Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has assured Nigerians and the Commonwealth Observer Mission, that votes from the electorate will decide who emerges the winner in the 2019 general elections.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yukubu, who gave the assurance while receiving the Commonwealth delegation, pointed out that the only thing that gives the commission joy is in ensuring that the votes count and that only the votes cast by the citizens would determine who the leaders would be.
While assuring the mission of the commission’s readiness for the poll, he said: “We are grateful to Commonwealth for accepting our invitation, and for deploying this high-level of a mission to observe the elections.
“You are here essentially as a guest of the commission; we invited you to observe the elections, not to monitor, and I am so glad that the Commonwealth has sent you and your team.
“I am also aware that you are deploying to a number to the states in the country, across the geopolitical zones. We will appreciate not just your interim but your comprehensive report.
“I recall that in 2015, there was a similar mission of the Commonwealth and at the end of it, you submitted a report. We summarised the report of the last observer mission in which you made 32 recommendations.
“You identified institutions that should implement those recommendations. I think about eight you recommended should be implemented by INEC. We looked at the recommendations and implemented those we could implement administratively but those that required amendment of the constitution or amendment of the Electoral Act had to go through the legislative process.
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“But one important recommendation of the last observer mission was the system of accreditation and voting, where the voters get accredited, then go and come back again to vote. The last Commonwealth observer mission recommended we should abolish that archaic system. And that as soon as citizens are accredited, they should be able to vote at the same time.
“We have been implementing this recommendation since January 2016 when we conducted a governorship election in this country. Since then, we have conducted 96 elections and all have been conducted on the basis of simultaneous accreditation and voting or what we call continuous accreditation and voting.
“It does not require an amendment of the law for the commission to continue with this system. For that reason, the commission used its powers under the Electoral Act to make it part of the guidelines. It is now in our regulation for the conduct of the 2019 general election.
“We welcome your observer mission; in fact, your recommendations actually strengthened our processes and procedures. I am confident that at the end of your work here, there will be a new set of powerful recommendations similar to what you did in 2015.
“I want to reassure the international community that we will always learn lessons from international best practice in ensuring that our elections meet not only our national aspirations but also international best practices.
“Let me also use the occasion of this visit to reassure Nigerian citizens that the election on February 16 and March 2 will be free fair and credible. We are committed to these processes. The only thing the commission derives joy is in ensuring that votes count; that only the votes cast by citizens of this country will determine who their leaders are,” he assured.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation and former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, emphasised that they were on a mission to observe and not to monitor the elections, promising to write an interim report after the poll.
“We have come here not to monitor but to observe because sometimes people call election monitors. We have come to observe the elections. We are in the here to listen to what you the chairman of the commission wants to tell us with regard to the preparedness to conduct these elections.
“We will deploy observers to many places in the country; we cannot deploy to all the places in the country, it is a huge country with more people but we are a critical mass that after visiting and observing the elections, preparation for the election, election day, how the election is conducted, how the counting has gone, every single impression of how things have gone. Then after, we will write our interim report.”