The Independent National Electoral Commission has expressed concern about the challenges it is facing as it prepares for the 2023 elections, Punch reports.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, said that the recent flooding across the nation had destroyed no fewer than 20 offices of the commission.
The chairman of the electoral umpire while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters to defend the budget proposed by the commission in the 2023 Appropriation Bill, said the development had forced the agency to begin to look for new office spaces in new locations in some states.
He said, “We have office rent and residential rent. So many of our offices were attacked and some actually flooded after the recent floods. We have 20 offices in that situation after the recent floods. In some, we can repair and replace the damaged or lost equipment.
“But for others, we just have to look for a facility to rent. From Jigawa, there was a request for us to look for three offices, following the damage caused by flooding of the offices that we occupied.
The latest destruction of INEC equipment and offices may worsen things for the commission which was just coming out of the destruction caused by EndSARS attacks and the activities of unknown gunmen in the South-East and insurgents in the North.
In May last year, INEC said it was assessing loss of materials to attacks, with the preliminary assessment indicating that 11 offices, 1,105 ballot boxes, 694 voting cubicles, 429 electric generating sets and 13 utility vehicles – Toyota Hilux pick-up vans – had been lost.
Yakubu, who said this at an emergency meeting with security agencies, under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, in Abuja, following the serial attacks on the commission’s offices and facilities especially in the south-eastern part of the country, warned that a disruption to the electoral process would undermine Nigerian democracy and destabilise the country.
However, speaking at last week’s meeting with the Reps panel, Yakubu thanked the committee and the National Assembly by extension for passing the Electoral Act 2022, which he described as “the most progressive Electoral Act ever in the history of elections in Nigeria.”
The chairman urged the parliament to pass the bill seeking to establish an electoral offences commission and tribunal before the end of the 9th National Assembly.
He however, did not state if the law should be in force before the 2023 general elections. While the elections have been scheduled for February, the Assembly ends in June.
Yakubu said, “Some of the progress referred to by the chairman of this committee owe a lot to the new Electoral Act. It has really strengthened our hands. I also like what Honourable Sam Onuigbo said; and the comment made by Honourable Abonta about the involvement of Commissioner Festus Okoye on the technical committee for the last election. We have nominated the same person for the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill. I would like to appreciate you for that.
“You have relieved the commission, by the time you passed this bill, of one of the most difficult jobs assigned to the commission, and which we have not successfully implemented, which is the prosecution of electoral offences. With the establishment of the commission, essentially by the efforts of members – because it is a private bill, not an executive bill, we have also taken another step towards ensuring free, fair and credible elections.
“I pray that the process will be concluded and submitted for assent and be assented to before the lifespan of this Assembly. This will be another solid contribution to our electoral process. If you successfully do so, you would have done what the Uwais recommendation did not achieve; what the Lemu Committee did not achieve; and what the Nnamani Committee did not achieve. So, we look forward to and place on record our appreciation to the National Assembly.”
The Chairman of the committee, Aisha Dukku, earlier in her opening remarks, hailed INEC for the successful conduct of the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.
Dukku partly said, “Let me also use this opportunity to congratulate you on the successful conduct of the Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections.”
The lawmaker said this as INEC on Monday disclosed that it was battling with about 600 cases relating to the conduct of recent primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties for the 2023 general election.
The INEC Chairman, Yakubu, who disclosed this, advised the judiciary to avoid giving conflicting judgements.
The INEC chairman stated these in Abuja during workshop for justices of the Court of Appeal on election matters and inauguration of Justices of the Election Petition Tribunals.
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