INEC Boss says 2023 Poll is a collective venture, as TEI trains Political Parties Polling Agent

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By Joy Odor

The Chairman, lndependent National Electroal Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu has again re-echoed that the conduct of elections in Nigeria is a huge undertaking and a collective venture that involves not just INEC but a diverse range of stakeholders with the political parties being key actors.

Prof Yakubu made this known in his welcome address through the Chairman, Board of Electroal Institute (BEI) Professor Abdullahi Abdu Zuru at the Political Parties Polling Agent Training Workshop and Training of Trainers (TOT) in preparation for 2023 general election in Abuja on Monday.

The INEC Chairman explained that in its effort to ensure that all stakeholders are adequately engaged in the electoral process, INEC organized capacity enhancement workshops, trainings, and developmental programs to equip participants with the knowledge and competence needed to function as active stakeholders in the democratic setting.

Prof Yakubu opined that the training is designed to equip them with the code of conduct of Party agents on Election Day as well as highlight the role and responsibilities of Party Agents in line with the regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections 2022 and the Electoral Act 2022.

“In particular, please pay attention to Sections 41(1, 3 & 4); 43(1, 2 & 3); 58 (1, 2, 3, 4 & 5); 60(1, 2 & 3), 62(1) and 71 of the Electoral Act 2022. The resource persons will elaborate on these sections and relevant sections of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines, 2022.

“We are all aware, the Presidential and National Assembly elections of the 2023 general election come up on Saturday, 25th February, 2023 which is 19 days away today.

“This signifies that we are at the final stage in the implementation of the 14 activities in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election which has only two outstanding activities, namely: (1) The Last day for campaigns by Political Parties: Thursday 23rd Feb., 2023 for Presidential/National Assembly & Thursday 9th March, 2023 for Governorship/State Houses of Assembly; and (2) Date of Election: Saturday, 25th Feb., 2023 for Presidential/National Assembly & Saturday 11th March, 2023 for Governorship/State Houses of Assembly.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this training is quite significant as Political parties are empowered by Sections 43 (1 & 2) of the Electoral Act, 2023 to appoint agents to protect their interest at all the Polling units where elections will be conducted across the country, as well as designated Collation centres.

“However, Section 43(3) also states: Where in this Act, an act or thing is required or authorised to be done by or in the presence of a Polling Agent, the non-attendance of the Polling Agent at the time and place appointed for the act or thing or refusal by the Polling Agent to do the act or thing shall not, if the act or thing is otherwise done properly, invalidate the act or thing” he said.

The INEC Chairman reiterated the Commission’s committed to the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter verification, authentication and accreditation.

According to him, to ensure absolute transparency, the BVAS would also be used to upload accreditation data and election results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in real-time on Election Day to enable all Nigerians and foreigners to follow the election as it happens.

He maintained that the Commission is determined to ensure that every valid vote will count, the will of the people will prevail, and the 2023 General Election will be free, fair, credible, inclusive, transparent and verifiable.

“To this end we just concluded nationwide Mock Accreditation Exercise on Saturday 4th February 2023 where we tested the field performance of the BVAS. The results of the test were very successful and response of Nigerians across the country very pleasing. Therefore, be reassured that we are indeed very ready for the 2023 General Election” he said.

In his speech, the Director General of the Electoral Institute (TEI), Dr Sa’ad Umar Idris told the participants that warehoused PVCs can no longer be used during elections as every voter must be authenticated with the BVAS.

He added that the enactment of the 2022 Electoral Act has also helped the voter accreditation process, as the Law now recognizes technology (see Section 47 (2) of the Act), and there are clear punitive measures for the non-usage of accreditation devices on election day.

According to him, the total number of accreditations for an election will be sourced from the total number accredited using the Commission’s accreditation device – BVAS which is the only means for accreditation of voters on Election Day.

“I am highly delighted to welcome you all to the Training of Trainers (ToT) Programme for Political Party Agents towards the effective participation of Political Parties and their appointed Agents at the forthcoming February 25th 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections and the March 11th 2023 Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections.

“Indeed, the 2023 General Election is unique as it will involve the highest number of voters so far recorded in the history of voter registration in the country. Approximately 93,469,008 voters are expected to participate in the forthcoming elections.

“The number is large and election personnel including Political Party Polling Agents must be knowledgeable of their roles and what is expected of them.

“You are expected to cascade this training to all other Party Agents at different levels before the commencement of the 2023 General Election scheduled to commence on Saturday, 25th February, 2023.

“New innovations in the voting system that Polling Agents need to be aware of include the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) which was introduced into our electoral process during the conduct of some elections in 2021.

” The BVAS adds facial technology to the existing fingerprint authentication this will ensure that all voters are authenticated by either of the technologies; With bi-modal authentication, no person can come to vote more than once, as the face or the fingerprints of the person would have been captured during accreditation. This further ensures a one-person-one-vote system.

“In addition, to improve the openness and credibility of elections, INEC decided to make available electronic copies of the PU Result Sheet (EC8A) for the General Public to view; this brought about the INEC Results Viewing (IReV) Portal. This implies that the EC8A form filled and signed by each Presiding Officer (PO) is scanned or photographed and uploaded to a Public Domain which can be viewed by the General Public. This system ensures that the EC8A filled at the PU is the same as that brought to the Collation centre, as the RA Collation Officer checks the uploaded EC8A before collating the result.

“I most sincerely wish to appreciate the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the entire members of the Commission for approving this Training” narrated.

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