else on one occasion. But then, there would be an opportunity to reapply after four years.’’

‘’We also banned the use of smartphones and photographic devices by voters in the voting cubicles. Yet, these measures have recorded limited success,’’ Yakubu lamented, adding that this informed the need to collaborate with relevant institutions to fight the menace of money influence in the electioneering process.

“We must mobilise every relevant national institution to support our effort. We must rely on the professional and other capacities of cognate agencies in our determination to improve electoral administration in Nigeria,” he said.JAMB Result

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