Conducting election in Nigeria is like holding exercise in 14 West African countries —INEC chairman

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NATIONAL chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Thursday, said conducting elections in Nigeria is akin to holding an election in the rest 14 countries in West African sub-region combined. 

He substantiated his assertion with statistics during an interactive session with media executives in Lagos. 

He revealed that with its current voter population of more than 84 million, Nigeria has about 11 million more registered voters than the rest of West African countries combined, which have 73.6 million registered voters. 

“Nigeria’s size and population make it one of the biggest democracies in the world. It is certainly the second largest presidential democracy after the United States of America. 

“The size of our voter population and elective institutions make elections in Nigeria a huge undertaking. This fact is better appreciated within our regional context. There are 15 countries in West Africa today, including Nigeria. 

“However, with the current voter population of over 84 million, Nigeria has about 11 million more registered voters than the other 14 countries put together, which have 73.6 million registered voters. 

“Conducting a general election in Nigeria is like holding election in West Africa and beyond,” he told his audience. 

He said Nigeria has a voter population of 84,004,084 (2019 figures, excluding the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration); number of polling units (176,846); registration areas or wards: 8,809; constituencies – 1,567 distributed as: presidential – one; governorship (36); senatorial districts (109); federal constituencies (House of Representatives seats) – 360; state Assembly Constituencies (993 )and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council – 68 (six chairmen and 62 councillors. 

He said apart from the governorship elections coming up in Ekiti and Osun states in 2022, the commission has a number of elections to be conducted in the next eight months, among them, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections, comprising 68 constituencies; three pending Federal constituency bye-elections (Jos North/Bassa in Plateau State, Akure North/Akure South in Ondo State and Ogoja/Yala in Cross River State) and three State constituencies (Ekiti East I in Ekiti State): Shinkafi in Zamfara State and Akpabuyo in Cross River State). 

Reviewing the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, Yakubu admitted it was held under difficult circumstances, but adjudged it peaceful and the outcome universally adjudged to be credible.

Nonetheless, he said INEC was aware of the issues raised about the performance of the new technology, especially the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployed for voter accreditation. 

“The deployment of the BVAS in the Anambra governorship election was the second pilot test. It was intended to achieve two objectives. First is voter accreditation to replace the Smart Card Reader. The second is the uploading of the polling unit result to the IReV portal to replace the z-pad. 

“The BVAS performed optimally in uploading results to the IReV portal, but there were the usual challenges associated with the pilot of a new technology in a major election. 

“From our assessment so far, much of the glitches encountered on election day in Anambra State had little to do with the machines but more with the operators of the system. 

“The extraordinarily difficult circumstances under which the election was held meant that some of the better-trained ad hoc staff withdrew at the Eleventh hour. 

“Similarly, some critical service providers such as vehicle owners also withdrew, thereby severely affecting our plans for rapid response by our technicians. 

“Suffice it to say that in spite of the glitches, BVAS has justified our determination to deepen the deployment of technology in the electoral process. Given the credible conclusion of the election, it has strengthened our belief that even the minimal introduction of technology in voter accreditation is better than the best manual process. 

“I want to reassure Nigerians that we have learnt vital lessons from the Anambra pilot. There will be remarkable improvement in the next major election which is the end-of-tenure Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) schedule to hold in three months on 12th February 2022,” he said. 

On the amended Electoral Act that contained a clause on direct primaries, Yakubu assured the commission would give expeditious consideration to the law once signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. 

He charged the media to assist the INEC in combating the menace of fake news through fairness, objectivity and balance in reportage. 

In his contribution, INEC national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr Festus Okoye, said the commission was eagerly awaiting the new electoral legal framework for the country, following the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill by the National Assembly.

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