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INEC, Development Partners Discuss Electoral Issues

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (right) presents copies of the 2019 General Election Report and the 2019 General Election Review Report to the Democracy Officer, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr Beatrice Reaud, when the latter led a team of Development Partners on a courtesy visit to INEC Headquarters on 23rd April 2021. PHOTO: BASIL NWAGUGU.

23rd April 2021

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has projected that Nigeria’s registered voters could hit the 100 million mark before the 2023 general election.

Besides, based on the already established principle of holding the general election on the third Saturday in February of the election year, the next general election will hold on 18th February 2023.

Prof Yakubu made the disclosure on Friday when a team of Development Partners comprising the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) paid a courtesy visit to the INEC Headquarters, Abuja. They discussed areas of collaboration and the summary of a report titled: “Nigeria Electoral Management Body Assessment”, which USAID prepared. 

Five National Commissioners: Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu, Mallam Mohammed Haruna, Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, Barrister Festus Okoye and the Chairman’s Technical Aides (Prof. Mohammad Kuna, Prof. Bolade Eyinla and Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi) joined the INEC Chairman to receive the team.

Prof Yakubu told the visitors that the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) would run from 28th June this year till the third quarter of 2022. He said: “The CVR will commence on 28th June (this year), and it will go on until the end of the third quarter of 2022. That will be for over a year. The number of those that registered before the 2019 general election was over 14 million. The number will be higher this time around, which will take Register of Voters to 100 million or more by the time we go into the 2023 election.”

He also informed the team about some innovations being undertaken by the Commission.  “Right now,” he said, “we are expanding voter access to polling units. We have had the same number of polling units for the past 25 years. We have engaged with various stakeholders – political parties, civil society organisations, the media, the National Assembly, Council of State, and we have received support for what we are doing. Work is going on in the field, and we want to complete the task before we begin with the registration of voters.”

On the Result Viewing Portal (IReV), the INEC Chairman said the innovation had made it possible for Nigerians to monitor elections results in real-time so that they could also have an idea of which way the election was going before the formal declaration of result.

Prof. Yakubu thanked USAID for its long-term collaboration with INEC and for sharing the report. He said: “Thank you for sharing the report. This assessment is coming at a perfect time for us as we prepare for the 2023 General Election. We are working on the principle that our elections should hold on the third Saturday of February of the election year. Going by that principle, the next general election will hold on 18th February 2023, which is around the corner. It is exactly one year, nine months and three weeks to the election, which translates to 665 days, 20 hours, 31 minutes and the seconds are ticking.”

Prof. Ibeanu urged the development partners to continue supporting the Commission, especially in areas he described as the three “Is” of election credibility. He explained: “The first “I” is information – improving our communication and voter education. The more people understand what they are expected to do in the electoral process, the more they will trust the system and the more they will participate. But it is also crucial that they participate in knowledge, so we must continue to improve in voter education, provision of information and carrying the public along on what INEC does.

“The second “I” for me is to continue to support INEC in innovating. Innovation helps to build trust and credibility. The third “I” is institutionalisation, building on gains and setting rules and procedures. If you (development partners) continue to support new ideas around these three areas, you will be making tremendous contributions to the process.”

The USAID report dwells on four research questions: How have stakeholder perceptions of the electoral process in Nigeria changed since the 2007 general elections? How has INEC’s and SIECs’ management and administration of elections since 2007 impacted electoral integrity? What investments in INEC, SIECs and other stakeholders made by USAID/SERP have been most effective in improving electoral integrity and the quality of elections in Nigeria? And finally, what are the opportunities for USAID/Nigeria to invest strategically in election management and administration moving forward?

Members of the team include Beatrice Reaud, Sade Owolabi (USAID), Seray Jah (IFES) and Mattew Ayibakuro (FCDO). Those who joined the meeting via zoom were Blair King (USAID), Gavin Weis and Aleta (Cloudburst).