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TEXT OF A PRESS BRIEFING BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, ON PREPARATIONS FOR THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTION HELD AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, ON THURSDAY 23RD FEBRUARY 2023

TEXT OF A PRESS BRIEFING BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, ON PREPARATIONS FOR THE 2023 GENERAL ELECTION HELD AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, ON THURSDAY 23RD FEBRUARY 2023

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press

1. You may recall that in my message to Nigerians in October last year, we promised that in the week of the General Election we shall be conducting daily media briefings. The idea is to provide stakeholders with up-to-date information about the process and preparedness of the Commission. Unfortunately, due to last minute consultations conducted by the Commission in the last two days, we were not able to commence the daily briefings on Monday 20th February 2023 as we intended.

2. The General Election commences in next 41 hours, with the national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) on 25th February and state elections (Governorship and State Assembly) on 11th of March. The Commission has meticulously prepared and implemented its Election Project Plan, learning from recent elections. It is important to keep the sheer magnitude of Nigeria’s general elections in mind. The voter population of 93,469,008 is more that the total number of registered voters in all the other countries of West Africa put together. In addition, we shall be deploying to 176,606 polling units (excluding the 240 polling units without registered voters) simultaneously.

3. This election is a huge logistical deployment. We have painstakingly procured, organised and delivered all the materials to the States for deployment. We commenced the delivery of non-sensitive materials over two months ago and they have been batched down to Registration Area/Ward and Pulling Unit levels. Sensitive materials have been delivered to the States and are presently being delivered to our Local Government Area offices. As such, these materials are only between one and two levels away from the Polling Units. We have achieved this by learning from our recent difficult experience with logistics. We have completed arrangements with the transport unions for the final leg of the movement of personnel and materials to the Polling Units. They have assured us of their readiness to provide all the vehicular needs of the Commission for the election.

4. A major part of our preparation for the General Election was the establishment of additional 56,872 Polling Units across the country, the first time of doing so since 1996. With this, we expanded voter access to polling units in Nigeria by over 32%, making it possible for voters to have improved opportunities for casting their votes. Unfortunately, voters have not taken full advantage of this opportunity, resulting in 240 Polling Units without voters, and prompting the Commission to further move some voters out of congested Polling Units to less populated ones. I implore all voters to cross-check their Polling Units before election. However, only 7% of voters are affected by this movement. This means that the vast majority of voters will still vote in their usual Polling Units. We sent bulk phone text messages (sms) to the affected voters, tasked our State offices for publicity in local languages and offered two unique ways by which voters can locate and confirm their polling units before Election Day by sending a normal text message to dedicated telephone numbers or by visiting our website. The detailed procedure is uploaded to our social media platforms.

5. Staff to be deployed for the elections have been trained, the last being Collation and Returning Officers, who will complete their training shortly. An essential part of this training has been the emphasis on the neutrality of staff and the need for them to be committed and dedicated throughout the duration of their assignments. The Commission shall carefully monitor the performance of all staff involved in the election and ensure that both recognition and sanctions are applied wherever applicable.

6. We have completed all the testing of our technologies to be deployed for the election, particularly the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV). On 4th February 2023, we tested the BVAS in a mock accreditation exercise and uploaded the results to IReV. We are satisfied with the performance of the BVAS, which has been confirmed by several groups that observed the exercise. Lessons learnt from the exercise have helped us in the training of 10,600 Registration Area Technical Support Staff (RATECHS). They will provide the necessary support to ensure that the deployment of the BVAS is without hitches.

7. Let me reiterate that the procedure for voting as provided in the Electoral Act 2022, clearly makes the use of the BVAS mandatory. So also, the use of the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC). The NO PVC, NO VOTING rule subsists. In the last few months, we made 13,676,907 PVCs available for collection for new voters and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost/damaged cards. While we are pleased that the rate of collection is higher than in previous years, there are still, unfortunately, many cards that were not collected. Before the end of this briefing, we shall make public a summary of the numbers of collected and uncollected PVCs in each State of the Federation. The detailed breakdown by Polling Units will be uploaded to the Commission’s website latest tomorrow Friday 24th February.

