Ahead of Nigeria’s crucial presidential and general elections on 16th February and 2nd March, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Chair of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria, has reassured the international Community of the Commission’s readiness to deliver credible elections in the country.
“Your presence as observers is an important element of the electoral process and adds value to what we do (as election management bodies),” Prof. Yakubu, who is also president of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) governing board, told international and national observers during a briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, 12th February 2019.
He also assured that the poll observers would be provided adequate security and unimpeded access to the electoral process.
Nigeria’s Acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu later took the stage to echo Prof Yakubu’s assurances, especially in relation to electoral security.
“Nigerian police is ready to secure the electoral officials, election materials and the observers,” the police boss affirmed, adding that each of the 119,973 polling units nationwide would be manned by three unarmed security personnel. He further explained that some 24,000 armed mobile police, 4,000 counter-terrorism and 8,000 Special Protection forces would also be deployed to respond to any emergency on polling day.
Prof. Antonia Simbine, INEC Commissioner and Chairperson of the Election and Party Monitoring Committee, gave a comprehensive briefing on the Commission’s budget and preparations to cater to the more than 84 million registered voters and 91 political parties in the country.
With an expenditure ratio of US$6.5 per voter, she assured that INEC had put the necessary machinery in motion for a seamless electoral process in line with the provisions of constitution and the electoral law.
Some 1,558 candidates are vying for various positions including the presidency, 29 State governorship positions, 109 senatorial seats, 991 National and State Houses of Assembly seats, six Area Council Chairperson and 62 Councillors in the Federal Capital Abuja.
The briefing also featured the launch of the Election Translation Application developed by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), which is implementing the EU democracy support to Nigeria in collaboration with ECONEC and INEC.
Tanzania’s former President Jakaya Kikwete, who is leading the Commonwealth Election Observation Mission to Nigeria, spoke on behalf of the International Observation groups, including ECOWAS, ECONEC and the EU, while Clement Nwankwo, Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy (PLAC) spoke on behalf of Civil Society organisations and national observation groups.
ECONEC has deployed a six-member Peer Support and Learning Mission headed by the Mohammed N’fah-Alie Conteh, Chair of Sierra Leone’s Electoral Commission to observe the Nigerian polls in line with the Network’s mandate to promote credible elections in the region through support to members holding elections consistent with international best practices.
Representatives of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IEFS) and ECES read goodwill messages encouraging INEC and expressing their optimism for peaceful elections in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation which returned to democracy in 1999 after a long period of military incursion in politics. The last presidential election in 2015 saw the opposition All People’s Congress (APC) wresting power from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is now the main opposition party.
Incumbent President Mohammadu Buhari of the APC and the PDP’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are the front-runners for the presidential poll on 16thFebruary. Election to fill the vacant National Assembly seats also come up on the same day, while those for the governors and State Houses of Assembly come up on 2nd March.