Some international election observers have expressed concern over the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) technology to perform optimally in the 2023 General Elections.
The joint delegation of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), raised the concern on Friday while addressing a press conference in Abuja.
The five-member delegation comprises the Secretary of State for Ohio, Frank LaRose; a former Minority Leader of the Sierra Leone Parliament, Bernadette Lahai; a former Director of Elections, Registration and Demarcation at the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Albert Kofi-Arhin; a Regional Director of NDI, Christopher Fomunyoh and Jenai Cox, Regional Deputy Director for Africa at IRI.
Members of the delegation took turns to read sections of the joint statement of their first pre-election assessment mission in Nigeria to journalists expressed concerns over whether the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) and Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will perform at the same level as witnessed in the recent governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun “when scaled up for the national elections.”
While noting other concerns to be addressed ahead of the 2023 polls, the delegation said the elimination of voting points by INEC has aided the transparency of results but has also posed a new challenge for the electorates.
“Instead of transitioning the previous voting points into new polling units, INEC has largely established the new polling units in new locations. Recognizing that moving voters to a new location presents a challenge, INEC has plans only to include new voters or voters who choose to transfer their registration at these new polling units. This approach is unlikely to address the anomaly of overcrowding in existing polling units,” a member of the delegation, Ms Lahai, noted.
She said there is a need to further reduce access to polling units so as to reduce conditions for nefarious behaviours during the voting exercise.
She also highlighted inter-party disputes, insecurity, high nomination fees by political parties, election violence and low representation of women in positions of power among the issues Nigeria needs to address before the 2023 election.
In its recommendations read by Ms Cox, the NDI/IRI delegation called for timely disbursement of funding for INEC, so they can play their role in the election cycle without fear or favour.
The delegation also advised INEC to capitalise on the excitement of Nigerians from the just concluded governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States and extend the period for voter registration.
“INEC should publish disaggregated data on registered persons with disabilities (PWDs) before elections and invest in collecting data to map the location and type of assistance needed for PWDs, and audit polling unit layouts to ensure compliance with the INEC polling unit schematic,” Ms Cox said.
The delegation also urged the commission to seize the renewed interest of Nigerians in the electoral process to engage them on issues that matter to them.
It said the country, for the first time since 2007, may witness an open contest in the coming presidential poll.
Ahead 2027: Pro-Tinubu Group Sets Up Structures In APC
The Mandate Movement (TMM), a pro-President Bola Tinubu group in the All Progressives Congress (APC), has set up 37 structures in a bid to enlarge its membership base across the country.
The structures consist of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja.
The national leader of the movement, Cardinal James Odunmbaku, made this known in a statement, explaining that the move became necessary for the ease of administration.
Cardinal Odunmbaku, in the statement, noted that this move was a precursor to the preparations for the 2027 general election.
He stressed that the move aims at ensuring that the APC has strong dominance across communities and towns in every part of the country.
He advised those to be appointed as state coordinators to be more effective in mobilising new people into the ruling APC.
The APC chieftain also used the opportunity to appeal to Nigerians to be patient with the President Bola Tinubu’s administration, assuring that the government was taking steps to address the harsh economic challenges.
Benue APC Crisis: Court Sacks Acting State Chairman
The recently suspended Benue State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Austin Agada, has been reinstated by a Makurdi High Court presided over by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Maurice Ikpambese.
Recall that Mr Agada was earlier in the month suspended from office by another Benue High Court in Aliade presided over by Justice Lilian Tsumba following an ex parte motion filed by Mr Moses Agaba against him and the APC after his Ihaje Ward I Executive in Ogbadibo Local Government Area had passed a no-confidence vote on him and also suspended him for alleged anti-party activity.
The suspension was immediately followed by the inauguration of Mr. Benjamin Omakolo from Igoro Ward, Apa LGA as the acting State Chairman during a State Executive Committee meeting of the party presided over by Governor Hyacinth Alia.
