The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the commission would be neutral in the 2023 general elections, as it has no preferred candidate or political party.
Yakubu said this on Wednesday in Abuja at the 4th Abubakar Momoh memorial lecture on ‘Electoral Act 2022: Imperatives for Political Parties and the 2023 General Elections’.
The lecture was organised in honour of a former Director-General of the Electoral Institute (TEI), late Prof. Abubakar Momoh who died on May 29, 2017.
According to Yakubu, Nigerians should be assured that only their votes will determine the outcome of the 2023 general elections and future polls in the country, as INEC would apply the laws without fear or favour to ensure free, fair, credible, inclusive and transparent elections.
Yakubu, represented by the Chairman board of TEI, Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, also stressed the need for stakeholders, especially political parties to note the major features introduced in the new Electoral Act, 2022 and the possible implications of these changes on the upcoming elections.
The INEC boss said that these changes include the conduct of early party primaries by parties, technological changes in the electoral process, the commission’s power to review the decision of the returning officer and over-voting based on the number of accredited voters.
Yakubu said, “These new initiatives as contained in the law served as the bedrock for the reviewed regulations and guidelines for the conduct of elections 2022 released by the commission on May 24, 2022. This in turn dictated the review of the manual for election officials, 2022.
“Let me draw your attention to the fact that the use of electronic devices such as the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), INEC Results Viewing Portal (IRev) and other technological devices, are now legally allowed in the accreditation process for voters, collation of results and in the general conduct of elections.
“Please be assured that these innovations are intended to deepen the electoral process in our country and their optimal performance in the just concluded gubernatorial election in Ekiti and Osun states is an eloquent testimony to their electoral value.
“We shall only do more to consolidate their deployment in our election. Once again, I wish to assure you that INEC has no preferred party or candidate. We shall only ensure that all valid votes count and the winners are decided solely by the voters.”
The INEC chairman described the late Abubakar as an advocate of free, fair, credible and participatory electoral system which he (Abubakar) fought for through research, capacity building for the staff of the commission, and vigorous voter education activities.
Speaking earlier, Director-General of TEI, Dr. Sa’ad Idris, lamented the preponderance of many legal cases arising from the pre-election period up till after the conduct of the elections.
He said that the development had brought a lot of challenges to the electoral process and Nigeria’s political development at large.
Idris, however, said the Electoral Act 2022 provided solutions to many issues that in the past had fuelled endless litigations in our courts.
He said, “It is hoped that with this lecture and training for party executives, due influence can be brought to bear and reduce the swift race to the courts that has characterised our political space in the last 10 years.
“For an umpire and stakeholders who are conscious of their responsibilities of ensuring conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections, the Electoral Act has brought on board solutions to many issues that in the past have fuelled endless litigations in our courts.
“Although, Prof. Abubakar Momoh is no longer with us, he has gone to the great beyond, his ideas, philosophy and values are what we are remembering him for today.”
Delivering the keynote, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George, SAN, urged political parties to obey their own rules.
According to him, the Supreme Court has decided in several cases that political parties must obey their own constitutions as the court will not allow them to act arbitrarily.
“Politics is not anarchy; it is not disorderliness; it must be punctuated by justice, fairness and orderliness,” Akinseye-George said.