Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said the commission would be neutral in the 2023 general elections, noting that it has no preferred candidate or political party.
Yakubu stated this on Wednesday at the 4th Abubakar Momoh memorial lecture on “Electoral Act 2022: Imperatives for Political Parties and the 2023 General Elections” in Abuja.
The lecture was organised in honour of erstwhile Director-General of The Electoral Institute (TEI), Late Prof. Abubakar Momoh who died on Democracy Day, May 29, 2017.
Yakubu assured Nigerians that their votes will determine the outcome of the 2023 general elections and future polls in the country, adding that INEC would apply the laws without fear of favour to ensure free, fair, credible, inclusive and transparent election.
The INEC chairman stressed the need for stakeholders especially political parties to note the major features introduced by the new Electoral Act 2022 and the possible implications of these changes on the upcoming elections.
According to yakubu, 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.
He observed that the imperatives contained in the electoral act are ingredients for party building, stabilisation of electoral rules and democratic consolidation.
He 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.”
Yakubu described Abubakar as an advocate for free, fair, credible and participatory electoral system which he (Abubakar) fought for through research, capacity building for the staff of the Commission, and engagement of vigorous voter education activities.
Director-General of The Electoral Institute (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, saying the development has brought a lot of challenges to the electoral process and Nigeria’s political development at large.
He however, said the electoral act 2022 has provided solutions to many issues that in the past have fuelled endless litigations in our courts.
“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, Professor 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.”