Yakubu Mahmood

OPINION: 2023 Elections And INEC’s Never-Ending Complicity

The most significant in Nigeria is the presidential election, which took place on Saturday, February 25, alongside the National Assembly polls.

The last thing Nigerians needed was an election with such severe flaws as the one we just witnessed, especially at this point in our history when the country’s cohesion, economy, security, and human conditions are in ruins, and our future is in jeopardy.

Nigerians anticipated that Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, would conduct a general election that outperformed his predecessor, Professor Attahiru Jega, in 2015.

With regularly repeated promises to use the Commission’s in-house technology tools to stop human-based election manipulation, such as ballot box snatching, falsifying results at the collation centres, and electoral violence, Yakubu significantly elevated hopes of many young Nigerians who are mostly first-time voters. He fought valiantly for the Electoral Act Amendment Bill’s adoption and the issue of the electoral rules that required the transmission of election results from the polling places.

The Commission increased public confidence by using technology, particularly the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in bye-elections that produced good results in Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, and other States of the federation. The INEC also held “mock” elections in several regions of the nation and declared “we are ready” to Nigerians on February 19, 2023.

The ardent youth scramble to obtain Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) was caused by what appeared to be assiduous INEC preparations from June 2021. In just a year, the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) programme had 9,518,188 new voters, growing the national voter roll from 84,004,084 to 93,522,272 — mostly populated with newly registered voters who are youths.

Nigerians were astonished when INEC blatantly broke their pledge to transmit the poll results as promised, forcing manual collation and bringing back the demons from our previous elections. The N300 billion allocated to INEC for the general elections still needs to be accounted for.

More also, the INEC Chairman had pledged to address the concerns of party representatives before declaring a winner at the national collation centre in Abuja, which he still needs to do. After announcing a winner, he advised amiss parties to “go to court.” Thus, leaving the court with the responsibility of cleaning up his mess.

Regardless of who prevails in court, INEC’s poor and dubious handling of the presidential election has already cast doubt on the victor’s legitimacy and damaged the country’s reputation internationally.

Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) representing Mr Obi, stated before the five-member court panel chaired by Haruna Tsammani at the petition’s resumed hearing on Wednesday, June 14 that INEC “stubbornly refused to produce 70% of the electoral documents that were requested (by the LP).”

Uzoukwu (SAN) said that INEC needed access to the electoral records for the elections in the states of Rivers and Sokoto. He claimed that the INEC authorities in Sokoto requested a fee of ₦ 1.5 million to process the paperwork.

Despite two earlier court decisions that instructed the electoral umpire to permit access to the Labour Party to inspect electoral records, such as the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) devices used to conduct the presidential election, INEC has been accused of being complicit in this matter.

Recall on March 3 and 8, the Court of Appeal ordered INEC to prepare certified true copies of the result sheets and other BVAS data and make them available to all parties to prove their claims. SAN Uzoukwu stated that Yakubu Mahmood, the chairman of INEC, despite receiving the five distinct letters from petitioners asking permission to inspect and get pertinent election records to support their court case, the latter has been a stumbling block to the speedy recovery of Obi’s mandate in court. As Nigerians put their gaze on the judiciary, INEC should as a matter of necessity, do the needful while the iron is hot.

Chigozie N Alex