The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has promised to roll out measures to tackle vote buying at the polling units on election day in 2023, even as it vowed that violators of laws on campaign finances would be dealt with, frontally.

INEC), which identified four areas of concern to Nigerians as far as the 2023 general election was concerned, identified such areas as security, campaign finance, technology, the permanent voters’ cards as well as the assurances that their votes would count, ultimately, on election day.

Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this yesterday at a stakeholders’ forum organised in Abuja by the Civil Society Situation Room (CSSR) in Abuja, however, insisted there would be no more use of the incident form.

This is as the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mrs Catriona Lang, yesterday, said next year’s general election was important to the United Kingdom, Africa and the rest of the world, and therefore, reiterated the British government policy to impose visa restrictions on those involved in violent acts during elections.

At the same time, the House of Representatives, at its plenary yesterday stepped down a motion on the need to condemn attacks on offices and facilities of INEC in several states of the federation.

In another development, INEC, has disclosed that an aggregate of 234,037 voters were yet to claim their Permanent Voter Cards in Ekiti State.

The commission, however, assured Nigerians that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) has come to stay as the only means of voter accreditation, insisting that there would be no incident form on election day.

To this end, the commission said it would today (Thursday) publish a summary of the guidelines on finances and election expenses of parties and their candidates.

According to Yakubu, “Turning to campaign finance, the Commission is determined to tackle the matter frontally. Areas of violation include party and candidate expenditure beyond what is provided by law and the diabolical practice of vote buying at polling units on election day.

“Here again, the commission will tomorrow Thursday 24th November 2022 publish a summary of the guidelines on finances and election expenses of parties and candidates.

“Beyond that, we are mobilising every national institution with the responsibility for tracking and combating the illicit flow of funds as well as the broadcast and print media regulatory agencies to confront the problem head-on. The details of this will be unveiled shortly.”

He further disclosed that it again met with the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers and reviewed its Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road transport union.

While noting that tremendous progress had been made in the production and delivery of critical sensitive and non-sensitive election materials to state offices of INEC as well as ongoing recruitment and training of ad hoc staff, the commission said it has expanded the scope of collaboration to include the marine union for the the riverine areas and that, the revised MoU would be signed with the service providers to cover both land and maritime transportation.

His words: “On electoral logistics, particularly, the arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to various locations during elections, the commission met again with the service providers and reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road transport unions.

“Arising from our experience in previous elections, the commission has expanded the scope of collaboration to include the marine union for the the riverine areas. Very soon, the revised MoU will be signed with the service providers to cover both land and maritime transportation.

“However, there are four broad areas that Nigerians would like to receive assurances of the progress the commission is making and challenges (if any) being encountered. They are security, campaign finance, technology, the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and assurances that their votes will count on Election Day.

“On security, the commission has said repeatedly that it is an area of concern. The commission has the responsibility to conduct elections. However, securing the environment for the deployment of personnel and materials as well as the peaceful conduct of elections is a shared responsibility involving the security agencies, the political actors and their supporters, the media and all other critical stakeholders.

“The perennial insecurity in the country is a source for concern. This existing challenge is compounded by the unfortunate incidents of attacks on campaigns, rallies and processions across all political parties.”

Although the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines for political parties are clear, the commission said it has found it necessary to remind political parties, candidates and their supporters on the provisions of the law and their responsibilities.

“Accordingly, tomorrow Thursday 24th November 2022, the Commission will release a summary highlighting the legal provisions governing the conduct of political rallies, processions and campaigns. This will be uploaded to our website and social media platforms.

“Beyond the provisions of the law, the commission held an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in the wake of the recent condemnable attacks on our Local Government offices in Ogun and Osun States. Far-reaching resolutions were arrived at, including the deployment of joint security teams to our facilities nationwide.

“Beyond that, the Inspector General of Police summoned an extraordinary meeting with leaders of political parties on the imperative of peaceful campaigns. We will continue to follow up on that bold step in our engagement with political parties and other critical stakeholders.

“On technology, the Electoral Act 2022 requires the commission to deploy technology on election day for voter accreditation and the upload of polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal. These processes will be achieved through the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

Yakubu assured Nigerians that the BVAS, has come to stay as the only means of voter accreditation, adding that, there would be no incident form on election day.

Results from polling units, he maintained, would be uploaded to the IReV portal in real-time, and that, Nigerians would view the results as they are uploaded.

