A total of 5.2 million voters will file out on November 11, 2023 to elect governors in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states. Adedayo Akinwale, examines the level of preparation of the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission.
As the November 11 governorship election in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo states draws nearer, a total of 5,409,438 registered voters in the three states are gearing up to elect new chief executive officers of the three states.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said out of the 5,409,438 registered voters, 5,169,692 have collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs). It added that eigible voters are expected to vote in all the 10,510 polling units across the three states.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, during a Quarterly Consultative Meeting with leaders of political parties last week, also revealed that there are two polling units in Bayelsa State and 38 in Imo State without registered voters, and as such, elections will not take place in the said polling units, the list of which he said was available on the commission’s website.
Also, election results would be collated in 649 Registration Areas/Wards, 56 Local Government Areas and three State collation centres.
According to him, this gives a cumulative figure of 11,178 voting and collation locations to deploy security personnel in the three States.
The INEC chairman noted that 18 political parties participating in the elections are deploying 137,934 agents made up of 130,093 polling and 7,841 collation agents.
He pointed out that the commission was finalising arrangements for vehicles and boats for land and maritime movement of personnel and materials.
Yakubu noted the electoral body had so far accredited 126 national and international organisations collectively deploying 11,000 observers for the election.
He revealed that the updated statistics of the commission showed that 94 media organisations, deploying 1,255 personnel, have been accredited for the elections.
Nevertheless, the commission has expressed concern about the spate of recent judgements and orders of court in respect of the nomination, substitution or disqualification of candidates after all the sensitive materials have been printed as the November 11 governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states draw closer.
It decried that the reprinting of the materials in compliance with court orders within a short period of time was not only expensive but the management of the process was very challenging.
Yakubu noted: “On the issue of candidature, the Commission is concerned about the spate of recent judgements and orders of court in respect of the nomination, substitution or disqualification of candidates after all the sensitive materials have been printed.
“Although the Commission has already published the final list of candidates for the three States, four recent court orders have compelled us to review the list. These changes have been reflected in the updated list of parties and candidates on our website.
“However, this decision is without prejudice to any pending appeal by the affected candidates or their political parties.”
Yakubu added that with less than two weeks to the election, the electoral body was at the concluding stages of the preparations.
Nonetheless, the Chairman has assured that INEC State offices have concluded the readiness assessment of their facilities as well as the movement of critical facilities to 56 Local Government offices across the three States.
He revealed that in the next few days, the Commission would publish the detailed distribution of agents uploaded by all political parties for public information.
For the umpteenth time, the Commission said it was looking forward to improved performance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and result upload on INEC Result Viewing (IReV) in the forthcoming elections.
The Commission recalled that it conducted a mock accreditation involving actual voters in designated polling units in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States two weeks ago.
It said, “By doing so, we tested the efficacy of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for both biometric authentication of voters and the upload of results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV). Some of you observed the mock accreditation exercise and viewed the results on the IReV portal.
“We have received no adverse report so far. By this, we are encouraged that the test was successful, and we look forward to improved performance of the BVAS in voter accreditation and result upload in the forthcoming Governorship elections and beyond.”
The commission, however, clarified that it would “uploads” not “transmits” polling unit results to IReV. It explained that IReV is meant to enhance election transparency and not a result collation or transmission system.
Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, emphasised that some Nigerians believed that the BVAS is an Electronic Voting Machine, while the IReV receives, collates results, and thereafter determines the outcome of an election.
Oyekanmi added that the primary purpose why INEC invented IReV is for engendering transparency in its election result management process; to give Nigerians access to polling unit results from all parts of the country on a dedicated portal that could be accessed via the internet.
He said: “Why is it important to distinguish between transmit and upload even when both words appear similar? The reason is that to some Nigerians, “transmission of results” also means “electronic balloting or internet voting”.
“Indeed, electronic transmission of election results would also entail electronic collation of those results to determine the outcome of the election. But this is not what the BVAS and IReV are doing. To be sure, the IReV does not collate election results because it was not designed to do so. It merely displays polling unit results, just as a scoreboard displays the goals scored during a football match in a stadium.
The clarification became imperative to following what erupted after the electoral body suffered a “glitch” during the upload of 2023 presidential election results.
The glitch form the major point of the legal battle among the three leading presidential candidates that reached a climax last week.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has, however, assured that there won’t be any interference in the forthcoming governorship elections.
Ribadu gave the assurance last Friday in Abuja during the meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
According to him, security agencies in the country are getting prepared and are ready to meet the requirements and standards the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) want them to meet.
His words: “This is going to be the first election that is going to be under his (President Bola Tinubu) watch. He said we should take this message to INEC and to Nigerians that he is going to be very much available to support you to make sure Nigeria will have free and fair elections.
“Also to tell everyone, including the politicians, nothing much more important than to have a free and fair election, if we want this country to move forward. He is a democrat, he believes in democracy. He will support you. Already we have seen that the entire requirement we have put out to him, he has given us the go ahead.’
“We want to give assurance to Nigerians that this election will be even better than what we have had in the past. This election is going to be free and fair. This election will be without interference. This election is going to be without violence. This election is going to be credible.
“It is going to be a litmus test for us. Three important states, one in the North-Central, one in the South East, one in the South-south and we are ready. We will provide what it takes to provide credible elections and we are impressed with the preparations we have seen from INEC and we will work together. Collectively it is our responsibility to deliver.”
If the assurances from both INEC and the NSA is anything to go by, Nigerians might witness a free, fair and credible elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, provided that the political parties, the politicians and major stakeholders in the electoral process are willing and ready to play by the rule.