Growing Insecurity Threatening 2023 General Elections – INEC – LEADERSHIP NEWS

Prof Yakubu, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at a town hall meeting organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), also said the increasing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will constitute a challenge in the conduct of the INEC elections next year.
The nation’s electoral body said many of the IDPs are in the houses of friends and relatives and have lost their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), adding that it is practically impossible to recreate their constituencies and polling units.
LEADERSHIP reports that Nigeria is plagued by insecurity in several parts of the country – the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in the North East region, the banditry-terrorism in the North West and parts of North Central, separatist violence in the South East, and herdsmen-farmers clashes, kidnappings, ritual and cult killings in various parts of the country, resulting in millions of internally displaced persons across Nigeria.
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this at the programme yesterday, said the 2023 general elections will come with their challenges but that the Commission was determined to surmount these challenges and conduct free, fair, credible and inclusive elections.
He also noted that while it is easy to recreate constituencies and polling units in clustered IDP camps, it is next to impossible to do so for persons staying in scattered locations.
Yakubu, who was represented by the national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr Festus Okoye, said for the IDPs, the the Commission will print new PVCs for them and recreate their polling units in their camps, where they will be eligible to vote in some of the elections depending on their location and their proximity to their state and federal constituencies.
‘’This is in accord with section 24(1) of the Electoral Act, which provides that “In the event of an emergency affecting an election, the Commission shall, as far as practicable, ensure that persons displaced as a result of the emergency are not disenfranchised.
‘’Based on this, the Commission developed regulations and guidelines on IDP voting and will implement the intendment of the law and the regulations and guidelines.
‘’As you are aware, the Commission is currently at the terminal phase of its Continuous Voters Registration Exercise (CVR). There are so many communities that are still inaccessible to our registration officers. In the next few weeks, the Commission will roll out modalities for the further devolution and rotation of the CVR to our registration areas, and the security of our personnel and the registrants are fundamental to the success of the exercise.
‘’We are determined to register all eligible registrants but will not expose our staff to unnecessary danger. We will roll out and roll back depending on the security situation in different parts of the country.’’
Speaking further, he said the Commission had introduced new and creative changes in the enumeration of voters, the party nomination processes and the conduct of elections.
He disclosed that the Commission was currently conducting the Continuous Voters Registration Exercise (CVR) both physically and online using the new INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED).
‘’The Commission has introduced an online nomination portal through which political parties upload the list and personal particulars of their nominated candidates.  The Commission has also introduced an online portal through which international and domestic observers and the media apply for accreditation.
‘’The Commission has also introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation and authentication. The Commission introduced the INEC Result Viewing Portal (iRev) through which polling unit level results are uploaded to a result-viewing portal in real time.
‘’The Commission is firmly of the view that greater use of technology in the electoral process will to a large extent reduce human interference in the voting, counting and collation process,’’ he said.
He, however, said the Commission is conscious of the fact that technology does not operate itself and that the issue of human element is ever present.
‘’The Commission will continue to learn from issues and challenges that arise from the deployment of technology and will continue to innovate and improve on them.
‘’The Commission will expand the base of the training of its ad-hoc staff to acquaint them more with the workings of the BVAS and other technological innovations of the Commission.’’
Speaking at the event, the government of the United States of America said that the eyes of the world are on Nigeria this year and early next year as the nation prepares to conduct general elections and transition to a new government in 2023.
US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, also hailed the commitment of key stakeholders in the country to democracy and opposition to authoritarianism.
The envoy said one way to restore public confidence in democracy is through free and fair elections.
According to her, ‘’The eyes of the world will therefore be on Nigeria this year and early next year as you prepare to choose a new president and transition to a new government.
‘’We were pleased that last week President Buhari signed Nigeria’s long-awaited Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law, ensuring adoption of a number of long sought-after reforms to the electoral process, including the electronic transmission of election results from polling places.’’
She also noted that Nigeria’s commitment to democracy and opposition to authoritarianism remains sound.
‘’Your leaders have been consistent in calling for the respect of presidential term limits, for example, and they have been quick to condemn military coups in West Africa and the rest of the continent.
