*Says INEC will start direct primary if Buhari signs bill
*Registers 4.297m fresh voters
*‘Polls in Nigeria comparable to holding elections in entire West Africa’
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday attributed challenges faced with the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the recent governorship election in Anambra State to human error rather than machine malfunction.
Speaking when he met with media executives in Lagos, Yakubu also said INEC would ensure the implementation of direct primary as passed by the National Assembly as soon as it was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Yakubu pointed out that many of the commission’s partners backed out of the Anambra election at the last minute, because of security concerns.
He noted that in June this year, INEC introduced the BVAS, which performed the functions of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) and the Z-Pad, saying the Anambra election had been universally adjudged to be credible.
Yakubu stated, “From our assessment so far, much of the glitches encountered on election day in Anambra state had little to do with the machines but more with the operators of the system.
“The extraordinarily difficult circumstances under which the election was held meant that some of the better trained ad hoc staff withdrew at the eleventh hour.
“Similarly, some critical service providers, such vehicle owners, also withdrew thereby severely affecting our plans for rapid response by our technicians.”
However, Yakubu said in spite of the glitches, the BVAS justified INEC’s determination to deepen the deployment of technology in the electoral process. It also strengthened the commission’s belief that even the minimal introduction of technology in voter accreditation was better than the best manual process.
“This has also justified the hope of citizens across the country that the deployment of more appropriate technology is essential to electoral integrity in Nigeria,” he stressed.
Noting that vital lessons had been learnt from the Anambra pilot, Yakubu assured that there would be remarkable improvement in the next major election, which is the end-of-tenure Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) schedule to hold on February 12 next year.
On direct primary, the INEC chairman said, “The commission will give expeditious consideration to the law, including the detailed regulations and guidelines for its implementation where necessary.”
He pointed out that Nigeria’s size and population made it one of the biggest democracies in the world and the second largest presidential democracy after the United States of America.
According to Yakubu, “The size of our voter population and elective institutions make elections in Nigeria a huge undertaking. This fact is better appreciated within our regional context.
“There are 15 countries in West Africa today, including Nigeria. However, with the current voter population of over 84 million, Nigeria has about 11 million more registered voters than the other 14 countries put together which have 73.6 million registered voters. Conducting a general election in Nigeria is like holding election in West Africa and beyond,” he posited.
He also revealed that presently, Nigeria’s voting population had hit 84,004,084, excluding the ongoing continuous voter registration, with 176,846 polling units, 8,809 wards and 1,567 constituencies.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, the INEC boss disclosed that as of November 22, 4,297,494 Nigerians had been added to the electoral register.
The INEC chair also expressed delight that Nigerians had fully embraced and was taking full advantage of the services available on its new Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) portal, explaining that the development had made the job less tedious for staff involved in the process.
He stated, “The commission has also been updating Nigerians every week on new development since the CVR started. As of 22 November 2021, the CVR platform had recorded a total of 4,297,494 fresh registrants while 1,856,771 registrants have validated their application.
On its effort to engender transparency in the electoral process, he said INEC had unveiled the Result Viewing (IReV) portal to make available for public view copies of the polling unit election result sheet, known as Form EC8A on election day.
Yakubu added that the commission recognised that some members of the society needed special attention to make it possible for them to participate actively in the electoral process, especially persons living with disability with a view to understanding their needs.
He stated that while it was INEC’s desire to ensure that only the choice of the electorate emerged at the end of every election, some individuals in the society did not believe in free and fair elections.
“And they will do everything within their power to undermine the process. It is our collective duty, therefore, to ensure that this sort of mind-set fails,” he stressed.
He urged the media to help in containing fake news, but said often those who try to undermine the electoral system and their sympathisers take advantage of the free social media space and sometimes even the traditional media to advance their interests and spread falsehood.
Earlier, the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, called for strategic partnership and engagement between the commission and the media.
He stated that holding the commission to account was not the responsibility of the media alone, saying all Nigerians have a duty to challenge INEC’s actions and activities that are perceived to fall short of regional and international standards.