However the crisis in the party took a dramatic turn Monday when Justice Ikpambese reinstated Mr. Agada while ruling on a motion by the embattled chairman seeking to set aside the interim order restraining him from parading himself as Chairman.
After listening to the arguments of counsel to Moses Agaba, Mr. Johnson Usman, and that of Innocent Daagba, who appeared alongside Richard Ayilla, George Ushongo, Daniel Sorkaa and John Ifer who appeared for Mr. Agada, Justice Maurice Ikpambese vacated the order restraining him from parading self, function and acting as the Chairman of the APC in the State.
Justice Ikpambese ruled that “under Order 39, rule 3 of the Benue State High Court Procedure Rules, 2023, the lifespan of an interim order is seven days, and since the order was issued on February 2, 2024, it has elapsed by law.”
Justice Ikpambese nullified the appointment of Benjamin Omakolo as acting Chairman and any other appointment made from February 2, 2024.
He accordingly struck out the motion seeking to set aside the interim order of February 2, 2024, as “it has been overtaken by events.”
The matter would be assigned to another Judge by the Chief Judge who would hear it on its merit.
Reacting, the APC State acting Chairman, Mr. Omakolo dismissed the reinstatement of Mr. Agada saying “whether the order restraining him (Agada) from parading himself as the Chairman is vacated or not, the fact that he has been suspended by his Ward still places a ban on him to be able to function as APC Chairman in Benue State. “And it will interest you to know that in the court ruling today, no matter concerning my person or role as the acting Chairman was mentioned.
“So, I still remain the valid acting State chairman of the APC in Benue State. I remain the one who pilots the affairs of the APC in Benue State and the APC family takes instructions and directives from my office as the acting Chairman of APC in the State.
“And even that wrong vacation that was done in the High Court has already been appealed. The person that took him to court has appealed the judgement because it is not correct in law for a High Court to restrain another High Court, a court of coordinate jurisdiction. I have long assumed office as the acting Chairman of APC in Benue State.”
There’s No Changing Bayelsa Gov’ship Result – Diri
Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri, has said that the November 11, 2023, governorship election in the State has been won and lost and cannot be changed through subterranean moves of his main rival in the poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the incumbent governor winner of the election and presented certificates of return to him and the deputy governor-elect, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, on November 17, 2023.
Diri, who spoke on Monday during the first year memorial service of his late father, Pa Abraham Diri, at the St Peter’s Anglican Church, Sampou, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, said the subpoena to the police to testify as witness at the election petition tribunal by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Chief Timipre Sylva, was diversionary, a waste of time and an exercise in futility.
He said the acceptable standard was the election result declared by INEC and not that of the police.
His words, “they are bringing a police report. They are bringing a police commissioner to come and testify in the election tribunal. We have crossed that bridge long ago. Just as we stopped them from rigging, we will stop them again.
“If you want to subpoena anybody, let it be INEC, which conducted the election and declared the results. The police are in charge of security.
“Let us be steadfast. Our second tenure will be better than the first.”
The governor eulogised his father for laying a solid foundation for him and his siblings.
According to him, his father was being celebrated a year after his death because he left good legacies that were speaking through him and his siblings.
He said: “His impact upon our lives, his children and relatives, is unspeakable. That is why I believe in giving the best education to children, so that whether you are alive or not, they can stand anywhere. I urge fellow Bayelsans to give their children good education.
“What we are doing today is to appreciate God and celebrate the life of our father for what he has done in our lives. Our father guided us very well. All his life was how to discipline and give what he had to society.
“Those of us in leadership as president, governors, Speakers and other positions, let us know that there is a legacy we should leave, which will speak for us when we leave this world.”
Speaking on the topic: “What will you be remembered for?” Rev. Funkuro Amgbare, Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Izon of the Anglican Communion, noted that Pa Diri was being remembered a year after his death because he impacted positively on his children and the society.
He admonished all to live a life worth remembering by maintaining their integrity.
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