‘’Beyond public pledges supporting freedom and democracy, however, I hope your group will use this opportunity to delve deeper into underlying factors that erode faith in democracy.”
The envoy however pointed out that democracy was not delivering the expected dividend to Nigerians, leading to question marks about its preference.
‘’Patronage politics, corruption, inequality, and the failure of many democratic governments to deliver for their citizens fuel public and media doubts about the democratic model, causing them to lose hope and cynically accept the status quo as inevitable and normal,’’ she said.
Ambassador Leonard also said the United States would support Nigeria to defend its democratic ideals and practices.
She stressed that critical stakeholders in the country must start with renewed vigor and optimism to defend democratic ideals and practices at every turn.
The envoy said, ‘’As civil society representatives, academics, youth leaders, editors, and journalists, you stand at the frontlines, and you will undoubtedly be remembered and judged by the Nigerian people based on how well you perform for them.’’
She further stressed that access to accurate, unbiased information was critical to any democracy in the world.
‘’Through these editor workshops, you have learned about some of the innovative approaches media managers employ to reduce or identify bias. You have learned how diversity in the media houses strengthens the overall scope and quality of reporting.
‘’Many of you are now consciously taking a more inclusive approach to staffing your newsrooms, including hiring more women.
‘’Editors like yourselves are in fact critical gatekeepers. Your actions and decisions level the playing field. You determine whose voices are heard, and what news topics receive in-depth coverage.
‘’In a digital age when the 24/7 news cycle is unrelenting and often bewildering, you help weed out the trivia to focus on the essential. You oblige candidates to respond to uncomfortable or pointed questions. You interview citizens and potential voters whose voices are not always amplified or heard.’’
The envoy also noted that although editors may not always realise it, giving voice to the governed and the under-represented helps to reduce voter apathy.
In the United States, especially in the last 10-15 years, she said her country had witnessed the phenomenon of skeptical US voters who say that they cannot fully trust what they watch on cable news or read on the Internet.
‘’Competing TV news channels present opinion as fact to win over partisan viewers or capture a larger share of advertisers and the mass media market.
‘’As a whole, U.S. journalists and media groups enjoy immense press freedoms, and we tend to think of them as the best in the business. But they too face their own credibility gaps vis-a-vis their local and national audiences; it simply comes with the territory!’’
She also noted that the media, in particular, play a daily, vital role in reflecting and mobilising public opinion.
‘’When you write, publish and broadcast thoughtfully, impartially, and with accuracy, your contribution to democracy is profound. When you uncover evidence that unscrupulous individuals have tried to hide or deny, you empower law enforcement and the judicial system.
‘’When you hold politicians to account with well-researched, non-partisan facts, you directly serve the interests of the voting public, and play a vital role in shaping public perceptions about not only those who currently govern but also about those who wish to govern in the future,’’ she added.
On his part, the president of the NGE, Mustapha Isah, said freedom of the media allows the creation of a public space in which a wide range of debates and expression of a variety of viewpoints can take place.
Isah said free and critical press is essential for the growth and development of any democracy.
He stressed that the media’ duty, as a watchdog of society, was to monitor governance and hold public office holders accountable to the people who elected them.
‘’Good governance is simply an essential framework which serves as a means of achieving wider goals, including security of life and property (which is the primary goal of government, according to the 1999 constitution), prosperity and the general well-being of the citizenry.
‘’Journalists are part of the society and stand to also benefit from good governance if provided. So, it won’t be misplaced priority if our profession devotes more time and energy to promoting good governance.’’
Isah said on no account should Nigerians take its democracy for granted.
‘’In the last one year, there have been four coups in West Africa alone in which the military truncated democracy in those countries.
‘’A democratic government was toppled in Chad on April 20, 2021. We’ve had two coups in Mali in less than one year. On September 5, 2021, the military struck in Guinea and on January 24, 2022, the Burkina Faso military followed the dangerous and negative trend.’’
Isah said all the happenings in West African countries should serve as a warning to Nigerians to jealously protect their democracy through good governance, openness and citizen participation.
‘’Only the people have the ability and force to check power hungry military from truncating democracy anywhere in the world.
‘’The Guild believes that democracy remains the best form of government because it guarantees freedoms and it has the ability to correct its own mistakes if the people don’t go to sleep after elections,’’ he said.
In his submission, the executive director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, said INEC must be protected from undue political interference in order to ensure credibility of the commission and elections.

© 2021 || Leadership Media Group || All Rights Reserved.
© 2021 || Leadership Media Group || All Rights Reserved.


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