The chairman of the Independent National Election Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, raised the alarm on Monday that the upcoming elections risk being canceled or postponed if there are no improvements in the security challenges being witnessed across the country.
But the Peoples’ Democratic Party has hit back at the INEC chief, saying that nothing less than free, fair and credible elections will be acceptable.
Yakubu, represented by Electoral Institute Board Chairman Abdullahi Zuru, spoke at the validation of election security training resources held in Abuja on Monday.
He noted that the upcoming elections face a serious threat of cancellation if the security situation across the country does not improve.
“If insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in enough constituencies to make it difficult to announce election results and precipitate a constitutional crisis,” he said.
However, the INEC chief assured all stakeholders that the commission will leave nothing to chance to ensure that election personnel and materials are provided with security.
He said that INEC appreciated the fact that electoral security is vital for democratic consolidation through the provision of an enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process.
It added: “Accordingly, in the preparations for the 2023 general election, the commission leaves nothing to chance to ensure that intensive and extensive security is provided for electoral personnel, materials and processes.
“This is particularly important to the commission given the ongoing security challenges in various parts of the country and the fact that members of the National Youth Service Corps make up the core of the Voting Unit’s election officials.
“This must not be allowed to happen and it will not be allowed to happen. Therefore, security personnel in particular and all election officials in general must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment and must be fully equipped to meet any challenge at all times.”
However, the PDP’s national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, reacted by saying that the commission’s warning vindicated the opposition party which, he said, had been sounding the alarm about electoral violence.
He said that anything short of free, fair and credible elections will be acceptable to the party.
Ologunagba said: “We have been talking about this with the press. When we said this a long time ago, people said it was a false alarm. The security agencies and the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (ret.), who promised the entire world that there would be peace, must remember that nothing less than a free, fair and credible election will be acceptable.
“The reality on the ground is that since 2019 there have been more than 50 attacks on INEC facilities.
“In 2022 alone, INEC in its findings said that there have been bizarre and well-coordinated attacks on its facilities. They are doing this so that the elections do not take place.
However, All Progressives Congress spokesman Felix Morka told The PUNCH that he would react on behalf of the party only after hearing what the INEC president had to say at the event.
“I’m still not aware of that story. I was not there, and I have not read the statement. So give me time to listen to what the INEC said before reacting,” she said.