2023: All eyes on INEC as 87.2m Nigerians go to polls,


By Harry Awurumibe

Barring any natural disasters like an earthquake, external invasion or Armageddon, which could force a last minute postponement, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will today (Saturday, February 25), hold the Presidential and National Assembly as no fewer than 87, 209, 007 Nigerians head to the polling stations across the country to elect their new President and members of the National Assembly.

Already, INEC which has early this morning activated the Election Day Activities in line with Section 76 (1) & (2); 116 (1) & (2); 132 (1) & (2); 178 (1) & (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Amended), has mobilized over 1.2 million Ad hoc staff to man the 176, 606 Polling Units where Voters will cast their votes during the exercise which will start by 8:30 am to end 2:30 pm, although INEC Electoral Officials are expected to arrive at their centers by 7:00 am, clear 30 minutes before Accreditation and Voting will start simultaneously.

Also, INEC has announced that voters who are on the queue by 2:30 pm when polls are expected to close will be allowed to cast their votes until the last person in the line no matter the time it takes to attend to the last man or woman standing must be allowed to vote.

The electoral umpire which commenced the process of the Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and States House of Assembly elections on February 28, 2022 with the Notice of Election in accordance with Section 28 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 which provides not later than 360 days before the General Election, is expected to conclude the exercise with the official announcement of the winner of the Presidential election by INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu who is the Chief Electoral/Returning Officer of the Federation.

However, to ensure that the 2023 General Election is free, fair, credible and inclusive in the history of elections in Nigeria, the INEC opted for the use of technology to conduct the exercise for the sole purpose of transparency.

For this reason, the INEC Chairman and his management team as well as the National Commissioners, Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and the entire staff of the Commission worked hard with the Civil Society Organisations (CSO), to pressure the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari to pass the new Electoral Bill into law and Mr. President to Sign into Law.

Backed by the Electoral Act 2022, the INEC which has been experimenting with the use of technological innovations to drive elections in Nigeria fell back on the latest technological device called Bio-modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) which the Commission had used successfully to conduct Off Season elections in Edo, Anambra, Ekiti Ondo and Osun state Governorship elections respectively, to become a Game Changer.

BVAS was also used to conduct the 2022 Council Election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT)and the machines performed creditablly well and have been commended by Nigerians because of the relative confidence it has brought after the Commission have retired the Card Reader Machines (CRM).

Also, with the introduction of BVAS, INEC cancelled the use of Incidence Form which was used in the past to perpetuate massive electoral fraud by corrupt politicians, who use to hijack INEC Election Materials and go to hidden places to thumb print and stuff the Ballot Box.

But these are history now since the introduction of BVAS machines backed by law, which have now eliminated or reduced massive rigging associated with elections in Nigeria. Hence, Nigerians and
international community are looking forward to today’s election where the efficacy of BVAS will be put to test at the national scale.

The Chairman of INEC Information and Voter Education, Barrister Festus Okoye who is also a National Commissioner, told Prompt News on the eve of the Presidential and NASS elections that the Commission has educated the electorate well enough on the Procedure for Voting using the BVAS and he believes that all will go well.

He also promised that Nigerians will view election results from the Polling Units level
realtime using the iREV portal but warned that no individual or organisations are permitted to announce the results, pointing out that only INEC is authorized by Law to make a declaration of winners.

Meanwhile, the 18 registered political parties in Nigeria and their Presidential candidates concluded their Presidential and NASS electioneering campaigns 24 hours to the opening of the polls. They are not expected to campaign or showcase their parties logos or insignia on Election Day.

In the same vein, neither the candidates nor their agents and supporters are allowed to campaign or buy votes on Election Day as they will be in breach of the Electoral Act 2022.

Nevertheless, the country’s security agencies with the Nigeria Police as the lead agency in the Election Day duty have mobilised men and materials for the smooth conduct of the election and has warned through the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba Alkali that elements threatening to disrupt elections in any part of Nigeria will meet their Waterloo if they dare.

IGP Alkali revealed that his men will Police Land, Air and Sea with the active support of sister security agencies including the Military who will provide another level of cover in the event of escalation of threats to lives and properties.

Finally, Nigerians especially the 87, 209, 007 who collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) out of the 93, 469, 008 who registered to vote in the 2023 General Election.

Among the registered voters are a large number of Youths/Students with 37, 060, 399 (39.65%); followed by Middle-aged- 33, 413, 592 (35.75%); Elderly- 17, 700, 270 (18.94%) and Old (70+)- 5, 294, 748 (5.66%) respectively.

It is now left in the thumbs of individual Nigerians to go out enmass to vote for that candidate they believe in their good conscience will take over from President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29 to pilot the affairs of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Each voter should bear in mind that his or her vote will determine what kind of President he or she wants to lead Nigeria in the next four years.

Above all, the voter should consider a candidate who has the Competence, Capacity and Character to build the Nigeria of our dream rather than consider region, ethnicity and religion because no Nigerian buys a Cup of Garri cheaper than the other. Hunger does not know race or creed.

Vote Wisely because Four Years is a Long Time.

● This analysis by AWURUMIBE, a Public Affairs Analyst/ veteran journalist, was originally published by Prompt News Online.

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