From Fred Ezeh, Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised Nigerians that their votes would count in the forthcoming general elections, stressing that measures have been put in place to ensure the efficiency of systems as well as adequate and trained manpower.

It, thus, encouraged Nigerians who are eligible and had obtained their Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) ahead of the 2023 elections to come out en mass and participate in the voting process in next year’s general elections.

INEC assured Nigerians that the Commission has consistently improved on its manpower and systems, adding that the new Electoral Act had further increased public confidence, particularly the electronic transmission of results right from the polling units to the INEC database.

INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke at an event to mark the end of phase one of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN) in Abuja, on Monday, appreciated the enduring commitment and support of the EU towards the strengthening of democratic institutions and the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.

He commended the support received so far from the EU and other international partners which, he said, has helped INEC in policy formulations, improvement in systems and manpower, and other interventions in the past years.

He said: “INEC was a key beneficiary of the first phase of the EU-SDGN programme conceived under the National Indicative Programme 2014 – 2020. We received various supports in the areas of training and capacity building for staff, engagement with stakeholders, voter education and public enlightenment and the promotion of inclusivity.

“The support went a long way to complement INEC’s efforts at strengthening organisational and planning capacity, improvement of internal and external communications, more frequent consultation with stakeholders and advocacy for increased participation in the electoral process.

“The combination of these actions and activities not only enhanced public confidence in INEC but provided valuable assistance in strengthening the integrity and credibility of the electoral process. A major achievement in this regard is the progressive provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, especially the deployment of technology for voter accreditation and result management at polling unit level.”

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He reiterated that the costs of electoral activities, including the acquisition of sensitive and non-sensitive materials for all elections, remain the responsibility of the Federal Government.

“Nevertheless, we appreciate the support of international development partners to enhance training and capacity building of officials, stakeholder engagement for a peaceful election, production and dissemination of messages for voter education and sensitisation, enhancing active and meaningful participation of Nigerians in the electoral process with particular reference to women, youth, persons with disability and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and, finally, election conflict mitigation, management and resolution,” he stated.

Prof Yakubu said that INEC considers the deployment of election observation missions as a means of enhancing public confidence and trust in Nigeria’s elections, adding that their recommendations have been useful in reviewing the processes and introducing progressive reforms in the electoral legal framework in line with global good practices.

He disclosed that INEC has already sent out letters to international organisations such as the United Nations, EU, Commonwealth, the African Union and ECOWAS inviting them to deploy observation missions for the 2023 general election.

“Very soon, advertisements will be placed in national newspapers and INEC’s website to invite applications from interested domestic organisations to observe the same election,” he added.

Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Maria Isopi, in her remarks, explained that the EU-SDGN was designed to assist Nigeria to deepen its democratic process through the empowerment of all stakeholders involved in the process.

She said that phase one of the programme yielded tremendous success, hence the flag-off of phase two which, expectedly, will build on the successes of phase one to make a more positive impact.

Former INEC Chairman Prof Attahiru Jega, in his submissions during the panel session, said that politicians are the problem of Nigeria’s electoral system because they believe in winning elections at all costs. “There’s a need for a change of mindset of politicians and political parties towards elections,” he said.

He said the 2023 general elections are a test case for the upscaled technology system, stressing the need for INEC to build a strong firewall against any interference with the result, as well as to be adequately prepared in case of unexpected happenings.

Former INEC National Commissioner Prof Anthonia Simbine, in her submissions, accused political parties of not being democratic in their internal affairs, “but will be shouting for equity and fairness in national affairs. Political parties don’t have democracy. They don’t go according to the processes, yet, they want us to elect them into political offices.”

Head of Programme, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, in her submissions during the panel session, advocated increased opportunity for the participation of women and youths in the electoral system.

She confirmed the increased interest of young persons in political affairs of Nigeria as exhibited during the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, predicting that the youths would determine the direction of the 2023 general elections.

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Source: news