INEC solicits EU ‘s support on electoral process, democratic governance

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged that it would continue to improve on elections in Nigeria as well as its transparency in the management of the electoral process.

The commission also stated that it would always welcome suggestions for improvement by Nigerians as well as friends of Nigeria, adding that it would appreciate the support of the European Union (EU) to the electoral process and democratic governance in Nigeria.

Chairman of the commission Prof Mahmood Yakubu made this pledge on Wednesday in Abuja at a meeting with the European Union Election Observations follow-up mission led by Mrs Maria Arena.

He said, “We will continue to improve on elections in Nigeria and transparent in the management of the process. For this reason, we always welcome suggestions for improvement by Nigerians as well as friends of Nigeria. We appreciate the support of the EU to the electoral process and democratic governance in Nigeria.”

Yakubu, while welcoming the group told them of the landmark achievements of the commission since the conclusion of the 2019 general elections as well as preparations for the 2023 polls.

“Immediately after the 2019 General Election, we undertook a comprehensive review of the election observation reports by accredited domestic and international observers. Beyond that, we conducted our own internal review involving our regular and ad hoc officials and subsequently expanded it to include political parties, civil society organisations, security agencies, media organisations.

“From the review, we identified 178 recommendations. We then categorised them into three areas for the purpose of implementation. We have gone ahead to implement many of the recommendations that require administrative action by the Commission while working with the National Assembly on areas that require legislative action by way of amendments to the Electoral Act and the Constitution.

“Happily, this meeting is coming only 5 days after the Electoral Act 2022, which contains many progressive provisions, was signed into law and barely 24 hours after the National Assembly considered wide raging amendments to the 1999 Constitution.

“Shortly after it was signed into law, the commission released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 general election which contains 14 activities out of which two have already been implemented. These are the publication of the Notice of Election and the availability of nomination forms on a dedicated portal for downloading by political parties.

“With regard to the 2019 general election, the EU Observation Mission made 30 recommendations out of which 11 concern the electoral Commission directly. Three of them were identified as priority recommendations while 8 are categorised as general.

“The priority recommendations include the improvement of organisational and operational capacity of the Commission as well as the management of election outcome, particularly the availability and public access to results from Polling Units and collation centres.

“Since 2019, we have made progress, including the creation of a new Gender and Inclusivity Department as well as the Litigation and Prosecution Department.

“We have similarly expanded voter access to Polling Units for the first time in 25 years by converting the erstwhile 56,872 Voting Points and Voting Point (Settlements) into Polling Units and relocation some of them from congested locations to unserved and under-served locations, bringing the total number of Polling Units to 176,846.

“We must admit that in many states we are struggling to achieve a more balanced distribution of voters to polling units. However, this is a priority project for the Commission which will be accomplished before the 2023 general election.

“Clearly, the biggest progress made by the Commission since 2019 is in the area of deepening the deployment of technology in elections. INEC is the first electoral commission in West Africa, if not Africa as a whole, to upload Polling Unit level results to a portal in real-time on election day.

“In addition, there are other portals for ease of nomination of candidates and submission of list of Polling Agents by political parties and the accreditation of media, domestic and international observers.

“We have also made a huge progress in the area of voter accreditation through the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). We have carried out a number of pilots and in spite of the challenges encountered in some locations, we are convinced about its efficacy.”

Responding, the leader of the European Union follow-up mission Mrs Maria Arena, said they had come to assess the implementation of their recommendations after the 2019 general elections.

The mission also expressed happiness in the signing of the 2022 Electoral Act and commended INEC for its effort, however, saying that there was room for improvement.