The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has banned its regular and ad-hoc staff allegedly found to be negligent, including collation and returning officers (ROs), during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, from participating in the forthcoming March 11 governorship and State Assembly elections.
The nation’s electoral body also assured Nigerians that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be used in the forthcoming governorship and state legislature elections.
The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Saturday at a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) held at the INEC headquarters, Abuja.
He noted that in terms of party representation, the next 10th National Assembly is the most diverse since 1999.
He said that in the Senate APC won 57 seats, APGA 1, LP 6, NNPP 2, PDP 29, SDP 2, YPP 1; while in the House of Representatives, ADC 2, APC 162, APGA 4, LP 34, NNPP 18, PDP 102, SDP 2, YPP 1.
He said, “Certificates of Return will be presented to Senators-elect on Tuesday 7th March 2023 at 11.00am 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 11.00am at the same venue.
However, for effective crowd management, each Senator/Member-elect should be accompanied by a maximum of two guests,” Yakubu said.
He also stressed the need to work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last elections.
According to him, “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 (ROs), must not be involved in forthcoming elections.
“RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established,” Yakubu said.
He noted that Saturday’s meeting was the third in less than two months and that like the last two meetings, the purpose was to discuss the conduct of the 2023 General Election, arising from the presidential and National Assembly elections held a week ago, and with the governorship and state assembly elections holding next week.
He said it was imperative to review performance and assess preparations.
No doubt, he said that 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,” adding that its implementation came with challenges, some of them unforeseen.
He said the issues of logistics, election technology, behaviour of some election personnel at different levels, attitude of some party agents and supporters added to the extremely challenging environment in which elections are usually held in Nigeria.
He said he appreciated 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.
Yakubu said that a lot of lessons have been learnt and that of immediate concern to the commission is how the identified challenges can be addressed as the nation approach the concluding phase of the general election involving the largest number of constituencies being 28 state governorship elections and 993 state houses of assembly seats.
Prof. Yakubu also said that in last Saturday’s elections, winners have been declared for 423 national legislative seats while supplementary elections will be held in 46 constituencies.
According to him, in the Senate, 98 out of 109 seats have been declared, with seven political parties winning senatorial seats while in the House of Representatives, 325 out of 360 seats have been won by eight political parties.
The INEC Chairman said that as the nation approaches the governorship and state assembly elections, the commission must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election as nothing else will be acceptable to Nigerians.
He said, “Election Day logistics must be finalised days before the election and handled by the Electoral Officers (EOs) at Local Government level. This has been our standard practice.
“Centralising the process as was done in some states resulted in 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.”
Yakubu also said that refresher training must be conducted for ad hoc staff that participated in the last election.
He said that where they are replaced for good reason, they must be properly trained so that processes are not delayed or compromised at any stage.
“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,” he added.
The INEC boss speaking on the election day technology insisted that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) 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,” Yakubu said.
He said that the commission appreciate the patience and understanding of Nigerians and that it did 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.
He, however, assured that the Commission will continue to engage with the RECs and all segments of the Nigerian society in a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder review of the election in earnest.