The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has in collaboration with the Nigeria Immigration set up a special desk to facilitate the issuance or extension of visas for International Observers wishing to observe the country’s general elections on 23rd February and 9th March.
Briefing stakeholders in Abuja on Thursday, 21st February, INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu said that international observers requiring such visa facility including those who may wish to travel and return for the 9th March vote would be granted the visas gratis.
Nigeria’s presidential and National Assembly elections earlier scheduled for 16th February, were moved to 23rd February, while the governorship and State Houses of Assembly votes were moved from 2nd to 9th March, due to logistical and operations challenges.
Prof Yakubu said two immigration officers had been assigned to INEC’s Abuja Headquarters to facilitate the visa task.
ECOWAS has the largest number of observers (200), for the Nigerian elections, including 15 supported by the European Union under the EU ECOWAS Support for Regional; Peace, Security and Stability Mandate (EU-ECOWAS PSS) Project signed in 2013.
The INEC chief thanked the Immigration Service for the visa initiative and reiterated his appreciation to national and international stakeholders for their support and continuous understanding, as the Commission intensifies efforts to deliver free, fair and transparent elections.
“We are fully on course,” Prof Yakubu affirmed, adding that electoral materials had been deployed to all the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He gave a breakdown of the 72.77 million prospective voters out of the 84 million registered voters who had collected their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) across the nation, which represents 86.63% rate of collection.
The INEC chief further explained that while INEC is vested with the responsibility of election management under the electoral law, the Commission acts in consultation with the Police as a lead agency for electoral security.
Depending on the level of security risk, he said, the Police could request the assistance of other security agencies including the military adding, however, that under the electoral law, the military is not allowed within the polling area under normal circumstances.
Attendees of Thursday’s INEC daily stakeholders’ briefing included representatives of political parties, civil society groups and the media.
International observation groups in attendance included ECOWAS, African Union, ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), European Union, Commonwealth, US Democratic Institute and Republic Institute, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.