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How New Electoral Act Aided Printing of 2023 General Election materials in Nigeria, By Yakubu

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (right), in a handshake with the Chairman, Partners for Electoral Reform, Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, at the Commission's meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to review the 2023 General Election, held at INEC headquarters, Abuja on 24th July 2023. PHOTO: BASIL NWAGUGU

By Nathaniel Gana

For the first time in 44 years since the transition to democratic rule in 1999, all the sensitive and non-sensitive materials used for the 2023 General Election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were printed in Nigeria.

According to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who made this revelation at a meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to review the polls held on 24th July in Abuja, the feat was made possible by one of the provisions in new Electoral Act 2022.

Giving the background, Prof. Yakubu said: “Since the 2019 General Election, we have worked together with the National Assembly, civil society organisations and other stakeholders for the improvement of the electoral process. We were meticulous in our preparations for the election and there have been many positive developments in this regard.

“One area is the repeal and re-enactment of the Electoral Act 2010 into the Electoral Act 2022. The new law provides a period of 180 days for political parties to conclude their primaries and submit the names of candidates and the political parties took advantage of it for the 2023 General Election.

“This enabled the Commission to commence the process of producing the sensitive materials for the election in good time. I am glad to report that the printing of all sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the 2023 General Election was entirely done in Nigeria. This is the first time in 44 years since the transition to democratic rule in 1979 that this great step was taken and achieved, in spite of the record number of 93.4 million registered voters and over five hundred million ballot papers, result sheets and other documents for the five categories of the main elections and supplementary polls.

“For this reason, the 2023 General Election was held as scheduled for the first time in the last four electoral cycles without a postponement arising from the non-arrival of materials.”

Prof Yakubu also listed other milestones recorded in the last five years. “Furthermore,” he stated, “we were also able to expand voter access to polling units for the first time since the initial delimitation exercise in 1996.

“Similarly, we introduced many technology-based innovations, including the physical registration and online pre-registration of voters using the INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED), the various portals for the nomination of candidates, party agents and the accreditation of observers and the media.

“We also collected and published data on the distribution of voters not only by age and occupation but also by disability. Within the limits of available resources, we also tried to provide such inclusivity materials as braille jackets and magnifying glasses for some categories of voters with disabilities.”

However, Prof Yakubu also admitted that the Commission faced some challenges while conducting the polls. He explained: “As you are aware, there were many challenges encountered before and during the elections.

“The severe cash and fuel situations were compounded by the perennial insecurity nationwide. Their impact on our deployment plans, compounded by the behaviour of some of our own officials in the field, made logistics management particularly challenging.

“The deployment of thugs by some political actors made election day administration difficult in a few places. While voter accreditation using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was very successful, the uploading of results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), especially for the presidential election, encountered a glitch as explained in our statement released by the Commission on 26th February 2023.

“The Commission is aware that this matter is currently the subject of litigation and would reserve its comments for now. Nevertheless, the performance of the technology deployed for the election is part of the ongoing review of the 2023 General Election. It will form an integral part of the comprehensive report that will serve as a basis for further engagement with stakeholders focusing on specific actions necessary for the improvement of future elections and electoral activities in Nigeria.”

The INEC Chairman also seized the opportunity of the meeting to correct an impression making the rounds in a section of the society that the Commission received huge sums of money from development partners for the election.

“On the contrary,” he clarified, “and for the avoidance of doubt, the Commission did not receive any direct funding or cash support from international development partners. Rather, their support was totally indirect through civil society organisations and implementing partners working on elections.

“Indeed, it has been a longstanding policy of the present Commission not to receive direct funding and cash transfers from sources other than the Federal Government of Nigeria. We hope that we shall continue to have this type of productive partnership with civil society and development partners in the future.”

 He said it was in furtherance of the partnership that the Commission accredits observers from whom it receives feedback and actionable recommendations which “have been very helpful to the electoral process.”

For the 2023 General Election, the Commission, he said, “received 538 requests (504 domestic and 34 foreign) for accreditation as observers. After a thorough evaluation of the requests, only 228 groups – 190 domestic and 38 foreign (including four invited foreign observer groups) met the requirements for accreditation.

He continued: “However, so far, only 67 observer groups (62 domestic and five foreign) have so far submitted their observation reports, which represents just about 30 percent of the accredited groups for the election.” He urged all accredited observer groups that are yet to submit their reports to do so.

Responding on behalf of the CSOs, Mrs Faith Nwadishi of the Centre for Transparency and Advocacy, urged accredited observer groups yet to submit their reports on 2023 general election to INEC to do so.

She said, “if 258 observer groups were accredited for the election and so many months after the election, many groups are yet to submit our report, it is not good for us.”

Mrs. Nwadishi commended INEC’s efforts to prosecute the suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner in Adamawa, while looking forward to the conclusion of the case.

She also observed that Prof Yakubu, in his speech, acknowledged the role that some INEC staff members played in undermining the elections, describing it as “a very welcome development.” She said: “We look forward to the prosecution of the indicted staff members.”

Nwadishi also said that the CSOs look forward to a tripartite meeting between INEC, CSOs and political parties, to discuss pertinent issues surrounding various accusations against the political class’ alleged attempt to undermine the electoral process.