The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday reassured Nigerians that its allegiance and loyalists are to Nigerians in 2023 general elections, warning staff against compromise.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave this assurance at the opening of a two-day Induction Retreat for the commission’s Administrative Secretaries in Lagos.
The retreat is organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In his opening remarks, Yakubu, who was represented by Mr Sam Olumekun, the INEC National Commissioner, Election and Party Monitoring Committee (EPMC) said that the retreat was part of the preparation of INEC for the 2023 general elections.
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 forth coming election, ” Yakubu said.
He said that since 2011 general elections, 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 added.
A cross section participants at INEC Administrative Secretaries retreat organised by UNDP on Monday in Lagos
Yakubu said that with the first poll in 2023 general elections remaining 88 days, there was the need, more than ever, for the commission to remain focused and deliver a successful general 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,” he said.
Yakubu said that 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.
He added, “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 that 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.
A Cross Section of INEC Administrative Secretaries at a retreat on Monday in Lagos
In his address of welcome, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, INEC Residents Electoral Commissioner, Lagos State said that it was imperative for the electoral umpire to step up its preparation for the conduct of 2023 elections, hence the retreat.
Agbaje noted that INEC must not rest on its oars but re-double efforts to achieve a seamless conduct of the polls.
He said: “There is no gainsaying in the fact that the tasks ahead rests squarely on you all as Accounting Officers whose ingenuity would be relied upon to effectively manage the logistics and indeed all aspects of the conduct of the elections.
“It is therefore incumbent on all participants to bring to bear your wealth of experience and expertise to ensure an efficient and effective management of the entire process of the election with particular attention to the election logistics in your respective states.”
In his goodwill message, Mr Deryck Fritz, the Chief Technical Advisor, UNDP, said that 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.
” INEC, as the constitutionally mandated electoral management body, must be and also be seen to be the impartial and neutral arbiter of the electoral contest.
“In line with SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and strong institutions, UNDP continues to support inclusive, transparent and credible electoral processes for peaceful and cohesive societies,” he said.
Fritz said that 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 News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the retreat has in attendance all the INEC Administrative Secretaries nationwide and top management staff of the commission.