From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that the current insecurity in the country will pose a serious threat to the 2023 general elections.
Commission’s chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, expressed the concern in his remarks during the first quarterly meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in Abuja on Thursday.
“In addition to these off-cycle and bye-elections, we must also continue to prepare for the 2023 general elections holding in 394 days. Securing the nation under current circumstances is challenging enough. It is more so in an election year. Beginning from this meeting, we shall focus mainly on the best way to secure the electoral process in the most professional manner,” he quipped.
While praising the security agencies for a commendable role during the November 6, 2021, Anambra governorship election, he challenged the security agencies and the Commission staff to replicate the feat in this year’s off-season elections, including the Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections.
“The conduct of the Anambra governorship election will go down in history as a remarkable accomplishment. On behalf of INEC, let me seize this opportunity to commend the professionalism of the security agencies without which the peaceful conduct of the election would not have been possible.
“I am confident that the standard of professional conduct displayed by INEC officials and the security agencies in the Edo, Ondo and Anambra State governorship elections will be maintained in all forthcoming polls, including the 2023 General Election.
“Our responsibility is to protect the process to guarantee its integrity while leaving the outcome of the election for voters to determine.
“Although 2021 was a very busy year for us, our work is not over yet. The year 2022 is going to be busier. There are nine pending bye-elections in seven States of the federation,” the INEC boss said.
Giving an update on the February 12 FCT Area Councils Election, Prof Yakubu disclosed that both the FCT Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Police Commissioner will meet with the Commission next week.
“With regard to the end-of-tenure elections, three major elections are holding this year. The Ekiti State governorship election is scheduled to hold on June 18, 2022, while the Osun State governorship election will hold on July 16, 2022. More immediately, the Area Council elections in the FCT is holding on February 12, 2022, which is just 23 days away.
“As early as next week, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Commissioner of Police will brief us on the state of preparation with emphasis on the identified flashpoints and the security situation generally in the FCT. At that meeting, the Commission will provide an overview of our readiness for the election involving 68 constituencies (six Area Council Chairmen and 62 Councillors),” he noted.
He appealed to the security agencies to provide a security report that will guarantee the possibility of commencing physical Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in its State and Local Government Area offices.
“I want to assure Nigerians that we are aware of the constraints experienced by many citizens in reaching the 811 designated centres nationwide to register. Some of them are separated by a considerable distance from the places where citizens reside. We are looking forward to activating the additional 1,862 centres nationwide to make it easier for citizens to exercise their right to register as voters.
“At the same time, we are mindful of the imperative of securing the process, especially the lives of registrants and our personnel. We will not put the lives of Nigerians and our registration officials at risk. For this reason, this meeting will review the security situation with a view to achieving our ultimate goal of activating 2,673 registration centres nationwide,” he assured.