2023 Primaries: INEC demands registered delegates list in hard, soft copy

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By Joy Odor

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu has warmed the political parties in Nigeria to submit both hard and soft copies of party members’ registers of delegates who will vote at the primaries.

Prof. Yakubu said only one party has complied with the legal requirement as enshrined in the Electoral Act 2022 as amended.

The INEC Chairman made the demand at  the second regular quarterly consultative meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja on Friday.

According to him, in the provision of Section 77 of the Electoral Act 2022, each party is required to maintain a membership register in hard and soft copy and to make such register available to the Commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for primaries, congresses and conventions.

Prof Yakubu maintained that it is a mandatory requirement of the law and all parties are required to comply, saying doing otherwise is like going into an election without the register of voters as there can be no credible primary or general election without a credible register of voters.

The INEC Chairman informed that only 14 political parties have given the commission, notice of their primaries as stipulated by the Electoral Act and reminded them of the commission’s readiness to follow its schedule strictly.

He said the meeting was the first after the Electoral Act was signed into law by the President and urged the national commissioners and RECs to familiarize themselves with the Act as part of their preparations for the 2023 General Elections.

Prof. Yakubu assured that no eligible Internally Displaced Person (IDP) would be disfranchised in the 2023 General Election, even as he expressed confidence that the nation would overcome the current spate of insecurity and hold a successful poll in 2023.

“I warmly welcome the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to this meeting. This is our second regular quarterly meeting for the year 2022. You may recall that at our last meeting held on 15th February 2002, we focused our attention mainly on the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), particularly the creation of additional centres to devolve the exercise beyond our State and Local Government offices nationwide. A total of 2,673 centres were activated nationwide. In doing so, more personnel were trained, additional machines deployed and voter education intensified. The aim is to enable more Nigerians to register as voters.

“Since the CVR exercise resumed on 11th April 2002 for the fourth and final quarter, there is a noticeable increase in the number of new registrants. In the last one week of the exercise, 405,587 eligible Nigerians completed the registration at the various centres which is about 31% increase on the average figure of 125,000 weekly registrations since the exercise commenced in June last year. We expect a surge in new registrations as we approach the deadline of 30th June 2022 and we are prepared for it.

“However, we are concerned about the safety of our personnel and Nigerians who come out to register at the various registration centres. We are also concerned about the security of our equipment and materials, including the printed Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) made available for collection by registered voters. Recent incidents involving our staff and facilities are worrisome. You may recall that after a series of consultations with stakeholders (political parties, civil society organisations, the media and security agencies) before the resumption of the exercise in June last year, we agreed on a roll-out and roll-back approach to the CVR exercise depending on the security situation in specific areas.

“Consequently, following the unfortunate incident in Imo State last week, the Commission suspended the CVR exercise in all the 54 additional centres in the State. The exercise is now restricted to our State and Local Government offices except Ihitte Uboma, Njaba and Osu where the exercise has been suspended for the time being. Similarly, based on the urgency of the situation in Anambra State, the CVR has been suspended in all the 42 additional centres and confined to our State and Local Government offices except Nnewi South and Ogbaru LGAs where the exercise has also been temporarily suspended. Furthermore, in Kaduna State, the exercise has been suspended in Jema’a and Kaura as well large areas of Birnin Gwari and Giwa on account of insecurity in the four LGAs. In addition, two of our staff were abducted by bandits but later released in Isa LGA of Sokoto State while on voter registration duty. The Commission will keep monitoring and reviewing the situation nationwide, always bearing in mind the imperative of protecting the safety and security of our staff and registrants.

“Despite the security challenges, we must remain resolute in our determination to conduct the 2023 General Election as scheduled. In doing so, every eligible Nigerian must be given the opportunity to vote, including citizens in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. Happily, the Commission has a standing policy on IDP voting which has been periodically reviewed. In the light of the security challenges around the country and guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, the Commission will immediately review the policy to ensure that no internally displaced Nigerian in any part of the country is disenfranchised. The issue of IDPs is one of the issues to be discussed at this meeting.

“The Commission is confident that our security agencies have the capacity to deal with the security challenges ahead 2023 General Election. Fortunately, we have started the preparations for the election early. There is therefore ample time to deal with the current situation to enable the Commission and all stakeholders to deploy nationwide for the election. We will continue to work with the security agencies for a peaceful electioneering and conduct of elections. To this end, the Commission will hold high-level meetings with the security agencies and consultations with stakeholders immediately after the forthcoming national holidays.

“This is our first meeting since the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022. I urge you to thoroughly study the new law. A credible election is anchored on the law. As you are aware, the Electoral Act, together with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and our Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, constitute the electoral legal framework for elections. As election managers, it is incumbent upon us to familiarise ourselves with the legal framework.

“As you are all aware, the Commission released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election a day after the Electoral Act 2022 was signed into law. The next activity under the Timetable is the conduct of party primaries by political parties. So far, 14 parties have submitted their notices and schedule of primaries to the Commission. As required by law, the Commission shall monitor the primaries in the constituencies where the parties intend to field candidates. This means that the State offices will be heavily involved in the exercise. I urge you to exercise our monitoring responsibility with absolute neutrality. There are sanctions for violation of the law and you should know this and warn our staff accordingly.

“Let me also seize this opportunity to remind political parties that by the provision of Sec. 77 of the Electoral Act 2022, each party is required to maintain a membership register in hard and soft copy and to make such register available to the Commission not later than 30 days before the date fixed for primaries, congresses and conventions. So far, only one political party has complied. It is a mandatory requirement of the law and all parties are required to comply. Doing otherwise is like going into an election without the register of voters. There can be no credible primary or general election without a credible register of voters.

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