8. At this juncture, it will not be inappropriate to comment on the national register voters. With 93.4 million records with names, addresses, passport photographs and biometrics (fingerprint and facial), it is the largest date base of citizens in Africa and one of the largest in the world. However, like all databases, it may not be perfect but the core of the register is solid. Going forward, the Commission will continue to clean it using technology and citizens’ involvement as provided by law. Through the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), millions of ineligible registrants have been removed from the register. In addition, citizens have helped to clean up the register further during the display of the hardcopy for claims and objections in the 8,809 Registration Areas/Wards and 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for a period of two weeks (12th – 25th November 2022) as provided by law. Nigerians should therefore continue to have confidence in the register as a national treasure and work with the Commission to continuously improve on it as provided by law.

9. Vote buying remains a major threat to our democracy. We have worked closely with enforcement agencies to ensure that this is eliminated from our electoral process. We are convinced that our joint operations before and on election day will vastly reduce the prospect of voter inducement, which is not only illegal but immoral. The ban on the use of mobile phones and photographic devices at the voting cubicles, is still in place. Some voters have used these devices in previous elections to snap their marked ballot papers for vote transaction. However, citizens are permitted to come to the Polling Units with these devices, as long as they do not take them to the voting cubicles. Our arrangement of placing the ballot box near the voting cubicle and away from party agents remains. Our staff have been trained in the administration of the Polling Units and their attention should be drawn to any deviation from that training.

10. In the last few weeks, we have been in consultation with other critical agencies and institutions in the administration of the General Election. We met with the judiciary about arrangements for post-election adjudication. Last year, we worked with development partners and the Court of Appeal to conduct workshops for prospective Election Petition Tribunal judges. We have been assured of arrangements for timely post-election adjudication. We have also met severally with the security agencies, mainly under the auspices of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). They have assured us of their preparedness to adequately secure the elections. This is very important as it will assure voters of their safety during the elections, which is cardinal to voter turnout. In the build-up to the general election, several of our facilities were attacked by unknown assailants in various parts of the country. I am pleased that we have fully recovered from those attacks, and we have been further assured that our facilities, staff, voters, observers, and citizens will be safe during the election.

11. As a result of recent developments in the economy, we have also had to consult with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) on the fuel situation. As you all know, we require Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) to power vehicles and boast for land and marine transportation as well as our generators during the election. We are pleased that the NNPC Limited assured us that it will ensure availability of the products for the polls. Likewise, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured us that it will provide us with the small amount of cash we require from our budget to cash payment to some critical service providers for the election. I must reiterate that the bulk of payment for works goods and services are still paid for by electronic transfer.

12. On election observation, the Commission has accredited 229 groups deploying 146,913 observers. As I said at the briefing for election observers on Tuesday this week, this is the largest deployment of observers in the history of elections in Nigeria. Similarly, the Commission has so far accredited 457 national and international media organisations deploying 8,882 journalists. We encourage them to freely observe and report the election within the remits of our laws and international good practice.

13. There are 18 political parties fielding candidates for 1,491 constituencies in this election. As provided by law, parties are required to submit the list of their agents for polling units and collation centres nationwide who are individually accredited by the Commission. To make the process easier, we are created a dedicated portal for parties to upload their lists along with names and passport-size photographs of their agents. In all, the Commission has printed and delivered 1,642,385 identification cards to our State offices for collection by State Chairmen of political parties. The softcopy of the summary of the list has already been uploaded to our website and social media platforms.

14. Finally, I want to assure Nigerians that we are adequately prepared for this election. We remain fully committed to a free, fair and credible process. I want to once again declare that our allegiance is only to Nigerians. Our commitment is to ensure that in this election we put everything in place for free choice, fair contest and credible outcome.

15. On this note, it is now my pleasure to invite the representative of the Inspector General of Police, the lead agency in internal security in Nigeria, to address us and, thereafter, we will respond to your questions, comments and observations.

16. I thank you very much.

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