The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has called on political parties to submit copies of their membership register to the commission before their primary elections.
The commission said the directive was in compliance with the new Electoral Act 2022, and a mandatory requirement of the law.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said at the second regular quarterly meeting of Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in Abuja.
Yakubu said that as stipulated in the Electoral Act, parties ought to submit their register to the commission a month to their primaries, congresses and conventions. He lamented that only one political party has complied.
INEC had earlier last Thursday, during the public presentation of the 2022 to 2026 Strategic Plan and 2023 Election Project Plan, disclosed that it was doing everything possible to ensure that the elections hold as scheduled without hindrance regardless of the challenges the nation may be facing, especially insecurity in parts of the country.
It also revealed that Commission would spend about N239.2 billion on procuring voting materials and vehicles that will be used in the 2023 general election. “The N239.2 billion, which constitutes 78.44 per cent of an N305 billion budget, would be spent on 10 critical items which include ballot papers, operational vehicles, ballot boxes, allowances of ad hoc workers, the printing of result sheets, logistics and procurement of accreditation devices. Also included in the N239.2 billion budget is the N27.1 billion set aside for possible run-off elections, including the one for the presidential poll.”
Yakubu said the commission was aware of the nation’s security challenges and their impact on the electoral process, noting that it would continue to engage early and intensely with the security agencies to ensure the safety of personnel and materials, accredited observers, the media and, above all, the voters.
“Clearly, these are challenging times but we are determined that elections must hold in 2023. However, this is a shared responsibility. INEC plays a critical role but the commission alone cannot deliver the elections we all desire. I, therefore, appeal to all Nigerians to join hands with us in ensuring that we make a success of the process,” he said.
He added that the activities in the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election are firm and fixed, adding that all stakeholders are advised to take this into consideration in planning their activities.
Yakubu stated that about one million electoral officials, both regular and ad hoc staff, would be deployed to 176,846 polling units in 8,809 Wards and 774 local councils in the country.
He said, “As you may be aware, the election will be conducted for 1,491 constituencies nationwide made up of one presidential constituency, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, 28 governorship elections and 993 state constituencies.
“The election will involve an estimated one million electoral officials (both permanent and temporary or ad hoc staff) deployed to 176,846 polling units in 8,809 wards and 774 local councils across the country. The election will be governed by a new Electoral Act 2022, which contains many progressive provisions that will enhance the capacity of the commission to conduct elections and manage the electoral process better.
“We have carefully listened to the demand of Nigerians for seamless processes, particularly with regard to enhanced voter education, better distribution of voters to polling units, quality training of election personnel, the functionality of electronic devices, improved logistics, prompt commencement of polls, and availability of assistive devices for persons with disability at polling units and greater transparency in result management.”
Overtime, there had been concerns that virtually all the nation’s registered parties lack credible membership register, despite claims of numbers and valid card-carrying members.
But Yakubu reminded political parties that by the provision of Section 77 of the Electoral Act 2022, each party was 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,” Yakubu said.
The INEC chairman also advised the RECs to thoroughly study the new Electoral Act, saying 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.”
Speaking on ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), particularly the creation of additional centres to devolve the exercise beyond INEC’s state and local council offices nationwide, Yakubu said that a total of 2,673 centres had been activated nationwide.
He disclosed that in the last one week of the exercise, 405,587 eligible Nigerians had completed the registration at the various centres.
This, according to him, represents about 31 per cent increase on the average figure of 125,000 weekly registrations since the exercise commenced in June 2021.
Yakubu also said that while INEC expected a surge in new registrations as it approached its June 30 deadline, it was prepared for it.
He, however, said that INEC was concerned about the safety of prospective registrants, INEC personnel, equipment and materials, including the printed Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) made available for collection by registered voters.
Describing last week’s attack on INEC staff and facilities in Imo State as unfortunate, Yakubu said the Commission had suspended the CVR in all the 54 additional centres in the state.
“The exercise is now restricted to our state and local council offices. 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 council offices except Nnewi South and Ogbaru local councils where the exercise had also been temporarily suspended.
“In Kaduna State, the exercise had been suspended in Jema’a and Kaura as well as large areas of Birnin Gwari and Giwa on account of insecurity in the four local councils,” he said.
Yakubu stated that the commission would keep monitoring and reviewing the situation nationwide, bearing in mind the imperatives of ensuring the safety and security of INEC staff and registrants.
However, he said that in spite of the security challenges, INEC remained resolute in its 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) camps. Happily, the Commission has a standing policy on IDP voting, which had been periodically reviewed.