- • Urges Mahmood to ensure credible polls
Ahead of the scheduled off-season elections in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa; Saving Our Votes, a coalition of INEC registered civil society organisations and consultative partners, has expressed concerns and observations in electoral preparations while calling for credible polls.
In a press briefing jointly signed by Intercontinental Leadership Initiative, Christian Empowerment & Development Initiative, Centre for Strategy Ethics and Value, Centre for Social Value & Early Child Development, Initiative for Civic Obligation and Sustainable Peace, Grassroots Initiative for Promotion of Peace, Love Unity & Ethics, Water Light Initiative, Citizens Right for Peace and Non-Violence Initiative, Centre for Strategic and Conflict Resolutions and Centre for Positive Change & Civic Responsibility, the coalition reiterated that “the credibility of every election starts with the Integrity of the Voters’ register.”
The statement read by the principal convener, Comrade Prince Stafford Bisong, highlighted concerns and observations which should be looked into in order to observe and ensure a seamless, credible and fair elections especially in the area of voter registration, accreditation and the portal for real time result viewing direct from the polling units in line with the electoral act 2022.
“In consonance with section 19(I) of the electoral Act 2022, we observe that INEC DID NOT display or publish for public scrutiny the voters’ register in the LGAs, Political Wards and registration area across the three states (Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi) where off-season elections are scheduled to hold on 11th November 2023 and on its websites or any website established by the commission for that purpose in line with the above section of the electoral act.
“It is against this background that we (Saving Our Votes) a coalition of INEC registered civil society organisations have taken time to scrutinize the voters register in the aforementioned states to see, observe and discover for ourselves the state of affairs and level of preparation of INEC to deliver credible elections in those three states in November, 2023.
“Upon Inquiry as to why the voters register was not published, INEC informed us that they had published the voters register in November 2022 and at the same time, given to all political parties before the 2023 general elections and the same register Will Be Used in the Governorship elections in November 2023 in the respective states.
“Over the years many electoral commissions in Africa have seen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as an institution to learn from about good conduct of elections and election management but in recent times, our democracy has been epileptic with several records of malpractices leading to negative publications in the social and international media discrediting the entire electoral processes that has been painstakingly built.
“Our areas of concern as we approach November 2023 elections in Bayelsa, Kogi and Imo include;
• The integrity or otherwise of the state’s voters’ register
• The conduct of security agencies before, during and after the elections should be in line with the International best practices.
• Because of peculiar riverine terrine in these states, INEC should make adequate logistics preparations in ensuring that both sensitive and non-sensitive material get to the polling units on time.
• While we applaud technological advancements in the electoral process, INEC should find solutions in creating a seamless process for efficiency of the BVAS machines.
• We call on politicians to recalibrate their minds knowing the leadership is a Trust for selfless service to the people and politics is the game that produces such leaders. Politicians should STOP seeing politics a Do or Die Affair, and discourage violence perpetrated by their followers.
• The Nigerian Judiciary and Politicians should be informed that the BVAS has broken the thuggery and ballot snatching jinx and has ended massive thumb printing. Hence the need to stop trying to manipulate the electoral process.
• That all electoral stakeholders should advocate for judicial reforms and a review of the powers of the Election Petition Tribunal and Courts pre and post elections. Sanitizing the Judiciary will largely reduce the number of upturned and re-run elections emanating from the influence of politicians.
• We want to use this opportunity to commend INEC on the notable gains in our electioneering process while asking for more deliberate improvements.
• We use this opportunity to challenge the government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to demonstrate his commitment to leaving behind a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria in line with the 2022 Electoral Act which is meant to bring sanity to our electioneering process.
• Finally, in the words of Thomas Jefferson and I quote, “We do not have government by the majority, we have government by the majority who participate in the election process”. It added.
The CSOs however, encouraged every eligible voter in these three states to ensure with their permanent voters card full participation in the electioneering process while urging all stakeholders to desist from vote buying, a menace threatening the dividends of democracy.