Yakubu: 95 Million Nigerians to Vote in 176,846 Polling Units

Yakubu: 95 Million Nigerians to Vote in 176,846 Polling Units

•Insists election results would be transmitted real time

•There’ll be no ballot snatching, stuffing in 2023, says INEC

•Opposition parties allege plot to stop e-transmission of election results, deactivate BVAS

Chuks Okocha, Udora Orizu in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Tuesday, gave an idea of the number of voters in the 2023 general election, saying 95 million Nigerians would vote in 176, 846 polling units across the country.

Yakubu, who dropped the hint at an event organised by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) at the NED Headquarters, Washington DC, United States, however, insisted election results would be transmitted real time

This is as INEC, has assured the people that  with the electoral reforms,  there would be no room for  ballot snatching and stuffing by criminal elements during the elections.

But the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), chairmen of political parties, and heads of political associations have alleged that plans were being put in place by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to intimidate INEC into abandoning the use of electronic transmission, uploading of election results and the deactivation of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine from the commission’s server.

However, Yakubu, while speaking at the event, said, “The election is significant because the incumbent president is not eligible to run, this being his second and final term.

“There are 18 political parties in the race to produce the next President to be elected by 95 million voters. We had over 84 million registered voters in 2019.  But with last Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR), we are going to add at least 10 million Nigerians and that will take the Register of Voters to 95 million. And these 95 million citizens will vote in 176, 846 polling units.”

While raising the issue of insecurity affecting the 2023 elections, he said, “Are there concerns about the 2023 general election? I’ll be the last to say there are no concerns. The first concern is the perennial issue of insecurity in different parts of the country, compounded by the traditional issues of thuggery during elections organized by some of the political actors.

“I say it is a perennial issue because at the end of the day, it is nothing new. However, the dimension of the insecurity is concerning in the sense that in the past, it was localised or confined to a particular part of the country, the northeast. But now it is more widespread and we are keeping our eyes particularly on the northwest and the southeastern parts of the country.

“Elections are conducted by human beings. We worry about the security of our officials, voters and the materials to be deployed. Without them, we cannot conduct elections. We have spoken to the security agencies, they have assured us that the situation will improve before the elections.

“So, fingers crossed. Those who are supposed to secure the environment have assured us that they will secure the environment for us to conduct elections. Our responsibility is to conduct elections. I say this and I won’t be tired of saying it to an audience like this: In West Africa, there are 15 countries including Nigeria. But the total number of registered voters in the 14 countries combined is 73 million.

“In Nigeria, it’s going to be 95 million. So, there will be 22 million more voters in Nigeria than the whole of West Africa put together. Each time Nigerian goes to the polls, it’s like the whole of West Africa voting,” he said.

He told his US audience that INEC have learnt a lot of lessons from the general election conducted in 2015 and 2019 as well as the 103 off cycle elections and bye-elections since the 2019 general elections.

Giving insight into what INEC has done to improve the integrity and quality of electioneering process, he said, “We have introduced innovations to increase transparency and ensure credibility of the electoral process. The new Electoral Act with its many progressive provisions, has provided legal backing to the innovations. On this note, I’ll like to appreciate the civil society organisations and other stakeholders for the intense advocacy, leading to the passage of the new law.”

The INEC chairman said, “We introduced other portals for things like accreditation of observers, media organisations, nomination of candidates by political parties and nomination of polling agents by parties.

“It has also helped us to reduce the level of litigation arising, particularly, from the conduct of political parties, because now it’s an interaction between the party agents and the machines and anytime you logged in and out, there is a time stamp, so you can’t argue. If you argue, we’ll produce the evidence of what happened. And at 6pm on a fixed date,, the portal automatically shuts down. If any party has any problem, it’s not the Commission.”

On the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), Yakubu said, “What we have done basically is to retire our good old Smart Card Reader (SCR). The SCR by definition reads the card. Each biometric card has a chip embedded inside it and in the SCR, you have the sam card.”

On what BVAS has done, he said, “It has eliminated multiple accreditation that was observed in previous elections. Now, you are absolutely sure that the person who is accredited is actually the voter and the bearer of the card.

“It has increased public confidence in the outcome of elections as shown in the recent off-cycle elections. People tend to be more confident now with the protection of the process of accreditation using technology. The system of using the BVAS for the conduct of elections has come to stay. There’s no going back,” he explained.

