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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured Nigerians that its allegiance and loyalists are to Nigerians.
The Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave this assurance at the opening of a two-day Induction Retreat for the commission’s Administrative Secretaries organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Lagos.
Yakubu, who was represented by National Commissioner, Election and Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC), Mr. Sam Olumekun, said the retreat was part of preparation of INEC for the 2023 general election.
According to him, over the last 23 years since the return of democratic rule, the commission has recorded a steady progress with the nation’s elections getting better and citizens’ confidence in the process increasing.
“Let me repeat once again that the commission’s allegiance is to Nigeria. Our loyalty is to Nigerians who want free, fair, credible and verifiable elections.It is in this respect that I want to warn all members of staff of the commission to be neutral and professional in their conduct during the forthcoming election.”
He said since 2011 general election, the reliance on new knowledge and experience gathered from the conduct of previous elections, enhancing electoral integrity and improving voter experience through innovations, planning and technology had guided INEC through several elections.
“Consequently, our elections have become better, electoral outcomes less contentious and less stressful.”
He said with the first poll in 2023 general election remaining 88 days, there was the need, more than ever, for the commission to remain focused and deliver a successful election.
“This retreat is, therefore, an opportunity to not only bring our Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) up to date about preparations, procedures and requirements for a successful election but also get the commitment of our Administrative Secretaries towards attaining the highest level of efficiency in implementing the strategies outlined for a successful 2023 general election.
In this regard administrative secretaries are expected to be effective coordinators and provide timely progress reports and highlight challenges to proactively addressed without affecting relevant timelines.”
Yakubu said the administrative secretaries were also expected to fully support their respective RECs to ensure the effective coordination and deployment of men and materials focused mainly on delivering expected outcomes.
He urged state offices of INEC to have regular reassessment of preparedness to identify and address possible bottlenecks and update the relevant authorities of the commission.
“Over the last two years, the commission has increased the deployment of technology in elections in Nigeria.”
Yakubu said INEC had designed systems, portals and developed them to cater for different electoral activities ranging from voter registration and accreditation, result transmission from the polling units.
He said such portal was also to cater for the nomination of candidates by political parties, accreditation of polling agents, observers among other activities for elections.
“Of these innovations, most Nigerians are now familiar with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) which doubles as a device for accreditation as well as upload of the Polling Unit level result sheets to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal on Election Day.
“The combination of the BVAS and the IReV portal have come to stay as a means of voter accreditation and transmission of election results. I urge you to thoroughly familiarise yourselves with the election technologies of INEC,” he said.
In his address of welcome, Residents Electoral Commissioner, Lagos State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, said it was imperative for the electoral umpire to step up its preparation for the conduct of 2023 elections, hence the retreat.
He noted that INEC must not rest on its oars but re-double efforts to achieve a seamless conduct of the polls.
In his goodwill message, Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, Mr. Deryck Fritz, said the peaceful transfer of power was inextricably linked to processes and outcomes that were accepted by the political actors, civil society and the population at large.
Fritz said the retreat would provide an important opportunity for information-sharing and discussion on the preparations and key aspects of the electoral process, to ensure uniform understanding and consistency of implementation of electoral procedures.
The retreat has in attendance all the INEC Administrative Secretaries nationwide and top management staff of the commission.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the 2023 elections will be the best.
Yakubu also said the burnt permanent voter cards in Ogun and four other states would be reprinted in two days, saying efforts were in top gear towards replacing the materials lost to the inferno.
The INEC boss said this, yesterday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, during the on-the-spot assessment of the burnt office in Abeokuta South by suspected arsonists.
Suspected Arsonists had on November 10 attacked the Abeokuta South Local Government Area and destroyed over 65,000 uncollected PVCs among others.
Yakubu who arrived in Abeokuta around 9am and paid a visit to the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, also visited the new Oke-Ilewo office where the staff members were relocated to and later visited the burnt office.
Apart from Ogun State, the hoodlums had recently attacked INEC offices in Osun and Ebonyi states.
The INEC boss while speaking with newsmen after he assessed the extent of damage, described the arsonists as “undemocratic and retrogressive elements.”
Yakubu said the commission would not be cowed from conducting next year’s elections by arsonists attacking the commission’s facilities nationwide.
He vowed that the commission would not be intimidated by an act of arson despite that five facilities were attacked nationwide in the last four months.
He said, “The purpose of our visit to this office is to further access the extent of damage, to meet our staff, particularly in the place where they have relocated to in Oke-Ilewo, to boost their morale and to assure the people of Abeokuta South that despite this unfortunate incident, elections will hold in Abeokuta South in 2023.
“Whatever material we have lost, the commission is making efforts to replace the materials. We lost 65,699 PVCs, we want to assure all those that have not collected their PVCs, who may have been affected, that we are making plans to reprint the PVCs quickly and to bring them back to Abeokuta South for people to collect and vote.
“We want to assure the people of Abeokuta South that this incident, as terrible as it is, will not deter and will not discourage us, will not discourage our staff from conducting the 2023 general election and we want to once again assure the people of Abeokuta South, the people of Ogun State and the people of Nigeria that the commission is determined to make the 2023 elections our best, we will not be deterred nor cowed by an act of arson by undemocratic and retrogressive elements.
“As soon we get the voter identification numbers to be harvested by the state office, we will reprint, it doesn’t take longer than two days to print 65,000 PVCs, but we have to get the VINs for the cards that were lost so that we can quickly reprint. It doesn’t take longer than two days to reprint those numbers of the PVCs.
“It is very disappointing, particularly because in the last four months, five of our offices were attacked nationwide, but this will never deter us. We will make sure we replace burnt and destroyed equipment and also reprint the PVCs and conduct elections.”
Yakubu said INEC “is determined to make 2023 elections the best.”