By Nathaniel Gana
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified five core areas it will need support from the United Nations to successfully conduct a free, fair, credible, and inclusive 2023 general election.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, listed the areas when he received members of the United Nations Needs Assessment Mission, led by Serge Gakwandi Kubwimana, at the Commission’s headquarters, Abuja, on Wednesday 6th April 2022.
The INEC Chairman reiterated that the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive election “and consolidating the gains of electoral reforms through increased capacity building for the Commission and other stakeholders, voter education and publicity, enhancing the security of elections, increasing inclusivity and participation, as well as expanding the use of relevant technology in the electoral process remains high priorities for the Commission.”
He observed that while the management of the electoral process is a sovereign responsibility of the Nigerian government, the UN Mission’s assistance would be appreciated in the identified five key areas.
His words: “the first one is training and capacity building support for the Commission’s staff. The second is voter education and sensitisation. Given the size of the country, we need to keep engaging using different media. Number three is election security and conflict mitigation. The fourth is capacity building for political parties, and the fifth is inclusivity measures.
He added: “In your interaction with the Commission’s technical staff, you will discuss the specific issues under each of the five broad areas that we have identified.”
On the 2023 general election, Prof. Yakubu explained that voting would take place in 1,491 Constituencies across the country. His words: “We have 18 political parties. Assuming that half of them field candidates in all the constituencies, we are talking about close to 15,000 nominations, which is a huge task.”
On the size of the voting population in Nigeria, he said: “In 2019, we had 84 million registered voters. We are still registering voters for the 2023 general election. In our estimation, the voter population will be at least 90 million by 2023. At 90 million, our voter register in Nigeria will be the largest in West Africa.
“Out of the 15 countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, the other 14 countries altogether have about 73 million registered voters. We have 84 million registered voters, so, we have 11 million more registered voters than the rest of West Africa combined. Each time we conduct an election in Nigeria, it’s like we are conducting an election in West Africa.
He revealed that the 2023 general election would involve about one million election officials, including regular and ad-hoc staff, while voting would take place in 176,846 polling units across 8,809 Wards in the country’s 774 Local Government Areas.
Prof. Yakubu said the election would be governed by the new Electoral Act 2022, which “contains many progressive provisions that will enhance the capacity of the Commission in the conduct of elections and the management of the electoral process.”
Earlier in his remarks, the delegation leader, Mr Serge Gakwandi Kubwimana, said they were in Nigeria in response to a letter written in January to the United Nations Secretary-General, seeking the organisation’s support ahead of the 2023 general election.
He said the meeting with the Chairman and members of the Commission was the high point of the series of scheduled meetings with other key players in the democratic process, such as the Leadership of the National Assembly, Political Parties and the Government of Nigeria, to explore ways in which the U.N. intervention, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other entities could support the democratic process in Nigeria.
Kubwimana also said that the visit to Nigeria would equally help the U.N. keep abreast with the state of preparedness for the 2023 general election, adding that they were on the ground to listen to other issues that the Commission may wish to bring to their notice.