By Esther Chibuikem and Patience George
21st April 2023
Despite growing concerns over insecurity in the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured Nigerians that it is determined to conduct the 2023 general election.
The Commission said it will continue to engage with the security agencies to secure the electoral space for the conduct of elections.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, gave the assurance at a ceremony organised to publicly present the Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) 2022 -2026 and Election Project Plan for the 2023 general election, held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja on Thursday (21stApril, 2022).
He said “we are aware of the security challenges and their impact on the electoral process. We will continue to engage early and intensely with the security agencies to ensure the safety of our personnel and materials, accredited observers and the media and, above all, the voters. Clearly, these are challenging times but we are determined that election must hold in 2023”.
To re-emphasize the Commission’s stance on the conduct of the 2023 election as earlier scheduled in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released, Prof. Yakubu said “let me once again reiterate that the dates for all activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election are firm and fixed and all stakeholders are advised to take this into consideration in planning their activities”.
He expressed delight that planning for the election has been finalised ten months ahead of election, explaining that “the Strategic Plan 2022-2026 and the 2023 Election Project Plan drew lessons from, and thoroughly reviewed, the level of implementation of the last plans.”
He added: “They build on the successes of the preceding plans, especially in the planning and conduct of the 2019 General Election as well as off-cycle and bye-elections”.
Prof. Yakubu said the 2023 general election, which would be governed by the new Electoral Act 2022, will be conducted in 1,491 constituencies nationwide, made up of 1 presidential constituency, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 28 governorship elections and 993 state constituencies”.
“The election will involve an estimated one million electoral officials (both permanent and temporary or ad hoc staff) deployed to 176,846 polling units in 8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas across the country, ” he added.
The INEC Chairman explained further that the two documents were developed “against the backdrop of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current security situation in the country. They had to prioritise the institutionalisation of the Commission’s processes for the effective delivery of its mandate by focusing on capacity-building, the promotion of professionalism, encouraging greater synergy among departments, improving efficient utilisation of resources, increased deployment of technology as well as greater sensitivity to threats to the electoral process as well as election personnel and infrastructure”.
He continued: “These concerns are reflected in the Plan’s five strategic objectives, each of which identified several key actions, key activities and key outcomes that constitute a broad guide to the vision of the Commission to provide electoral operations, systems, and infrastructure to support the delivery of free, fair, credible, and inclusive elections. The Plan also forms the basis for the Election Project Plan which focuses on five key objectives identified by the Commission as critical for the successful conduct of the 2023 General Election”.
The INEC Chairman hinted: “by next week, the Commission will conclude the revision of the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022”, adding, “work has also commenced on the review of the manuals for the training of election duty personnel. With the planning processes virtually completed, the Commission will now focus its attention on election technology and election administration”.
Commenting on the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise and the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), Prof. Yakubu said: “The ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise will be end on 30th June 2022 and all eligible voters that are yet to register are advised to do so on or before that date if they intend to vote.”
He added: “Furthermore, the PVCs of validly registered voters from the first and second quarters are already available for collection at designated centres nationwide. I would like to appeal to all Nigerians who registered between June and December 2021 to collect their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in person as no PVCs will be collected by proxy. Let me also reassure those who registered between January and March 2022 as well as those who are doing so until the end of the exercise that their PVCs will be ready for collection long before the 2023 General Election”.
Also clearing the air on the reported expiration of PVCs, the INEC Chairman said, “for emphasis, the Commission once again reiterates that PVCs have no expiry dates. We want to assure all registered voters that PVCs issued by the Commission remain valid for all elections. We have encouraged those whose lost their voters’ cards or whose cards are damaged to approach any of the registration centres to apply for replacement.
“Similarly, voters who had issues with their accreditation in previous elections have been encouraged to revalidate and update their information. In addition, those who wish to transfer their registration from one location to another within a particular State or to relocate entirely to another State of the Federation can do so at any of the registration centres nationwide.
“These steps are in compliance with the law to serve Nigerians better. The claim that PVCs expire is misleading. Citizens are therefore advised not to register more than once as multiple registrations is an offence under the Electoral Act. Anyone engaged in the act of double or multiple registrations is liable to prosecution. No citizen should engage in it or encourage others to violate the law.”
In his goodwill message, National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Munguno represented by Alhaji Sanusi Galadima, expressed optimism on the Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) and Election Project Plan (EPP) which, he averred, will open a new vista for the conduct of credible elections. He assured INEC of its commitment and support to ensuring a hitch-free election.
There were also goodwill messages from other stakeholders such as the Chairman, IPAC, Engineer Yusuf Sani Yabagi; Project Coordinator, ECES, Hamza Fassi-Fitri; IFES Country Director’s representative, Mr Obaje, Representatives of CSOs, Clement Nwankwo, Ene Ede, and the NUJ President, represented by the Chairman, FCT NUJ Chapter, Mr Emmanuel Ogbeche.
The high point of the event was the public presentation of the INEC’s 2022-2026 Strategic Plan (SP) and the 2023 Election Project Plan (EPP). The INEC Chairman was joined by National Commissioners, Representatives of the Civil Society, and other stakeholders to unveil the documents.