On inclusivity, the INEC chairman said the commission has created a new Department of Gender and Inclusivity in the Commission and within the limits of available resources, we have provided Assistive Devices for Persons with Disabilities, such as Braille Ballot Guide and Magnifying Glasses for the vision impaired and those living with Albinism.

‘There’ll Be No Ballot Snatching, Stuffing in 2023 Elections’

INEC has assured Nigerians that  with the electoral reforms,  there would be no room for ballot snatching and stuffing by criminal elements during the 2023 general election.

Administrative Secretary of the commission in Kaduna State, Muhammed Mashi, gave the assurance yesterday, when members of a non-governmental organisation, Integrity Group for Better Nigeria (IGBN), paid him a courtesy call in his office.

“Nigerians will be surprised and happy about the smooth conduct and outcome of the elections. With the new electoral reform, Nigerians will be surprised and happy to see what will happen in 2023 election because it will be smooth, transparent, free and fair,” he said.

According to him, “The issue  of ballot stuffing and snatching will not happen, and no voter can vote twice. The election will be smooth that if Mr. A wins the election, Mr. B will not hesitate to congratulate Mr. A, and vice versa.”

He said further that the commission had commenced preparations for the elections, disclosing  that already, the state office of  INEC  had received both sensitive and non-sensitive materials.

Mashi also said the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for those, who did fresh registration and transfer of polling units were  ready for collection.

“We have started receiving both sensitive and insensitive materials for the 2023 elections. We are improving day by day. Those who did fresh registration and transfer of polling booths in July can go and collect their PVCs, because they are ready,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Convener of IGBN, Patrick Lawson, said his group would partner INEC to ensure transparency in the elections.

“We are a nongovernmental organisation group that is passionate about political development and progress of our dear country. So far, INEC is doing well and it should continue to do well. And we are pleased with INEC over the issue of PVCs as only those who registered can get the PVCs.

“We are happy that in recent time, INEC has done so well, especially, in the conduct of governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States. We are indeed impressed,” Lawson said.

Opposition Alleges Plot to Stop e-Transmission of Results, Deactivate BVAS

The CUPP, Chairmen of political parties (registered and deregistered) and Heads of Political Associations have alleged that there were plans by the ruling APC to intimidate the INEC into abandoning the use of electronic transmission, uploading of election results and the deactivation of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine from the commission’s server.

The opposition parties, at a joint press conference, in Abuja, alleged that they intercepted intelligence of an alleged fresh plot against the 2023 election being coordinated by leading figures in the APC and APC governors led by one of its south-east governors and another from the north-west, working with their colleagues to perfect a plot to intimidate INEC leadership.

Speaking on their behalf, CUPP spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the plot involved the use of security agencies, the senate, and the court to cause a leadership crisis and change that would see to the removal of the commission’s top leadership led by Prof Mahmud Yakubu and the appointment of a compromised acting Chairman, who would ruin the credibility of the 2023 election.

He said the party chairmen would alert the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other foreign embassies by submitting petitions on the alleged new conspiracy, adding that any plan to remove Yakubu and top officials of INEC would not be accepted.

“We, the Chairmen and leaders of different political parties here (AA, Labour, PDP, ADC, APP, etc),  candidates of different parties, CSOs, and leaders of opposition coalition, categorically state that any plan to destabilise INEC and force the top officials of the Commission, including the INEC Chairman out of office, whether with trumped-up charges, manipulated security report, instigated or coordinated parliamentary investigation, a hurriedly obtained injunction from the court, a Code of Conduct Bureau inquiry or an arrest and hurried arraignment will not be accepted.

“We repeat, these will not be accepted by Nigerian political parties, party leaders, civil societies, and the generality of Nigerians. Any further actions in this direction will be playing with fire and a direct affront and challenge to Nigerian voters and the entire political parties, and it will be resisted vehemently.

“Read the mind, eyes, soul, and heart and hear the voice of the opposition. It will not augur well for anyone, who continues with this alleged evil plot. We are also informed that there is a plot to cause a leadership change in the Commission’s top hierarchy and cause a sweeping change with less than 140 days to the elections.

“We have been tipped off by our intelligence both inside APC and the camp of the governors in the conspiracy and we can state that the opposition is in receipt of information that the INEC leadership, especially, senior officials, are being put under immense pressure to abandon the use of the BVAS machine,” Ugochinyere said.

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