“For the last two years beginning from August 2020, the commission has published results direct from polling units in 105 off-cycle governorship and bye-elections in real-time and the results can still be viewed on the IReV portal. The 2023 general election will not be different.

“There is no truth in any insinuation to the contrary. This should put to rest the erroneous notion that Nigerians will not have the opportunity to view polling unit results uploaded by Presiding Officers in real-time on Election Day.

“On the collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for fresh registrations in 2022 as well as applicants for transfer to other polling units and the replacement of damaged or lost cards, we wish to assure Nigerians that the commission will soon release the timelines and procedure for the collection of PVCs.

“With the ongoing display of the register for claims and objections, the commission considered it appropriate to conclude the process so that the cards will not be in the hands of ineligible registrants, who may attempt to use them during the election. We understand the anxiety of Nigerians to collect their PVCs and appeal for a little patience as we speedily conclude the necessary safeguards for a transparent process.

“The cleaning up of the voters’ register is critical to elections. We have been transparent in making the register available both online and manual copies in 9,583 locations nationwide (8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas) for scrutiny by citizens as required by law. The voters’ register is the largest database of citizens in Nigeria.

“Like all databases of this size, it cannot be perfect. However, the Commission believes that Nigerians are the real owners of the voters’ register. They are, therefore, in a best position to point out ineligible persons on the register, including deceased persons, that will help the commission to improve on this critical national asset. I want to reassure you that based on the observations made by Nigerians, we will dutifully clean up the register ahead of the election.”

Convener of the Situation Room, Ene Obi, while speaking, said this year’s stakeholders ‘forum on elections was focused on the role of stakeholders in ensuring free, fair, peaceful and credible elections, noting that the 2023 general election would take place in the context of a grave security crisis of huge concern.

“We wish to use this forum to critically assess the current political environment and make recommendations and suggestions in the preparations and conduct of the 2023 general election,” she said.

British High Commissioner Explains Why 2023 Poll is Important

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mrs Catriona Lang, has reiterated that, next year’s general election was important to the United Kingdom, Africa and the rest of the world and that the British government policy to impose visa restrictions on those involved in violent acts during elections remained unchanged.

Speaking at a meeting with members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Working Committee (NWC) during a familiarisation tour of political parties and stakeholders in the electioneering processes, she said, “This election is very important to Africa and parts of the world, so the spotlight will be on Nigeria and the UK will be watching closely.

“We engage in so many ways. We have spoken with INEC, civil societies, we don’t support any political party, it is for the people of Nigeria to decide, who will lead them at the federal level and state levels, in that spirit, we are meeting all the main political parties.”

The British envoy said she had also met with the Chairman of the PDP in February, and that yesterday’s meeting was the second and that she would be meeting all the other chairmen of the main political parties too.

According to her, “The few things that are on my mind, just to make sure that the election go very well, number one is security, and we have been really concerned about the recent events, 52 election violence related issues, in 22 states including an attack on the PDP convoy in Maiduguri, that is a real concern, and we want to exchange our thoughts on what you can do as a political party to ensure that the election are as peaceful as possible.

“When people feel intimidated, they can’t get out to vote, the election itself will not be credible, that is why the violence is of great concern,” she stated.

On the issue of electoral violence, she said, “You can make a statement about the last election, as well as we do have positive support, since we do have sanctions in the form of our visa programme. We will also be watching closely any individual, who acts violently or just incite people through the social media, we do have the possibility of using our visas as sanction by removing peoples rights to visit the UK.

“We will be watching closely. These apply to all the political parties, not just the parties, but security officials and anybody who might be in that position. The really important thing is to get the votes out, whatever political party you are, the election will be credible, if the votes are high. It was low last time around 35 per cent.

“There is also the issue of registration of young voters, that is a real positive and we hope that they would turn out to vote on the day of election, because it will make the election much more credible,” she stated.

National Secretary of PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who represented the national chairman said, the PDP was embedded in every nook and cranny of the country.

He further said PDP has structure in every unit in Nigeria, adding that “Everybody knew what happened in 2015 was an aberration, we won that election and it was stolen, in 2019 we won again and it was stolen but we believe in 2023 by February 25, PDP will come back to power because we have put every structure on ground.

“We believe that with the BVAS, which INEC is able to introduce, it is not going to be business as usual and that is why we keep praying for INEC to maintain what they have promised to Nigerians and when that is done, we will find out that our party is in top gear. The other party is just using abusive statements, which are not part of what we signed; our campaign should be issue-based,” he stated.

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