The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it would pay special attention to the observance of limits on parties and candidates’ finances in the forthcoming 2023 elections.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this Thursday at the 2022 Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) 6th Annual Conference in Lagos.
Prof. Yakubu, whilst speaking on the theme: “2023 Elections: Managing the Process for Credible Outcome” implored political parties and candidates to carefully study the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and familiarise themselves with their obligations as well as the penalties under the law.
He noted that the Commission would pay particular attention to the conduct of parties, candidates and their supporters, adding that as a regulator, the Commission would play its role to ensure compliance with the provision of the law as well as its guidelines and regulations.
“We will pay particular attention to peaceful campaign devoid of abusive, intemperate and slanderous language as well as the use of innuendoes or insinuations likely to provoke a counter-reaction resulting in the breach of the peace. Similarly, we will pay special attention to the observance of limits on party and candidate finance. I urge political parties and candidates to carefully study the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and familiarise themselves with their obligations as well as the penalties under the law,” she posited.
The INEC boss commended GOCOP for holding the conference, adding that it was most appropriate for a number of reasons, especially as the 2023 general election is fast approaching.
He noted that it is now 141 days to election day and that polling units will open at 8.30am on Saturday 25th February 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and same time on Saturday 11th March 2023 for State elections (Governorship and State Assembly).
He said that campaign in public by political parties officially commenced eight days ago on Wednesday 28th September 2022, adding that the tempo of political activities has increased as parties, candidates and their supporters commence campaigns, rallies, processions and media advertisement to canvass the support of the electorate.
He said the Commission has published the final list of 15,322 candidates for the general election contesting for 1,491 seats (one Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 House of Representatives and 993 State Assembly constituencies).
Yakubu reaffirmed the commitment of INEC to credible elections, stressing that votes will continue to count and will be the sole determinant of electoral outcome.
The INEC boss said the Commission has introduced many new innovations, supported by the deployment of appropriate technology, to protect the sanctity of the choice made by Nigerians at the polls ranging from voter registration to voter accreditation and result management, adding 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 election. This, he said, has curtailed the incidence of multiple voting and other sharp practices associated with voter accreditation during elections.
He maintained that the BVAS has come to stay and will be the only means by which voters will be accredited in the 2023 general elections.
He stated that the introduction of the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) Portal has made the result management procedure more transparent, stressing that polling unit results are now uploaded in real-time to the IReV portal for public view. This, he noted, has enhanced the transparency, credibility and consequently public confidence in the outcome of elections.
He maintained that the IReV has come to stay and polling unit results will be uploaded to the portal in real-time in the 2023 General Election.
“As campaigns commence, I also wish to remind political parties and candidates that only last week, you all signed the Peace Accord organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC) in which you committed yourselves to peaceful electioneering campaign. I urge you to be guided by the letter and spirit of the Accord,” he said.
On vote buying, he noted that the INEC would continue to innovate to stem the menace
Chairman of the event, Dr. Umar Ardo, implored politicians to play according to electoral stipulated rules, adding that they should understand that in every election there must be winner and a loser.
He commended INEC for the introduction and deployment of technology to stem issues of election malpractices.
He also commended GOCOP for organising the event
Former Inspector General of Police, Dr. Solomon Arase, called for synergy between all stakeholders in the electoral process, whilst canvassing the need for prosecution of election offenders.
Dr. Chichi Aniagolu-Okoye of Regional Director, Fond Foundation (West Africa), commended INEC for the new Electoral Act, stressing that there should be continuous fine-tuning of technology deployed for elections.
She underscored the importance of the Police and Judiciary, stressing that every nation that hopes to develop should develop its Police and Judiciary.
She also called for collective efforts in tackling the menace of vote buying.
Dr. Aniagolu-Okoye implored the media to go beyond tackling the menace of fake news to addressing also irresponsible reporting, adding that all parties involved in the elections should note that there would still be Nigeria after the election.