* Says all political parties have notified it of their primary elections
*Mulls alternative arrangement for storing sensitive electoral materials
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would by next week, finalise the document guiding the conduct of future elections, including the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun governorship elections as well as the 2023 general elections.
The Commission also disclosed that all the 18 registered political parties have complied with the notifications for their congresses and presidential primaries.
These were disclosed yesterday by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakuku during a second quarterly meeting of the Commission with media executives in Abuja.
Yakubu said though it would be subjudice to comment on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the Commission was making alternative arrangements to store its sensitive electoral materials should the CBN governor go ahead to contest
According to him, beyond the conduct of primaries by political parties, the Commission was required to make regulations and guidelines for the implementation of the provisions of the Electoral Act.
“With regard to the Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections, the Commission is processing applications by media organisations for accreditation. I wish to reassure you that all applications will be carefully considered and expeditiously treated,” he said.
He said the Commission would also work with the security agencies to ensure the safety and security of journalists as well as ensure they have unimpeded access to all voting and collation locations during elections.
“There are many progressive provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 which requires clear understanding to guide implementation. One of such provisions is the electronic transmission of election results.
“At this meeting, we will discuss the implementation of the provisions of Sections 60, 62 and 64 of the Electoral Act 2022 regarding the management of election results. We have prepared a document for discussion which is included in your folders for this meeting,” he added.
The INEC Chairman further disclosed that the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise would end next month, that is June 30, 2022.
“Both the online pre-registration as well as the physical registration at designated centres are taking place simultaneously. However, online pre-registrants would require time to schedule appointments to complete their registration physically at designated centers.
“For this reason, the Commission has decided to suspend the online registration in the next three weeks, that is 30th May, 2022. This will enable the online registrants to complete their registration physically at the designated centres before the exercise is suspended on 30th June 2022. This will enable the Commission to clean up the registration data, print the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and compile the register ahead of the 2023 General Election,” he added.
Speaking further, he said: “On the cleaning up of the registration data, the Commission addressed a press conference four weeks ago to present a report on the CVR exercise covering the period from June to December 2021. For the first time, the Commission deployed the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) which is a comprehensive and robust system involving not just the fingerprint identification but also the facial biometric recognition.
“The report of the ABIS is included among the documents in your folders for this meeting. There will also be a presentation on the exercise by our ICT Department,” he added.
On election technology, he noted that the commission had reviewed the functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) following the complaints received after the recent Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) held on February 12, 2022. Two weeks later, the Commission conducted six bye-elections in four states across four geo-political zones of the country covering rural, sub-urban and urban areas.
“It was the most extensive geo-political deployment of the BVAS since it was pioneered in the Isoko South I State Constituency bye-election in Delta State in June last year. In these bye-elections, the BVAS functioned optimally as attested to by the reports of field observers accredited by the Commission.
“The lessons learnt from the most recent bye-elections have been taken into consideration as we prepare for the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections. The Commission has finished the configuration of the BVAS for the Ekiti State Governorship election.
“To further ensure optimal performance of the BVAS on Election Day, the Commission will undertake a mock voter accreditation exercise in Ekiti State ahead of the main election on June 18, 2022, the details of which will be announced shortly.”
The INEC chairman confirmed that all the political parties have complied with the notification of their presidential primaries and congresses as well as by supplying the commission with the soft and hard copies of their membership register.
On the likelihood of the CBN governor contesting the presidential election, Yakubu said though the matter was still in court, he assured that the commission was already considering an alternate means of storing its sensitive election materials like the results sheets and other polling documents to avoid a partisan approach.
He said the legal department of the Commission was in court to present its position.
Speaking at the event, the President Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Chris Isiguzo saluted the courage of National Assembly over the successful amendment of Electoral Act and the final assent by the President.
He called on INEC to remain resolute and not to succumbed to political actors on the issue of timeline.