•IPAC accuses governors of using touts to intimidate opponents, destroy campaign materials
•Vows to resist plot to sack INEC boss, scuttle election
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday expressed concerns over the forthcoming general election due to the rising threats of insecurity, warning that the forthcoming polls face threat of cancellation if the level of insecurity across the country continues.
This was just as the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), during a media briefing yesterday, alleged that some state governors were using touts to intimidate their opponents and destroy campaign materials of opposition parties.
The commission also warned that a cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies due to the prevailing security situation in the areas may not only hinder the declaration of elections results, but also precipitate a constitutional crisis.
Yakubu, who was represented by the Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, issued the warning at the validation of election security training resources held in Abuja yesterday.
However, Yakubu pointed out that the commission was doing everything possible to ensure that adequate security was provided for election personnel, materials and processes.
The INEC Chairman explained: “We all appreciate the fact that election security is vital to democratic consolidation through provision of an enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process.
“Consequently, in preparations for the 2023 general elections, the commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security is provided for election personnel, materials and processes.
“This is particularly significant to the commission given the current insecurity challenges in various parts of the country and the fact that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members constitute the core of the Polling Unit Election officials.
“Moreover, if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis. This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen.”
Therefore, he stressed that security personnel in particular and all election officials in general must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge at all times.
Speaking further, he said: “To this end, the National Security Adviser, Major-Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), and the INEC Chairman have jointly assured the nation that a conducive environment would be provided for successful conduct of the 2023 general election.
“Similarly, the Inspector General of Police (IG) Usman Alkali Baba, has conducted Election Security Management Workshops across the six geopolitical zones. On its part, the commission, through the Electoral Institute, has institutionalised the development and implementation of a cascaded training mechanism for security personnel as a critical component of its training plan.
“We are also aware that there is a new Electoral Legal Framework that will guide the 2023 as a result of the enactment of the Electoral Act 2022 which prompted the review of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for Conduct of Elections 2022.
“In particular, Sections 47(2), 60(1, 2 & 5), 62(1), 64(4a & 4b) and 64(5) of the Electoral Act 2022, which confers INEC with the power to use any technological device to transmit or transfer election results electronically are instructive in this regard.
“Emboldened by these legal protections, the commission introduced new innovative technologies and procedures and made commitments to the Nigeria People that (a) Continuous Verification, Accreditation and Voting will be conducted at the Polling Units using the Bimodal Verification and Accreditation System (BVAS) and (b) Real-Time Polling Unit-level results will be uploaded on to the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) Portal using the same BVAS.
“These commitments require innovative security strategies and deployments for protection of voters, election personnel, materials, equipment, the electoral processes as well as the general public and infrastructure,” he noted.
Commenting further, the INEC boss said: “These innovative systems and processes minimise human errors and delays in results collation and improves the accuracy, transparency, and credibility of the results collation process thereby ensuring credibility of the process.
“They were tested during the Ekiti and Osun Governorship elections, held on June 18, 2022 and July 16, 2022, respectively. The Hon. Chairman INEC has severally assured the nation that the BVAS and IReV will be deployed during the 2023 general elections.
“Reports on the conduct of security operatives during the elections conducted by the commission, specifically stand-alone governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states have shown progressive and commendable improvement in their disposition to electoral training and professionalism on election duties.”
In his goodwill message delivered by its Country Director, Seray Jah, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), noted that the training of security personnel to be deployed for the poll was the ingredient for peaceful elections.
“Managing security threats in the electioneering process is a tall order for INEC, which has the responsibility, together with Nigerian security agencies, of preventing, mitigating, and resolving electoral violence.
“To effectively do this, security personnel deployed during the elections would need adequate training on their roles and responsibilities during the election.
“The validation workshop with key stakeholders in elections security presents an opportunity to ratify the quality resources developed to train the security personnel as they prepare to deploy for the 2023 general elections. IFES commends TEI and INEC for the workshop.”
Meanwhile, IPAC has alleged that some state governors were using touts to intimate members of the opposition in their state.
The council further expressed concern about the level of insecurity in the country spreading in most of the states, where it alleged the governors were using sponsored touts to stop and destroy campaign materials and the party offices of the opposition political parties
It urged the security agents to be proactive and ensure adequate protection of lives and property before, during and after the elections
IPAC, however, passed a vote of confidence on Yakubu.
The council said it was fully in support of the plans being put in place by the commission to ensure a free, transparent and credible election, including the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), for voting purposes.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, at the end of an Emergency General Assembly, National Secretary of IPAC, Yusuf Dantalle said the political parties resolved to support the INEC chairman in the onerous task of conducting the forthcoming general elections.
“IPAC expresses confidence in INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, warns anti-democrats plotting to remove him and truncate the ongoing electoral process,” he said.
Dantalle who read the resolutions on behalf of the IPAC National Chairman, warned that those he described as reactionary forces were behind the move to remove the INEC chairman to enable them truncate the process that will lead to credible general election in the country.
He also said the council backs the deployment of BVAS, IReV for the 2023 general election.
He said: “IPAC held an Emergency General Assembly meeting today on crucial national issues and evaluated emerging threats to the 2023 general election, particularly the grand plots by anti- democratic forces to remove the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu from office on frivolous allegations of false assets declaration few weeks to the general election, attacks on the commission’s offices in some parts of the country which destroyed sensitive, non-sensitive electoral materials and other property including Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), ballot boxes, voting cubicles, megaphones, electric power generators, election bags, water storage tanks, office furniture and fixtures in Zamfara, Imo, Ebonyi, Ogun, Osun, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Jigawa, FCT, Ondo, Abia States and campaign violence. “Despite these unprecedented attacks on its facilities and the huge costs in replacing them immediately as time is of the essence, INEC has remained resolute, undaunted and courageous in deploying technology in the conduct of free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive general election leading to peaceful transfer of power.”
IPAC said INEC’s position on deployment of technology in the conduct of the 2023 general elections was in tandem with the stance of IPAC.
The council said there had been several attempts being made to remove the INEC chairman, from office following his determination to conduct credible elections, the latest of which was through an originating summons in Suit No: FCT/HC/GAR/CV/47/2022, at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, by one Somadike Uzoabaka.
According to IPAC, the Uzoabaka was seeking an order of mandatory injunction directing and compelling the INEC chairman to recuse, excuse and exclude himself and or step down as the chairman of INEC pending the investigations against him by the various law enforcement agencies.
Representatives of the political parties who attended the briefing also expressed their feelings on the state of the nation.
The National Chairman and presidential candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, Dan Nwanyanwu, said those behind the current plot don’t want the use of BVAS technology and were looking for ways to frustrate the process, including the removal of the INEC boss to pave way for them to deploy the rigging machinery. He said almost all the political parties were in support of the process to ensure free and fair election.
He said that even as INEC and the parties were hopeful of a better election through BVAS, there were reports that some persons were already plotting to work against its effective deployment.