The Independent National Electoral Commission has vowed to punish its officials, including ad-hoc or collation personnel, who may have been found wanting in the conduct of the Saturday, February 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Saturday in Abuja at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners.
He said, “As we approach the Governorship and State Assembly elections, we must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election. Nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians.
“All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including Collation and Returning Officers, must not be involved in forthcoming elections.
“RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established.”
Yakubu told the RECs that it was imperative for the Commission to review performances from Saturday’s election.
He noted that the elections were painstakingly done but they came with issues ranging from technology, delay by election officials, and attitudes of political party agents among others.
The INEC Chairman stated that a lot of lessons have been learnt from the presidential elections ahead of the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
Yakubu explained, “No doubt, last week’s national elections raised a number of issues that require immediate, medium, and long-term solutions. The planning for the election was painstakingly done.
“However, its implementation came with challenges, some of them unforeseen. The issues of logistics, election technology, the behaviour of some election personnel at different levels, and the attitude of some party agents and supporters added to the extremely challenging environment in which elections are usually held in Nigeria.
“We appreciate the sacrifice and doggedness of Nigerians and the dignity and maturity displayed by political leaders even in the context of divergent views about the election. A lot of lessons have been learnt.
“Of immediate concern to the Commission is how the identified challenges can be addressed as we approach the concluding phase of the General Election involving the largest number of constituencies i.e. 28 State Governorship elections and 993 State Houses of Assembly seats.”
Concerning the National Assembly election, Yakubu stated that the All Progressives Congress won with 57 seats in the Senate and 162 in the House of Representatives.
He said that the 2023 National Assembly election was the most diverse since 1999.
The INEC Chairman noted, “In last Saturday’s elections, winners have also been declared for 423 national legislative seats while supplementary elections will be held in 46 constituencies. In the Senate, 98 out of 109 seats have been declared. So far, seven political parties have won senatorial seats while in the House of Representatives, 325 out of 360 seats have been won by eight political parties.
“In terms of party representation, this is the most diverse national assembly since 1999 as can be seen from the tabular summary below:
“Senate: All Progressives Congress, 57 seats; All Progressives Grand Alliance, one; Labour Party, six; New Nigeria Peoples Party, two; Peoples Democratic Party, 29; Social Democratic Party, two; Young Peoples Party, one.
“House of Reps: African Democratic Party, two; APC, 162; APGA, four; LP, 34; NNPP, 18; PDP, 102; SDP, two and YPP, one.
“Certificates of Return will be presented to Senators-elect on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at 11.00 am at the National Collation Centre (the International Conference Centre), Abuja, while Members of the House of Representatives-elect will receive theirs the following day, Wednesday 8th March 2023, at 11.00 am at the same venue. However, for effective crowd management, each Senator/Member-elect should be accompanied by a maximum of two guests. The comprehensive list of all members-elect will be uploaded to the Commission’s website shortly.”
Yakubu added that Nigerians will accept nothing else in the Governorship and State Assembly elections than free and fair elections, urging the RECs to be up and doing.
He said that the Bimodal Voter Authentication System machines will be deployed for the March 11 elections, assuring that the BVAS will work without hitches.
The INEC Chairman noted, “As we approach the Governorship and State Assembly elections, we must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election. Nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians. All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including Collation and Returning Officers, must not be involved in forthcoming elections. RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established.
“Election Day logistics must be finalised days before the election and handled by the Electoral Officers at the Local Government level. This has been our standard practice. Centralising the process as was done in some states resulted in a delayed deployment of personnel and materials and late commencement of polls.
“RECs will be held responsible for any tardy arrangement or the failure to deploy electric power generators to collation centres or polling units where such facilities are needed. The Commission has enough facilities in all the States of the Federation. Failure to deploy them is simply inexcusable.
“Refresher training must be conducted for ad hoc staff that participated in the last election. Where they are replaced for good reason, they must be properly trained so that processes are not delayed or compromised at any stage.
“On Election Day technology, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System will once again be deployed for voter accreditation and result management. The deployment of BVAS has gone a long way to sanitise voter accreditation as can be seen from the result of recent elections.
“Since last week, the Commission has intensified the review of the technology to ensure that glitches experienced, particularly with the upload of results are rectified. We are confident that going forward the system will run optimally.”
Regarding the petitions from political parties, Yakubu said “Arising from last week’s election, the Commission has received reports from our State offices well as complaints and petitions from political parties and candidates. Where infractions of any kind are proven, there will be redress. I must add that any action taken by the Commission is without prejudice to the rights of parties and candidates to seek further remedy as provided by law.”
The INEC Chairman pleaded with international observer missions still on the ground to extend their observations to Governorship and State Assembly elections.
He commended the domestic observers for their reports thus far which will make the Commission as the 2023 general elections gradually come to an end.
He explained, “Once again, the Commission would like to appreciate the patience and understanding of Nigerians. We do not take this for granted. We equally appreciate the patriotism of political, traditional, religious and community leaders that appealed for calm. Similarly, the Commission appreciates the role of heads of election observation missions, some of whom are still in the country.
“We appeal to such missions to consider extending their observations to the Governorship and State Assembly elections not only because they form an integral part of the General Election for which they are accredited but also because they are as important as the national elections.
“In the same vein, the Commission appreciates all domestic observers for their preliminary reports which will help us enormously as we conclude the 2023 General Election. We look forward to the full reports. We similarly appreciate the media for the extensive coverage of the election and the analyses by informed Nigerians and friends of Nigeria on the processes.
“We wish to assure you that we will continue to engage with you and all segments of the Nigerian society in a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder review of the election in earnest.”