The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the European Union Electoral Follow-up Mission to Nigeria and civil society organizations have have appraised the 30 recommendations of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) after the 2015 general elections.
At a roundtable organized by the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and West Africa, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, a professor, said the Commission expects the number of voters in the country by 2019 to increase to 80 million.
Giving a summary of the Commission’s preparations towards the 2019 general elections, Yakubu said: “The credibility of elections depends on the credibility of the Voter Register. We are now doing it continuously. We have seen some challenges and we are responding to them. We started in April and as at last week, and we have registered 3.2 million (Nigerians) on top of the 70 million registered voters for the 2015 general elections that we had before. Our projection is that the Voter Register will probably be over 80 million by 2019.
“The most important thing for us as we plan towards 2019, is the effectiveness of our plan. We have a Strategic Plan 2017 – 2021 and we have along with that, a Strategic Programme of Action. We have just completed the draft Election Project Plan for 2019”.
On the Anambra governorship election coming up on 18th November, he said: “We are combining the governorship election with the Idemili North state constituency election. There will be two ballot boxes and voters will receive two ballot papers. All the other arrangements – logistics, staff training, and security are in place. We are killing two birds with one stone. And for the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria, 37 political parties are contesting in the Anambra election. Out of the 14 activities lined up, we have executed nine. We are so determined as a Commission to make the 2019 general elections better than 2015.”
On fears being expressed by some stakeholders that the security agencies could postpone the election at the last minute, the INEC Chairman observed that although, the responsibility of securing the environment before, during and after elections was not within the Commission’s jurisdiction, the electoral umpire however maintains a close relationship with all security agencies through the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
On the disclosure of party finances, the INEC Chairman distinguished between campaign and party finance. He said the Commission did not mince words during its recent meeting with political parties, where it was revealed that out of 46 registered political parties, only five have so rendered accounts to the Commission. He admitted that tracking party finances could be challenging, “but where a political party comes out openly to raise funds beyond the limits provided for in the Constitution, the Commission will apply sanctions.”
Yakubu also revealed that about 8million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were yet to be collected by their respective owners. His words: “We haven’t made much progress in the last two years (but) we have made elaborate arrangements with the states to ensure that the cards are collected.”
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja