The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said it is making preparations for around 95 million voters in next years’ general elections, but warns that the increasing level of insecurity in some parts of the country poses a threat to the polls.
The Chairman, INEC, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, said this in Lagos on Friday at a forum with members of the Nigeria Guild of Editors.
He stated, “For the 2023 general elections, INEC is making preparations for approximately 95 million voters. Yes, we have 84 million voters now; we have registered 12 million newly. None of the fresh registrants has been added to the register. We are cleaning up the register.
“A few days ago, some people said they discovered so many fictitious names on the register. When I heard that, I asked myself: ‘Which register?’ We have not even compiled it.
“We are cleaning up the data; so, how come that someone already knows the register, which is supposed to be compiled by the commission? It is a very serious matter for us, because it touches at the heart of credible elections.
“So, some of the people, out of mischief, are talking about what they don’t know. But let me assure Nigerians that no name from the recent Continuous Voter Registration has been added to the register of voters.
“The law requires us to clean up the data, which we are doing. Thereafter, Section 19, subsection 1 of the Electoral Act says we should throw the register open for Nigerians for claims and objections, so that the citizens can also help the commission to clean the register further.
“This will be done for at least one week in all the 8,809 wards in the 774 local councils in the country. We haven’t done so yet, but we will do that so that Nigerians will have the opportunity to look at the new registrants before we add them to the new register. So, there is no new register as such; we are still in the process of cleaning up.”
Yakubu noted that there had been a challenge with the collection of PVCs, adding that the commission had a meeting with all its resident electoral commissioners and administrative secretaries in Lagos in the week to map out strategies on how to ensure a hitch-free distribution of the PVCs.
He said, “We really want to make it a pleasant experience for citizens. For the new registration exercise, we collected data, including email addresses and telephone numbers for those that have, including those in rural areas. We will reach them either by means of text messages, emails or voice calls to tell them the specific locations where they can pick up their cards.
“We will also activate the portal for the collection of the PVCs. So, those who are savvy can click and know where to collect their PVCs. We are ready to make it a pleasant experience for the citizens.”
Speaking on the importance of a credible electoral process, the INEC boss stated, “Election is only one of the many aspects of our democracy, yet it is perhaps the most significant indicator of our democracy. There can’t be a democracy without elections. So, democracy can’t exist without elections.
“But the importance of elections is not difficult to understand. In a single day’s event, the lives and livelihoods, in the case of Nigeria of at least 200 million people, will be impacted upon for the next four years, for better or for worse. The beauty of democracy is that this determination, whether for better or for worse, is made by the people themselves.”
On possible threats to the conduct of the elections, the INEC boss stated that the security situation in some parts of the country was of major concern in addition to the negative use of social media and politicians’ anti-democratic tendencies.
He however said that despite the challenges, voting would take place in 176,846 locations in the country next year as the commission had recruited 1.4 million ad hoc workers.
Yakubu added, “Any Nigerian, who is in the queue before 2.30pm will have the opportunity to vote, even if it means voting going into the night. Now, doing so requires recruiting, training and deploying staff members that number several times more than the entire Armed Forces of Nigeria.
“For the 2023 general elections, we will engage at least 1.4 million ad hoc staff members, which is bigger than the size of the Nigerian Armed Forces.” He asserted.