The president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)Mahmood Yakubu said Thursday that the electoral referee would deploy appropriate technology “to protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the ballot box” in the 2023 general election.
Mr. Yakubu spoke while delivering the keynote address at the sixth annual Guild of Online Corporate Publishers (GOCOP) conference in Lagos.
The event had as its theme ‘Elections 2023: Managing the process for a credible result’.
Yakubu said the technology will be implemented from voter registration to voter accreditation to results management.
He added that the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) with its dual fingerprint and facial biometric accreditation process has ensured that only genuine voters are accredited to vote during elections.
“This has reduced the incidence of multiple voting and other sharp practices associated with voter registration during elections,” he said.
“The BVAS is here to stay and will be the only means by which voters will be accredited in the 2023 General Elections.”
He further noted that the introduction of INEC’s results visualization portal (IReV) has made the results management procedure more transparent and that the results of the voting units will be uploaded to the portal in real time in the general elections of 2023.
According to the INEC president, 15,322 candidates will be contesting 1,491 seats in 2023.
This includes one presidential seat, 28 governorships, 109 senatorial, 360 Houses of Representatives, and 993 State Assembly constituencies.
“The 2023 general election is fast approaching.
“There are 141 days left until Election Day. The Voting Units will open at 8:30 am on Saturday, February 25, 2023 for the national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and at the same time on Saturday, March 11, 2023 for the state elections (Government and State Assembly).
“Secondly, the public campaigns of the political parties officially began eight days ago, on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.
“Therefore, the pace of political activities has increased as parties, candidates and their supporters launch campaigns, rallies, processions and media advertisements to garner the support of the electorate.”
He reiterated INEC’s commitment to credible elections and noted that “votes will continue to be counted and will be the sole determinant of the electoral result.”
He urged political parties and candidates to carefully study the Electoral Law 2022 and familiarize themselves with their obligations and the sanctions provided in the law.
The INEC chief reiterated the importance of the commission’s partnership with the media to ensure a credible result in the electoral process and the battle against fake news.
“As the Commission is doing everything possible to ensure a credible process, we also call on the media for continued partnership. Managing the electoral process to obtain a credible result is the responsibility of all of us.
“As campaign activities get underway, the media will continue to play an important role. Many of the activities will take place in the media, of which new media is a key player.
“We must continue to work together against the spread of fake news, misinformation and disinformation that seek to create or exacerbate tension or delegitimize processes and outcomes.
On fake news, he said: “GOCOP should lead a network or alliance of stakeholders to curb fake news designed by unpatriotic people. Fake news is a threat to national security, and everyone should be prepared to see it.
GOCOP must come out strong in the battle against fake news, which is a challenge for the electoral process in the future.
He assured that at INEC “the national interest comes first. We will not indulge any partisan whims and whims. We pledge to fulfill our duties with the highest sense of responsibility and integrity.”
The chairman of the occasion, the founder of the Center for Alternative Political Perspectives and Strategies (CAPPS), Umar Ardo, in his opening remarks said that the deployment of technology in the electoral process will eliminate fraud and irregular voting.
“For the first time in the history of this country, we have an INEC leadership that will hold two consecutive elections,” he said.
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“We have never had it before. And so the experience from the previous election will carry over into the next election and help improve the election that we also saw in the use of technology to deliver credible elections.
“The use of technology to deliver credible elections will mean that certain key manipulation schemes employed by politicians, especially incumbents, will be eliminated. we are going to eliminate multiple voting,” he said.
He said that the role of the media in helping to create a conducive environment for the elections is very critical, especially social media.
“When online publishing started, people just wrote what they wanted and I’m happy with the GOCOP paper, some of the issues will be addressed.”
Chichi Aniagbolu-Okoye of the Ford Foundation praised INEC for implementing technology to promote transparency and accountability in the electoral process.
In her welcome speech, GOCOP Chair Maureen Chigbo said that steps that make up the electoral process, such as hiring ad hoc staff and printing ballot papers, could undermine the electoral outcome if not well managed.
“Any stage of these electoral processes that is not handled well could undermine the electoral result,” he said.
“That is why as we move towards the 2023 election, taking into account the concerns of the people, we feel that, as a societal watchdog, we should use our platform to better educate and inform the electorate, even if only to the public. Nigerian people. Get the facts on the state of affairs with the planning and execution of the 2023 election.
“On the other hand, the interventions of the panelists and the contributions of the room will also guide the electoral referee in the consolidation of the preparations and the remaining processes for the election that have to do with security, the law and the observation missions that they involve civil society organizations as represented in the carefully selected panelists”.
The event also saw the induction of 13 new GOCOP members selected from 38 applications received.
According to the president, “GOCOP was born out of the growing need to ensure that online publishers respect the principles of journalism when doing their work.”
A former inspector general of police, Solomon Arase, noted that the role of the police in elections can be categorized into three: pre-election, election day and post-election.
Speaking about the role of the police, he said they would make sure to escort the ballot material to various voting units, ensure voters, ad hoc staff and everyone are safe during and after the election.
He also recommended that the police should have someone with knowledge and good communication to manage the communication table and also that INEC should prosecute offenders according to the law.
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