The Federal Government reassured citizens that the upcoming general elections will take place as scheduled, despite recent concerns raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) about election-related insecurity in the country. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this assurance at an event in Abuja, where the 17th edition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s scorecard series from 2015-2023 was being held. INEC had warned that the 2023 polls could be postponed or canceled if measures were not taken to address the growing security issues. The Chairman of the Electoral Institute (INEC’s training arm) stated that without decisive action, these issues could lead to the cancellation or postponement of elections in certain areas and could potentially result in a constitutional crisis.
“We cannot permit this to occur and will not permit it to occur. Therefore, security personnel and all elected officials must maintain vigilance and be aware of any unusual activity in their surroundings, and must be prepared to address any challenge at all times.”
Mohammed stated that the upcoming polls will proceed as planned and that the government is aware that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is collaborating with security agencies to ensure the successful conduct of the elections throughout the country. Despite INEC’s recent concerns regarding postponement or cancellation, the commission is working to address issues related to security, election postponement, and ensuring the participation of all stakeholders in credible polls. Additionally, INEC is expected to present the voter registration to political parties, according to a source.
The Minister stated: “I want to take this opportunity to address media inquiries regarding a recent report, attributed to an INEC official, that the 2023 general elections may be canceled due to security concerns.
The Federal Government’s position remains unchanged, that the 2023 elections will proceed as scheduled. There have been no developments to alter this stance. We are aware that INEC is collaborating with security agencies to guarantee the successful conduct of elections across the nation.
Security agencies have also continued to reassure the public that they are making every effort to ensure that the elections take place in a peaceful environment. Consequently, there is no need for alarm.”
INEC’s alarm irresponsible —Reps
In the meantime, certain members of the House of Representatives have criticized the statement made by the electoral commission, that the elections may be delayed or canceled if insecurity continues, as being irresponsible.
Representatives Sergius Ogun and Kingsley Chinda made the comments. Ogun is from the Esan North East/Esan South East Federal constituency of Edo State and Chinda is from the Obior/Akpor federal constituency of Rivers State.
“As a result, the Commission is taking all necessary precautions to guarantee intensive and extensive security for electoral personnel, materials, and processes in preparation for the 2023 general elections.”
In his reaction, Ogun accused INEC of attempting to divert attention from their failure to properly conduct the collection of the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) with the statement, instead, the agency should address their security concerns to the Federal Government. He stated:
“They should come out and tell us what they know that the rest of us don’t know. It’s very irresponsible of INEC to be making statements like this at a time they should be working towards delivering credible polls in February and March. INEC might be trying to deflect attention from their inability to properly handle the collection of PVCs as there are complaints by Nigerians who registered and are not able to collect their PVCs as the expiration date for collection is just a couple of weeks away. If they have any serious security concerns, they should take it to the government.
Let the government tell Nigerians that they have failed to provide security for all hence the election might not hold. It’s not the responsibility of INEC to provide security for its staff, election materials, and citizens (voters) but for the government. Section 14.2(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides that ‘The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.'”
Additionally, Chinda expressed skepticism about the statement, stating that INEC should not have made such a statement, as the agency has had ample time to prepare for the elections. He said:
“I doubt the statement is from INEC. If it is, I would say that it is highly irresponsible for INEC to make such a statement, especially given that they have had ample time to prepare for the election.”
We mustn’t give in to anti-democratic forces —Labour Party
The Labour Party (LP) called on INEC and the people of Nigeria not to be intimidated by individuals or political parties who may attempt to obstruct the nation’s progress toward a better society by disrupting the upcoming general elections. Dr. Tanko Yusuf, the Chief Spokesperson of the LP Presidential Council, said that the attacks on INEC facilities were likely orchestrated by those who fear a fair and open electoral process, as they foresee their defeat.
He said: “The threat to our electoral process posed by these individuals who have been attacking INEC offices and facilities is a clear reminder of the constant vigilance required to protect our freedom. We urge INEC, security forces, and the public not to surrender to these cowards who are desperate to cause a constitutional crisis, as they already know they cannot win through a free, fair, and credible electoral process. We call on all supporters of democracy, both domestically and internationally, to resist the efforts of the rejected faction to maintain their grip on power, who have held Nigeria and its people hostage since independence. It is time for our security agencies to take action by apprehending and exposing these adversaries of Nigeria and their sponsors.”
Insecurity not big enough to postpone polls — APC
Responding to the statement, the Director of Public Affairs and Chief Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Festus Keyamo, suggested that INEC might have exaggerated the issue of insecurity. He said:
“Postponing the election would cause a constitutional crisis given the allotted time. In 2015 we faced similar security concerns, but did that result in postponing the election? The INEC Chairman may have overstated this issue but it is not significant enough to warrant postponing the general elections.”
INEC shouldn’t give APC the opportunity to continue to punish Nigerians – PDP
The Spokesman and Director of Public Affairs for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Committee, Senator Dino Melaye, has called on the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) government to demonstrate the ability to secure the upcoming elections in light of security concerns.
He said: “Nigerians cannot tolerate the APC government for a day longer, and everything possible should be done by the government to safeguard the electorate and all parts of the country to ensure that the elections can take place.
INEC should not have any reasons not to conduct the 2023 elections. INEC should not give the APC government the chance to continue inflicting harm and suffering on Nigerians. The calls for Atiku’s presidency cannot be silenced.”
Afenifere ( a political organization in Nigeria) emphasizes the importance of Elections.
Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, also emphasized the significance of the general elections and stated that it must take place as scheduled. The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Jare Ajayi, stated: “Every effort must be made to ensure that the general elections scheduled for February and March of this year take place successfully and that winners are declared and take office on May 29, 2023, as required by relevant laws.”
“We remember that in 2015, there were also security concerns to the point that some local government areas, particularly in Borno State, were under the control of Boko Haram terrorists. Still, the elections took place. Similarly, in 2019 there were security concerns, yet the elections were not halted.”
INEC clarifies issues around security, postponement of polls
Meanwhile, as per the schedule, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to present the final version of the Voters’ Register to the participating political parties for the general elections, which will take place on February 25th and March 11th, 2023. The presentation, which will be led by Professor Yakubu, is a requirement by INEC and will provide an opportunity for the Chairman to address the ongoing controversy surrounding the potential postponement of the elections due to security concerns.
According to a source, there was a sense of unease at the INEC’s headquarters in Abuja and Aso Rock Presidential Villa, when news of a potential postponement began to circulate. While the leadership of the Commission was trying to distance itself from the controversy, the feeling from the Presidency was one of wariness.
A source from the Office of the INEC Chairman stated that “While raising awareness about security concerns is not necessarily a bad thing and shows voter readiness and engagement, we must ensure that we maintain the same level of preparedness and not use security as an excuse to postpone the elections. We have always encouraged all stakeholders to do their part.”
At the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, a source from the Presidency expressed disappointment with the recent statement made by INEC “after the Commission’s chairman had provided both verbal and written commitments and assurances that INEC was ready to proceed with the elections. The military has also increased its operations against insurgents in the North-West and Niger State in order to ensure a secure environment for the polls. We are awaiting further clarification in order for us to take the necessary actions.”
Issues on insecurity
A source at the INEC headquarters informed Vanguard that while Professor Zuru was representing the INEC Chairman at the event, the “latter had always urged all stakeholders who have a role to play to fulfill their responsibilities. The Chairman and the Commission have called on the judiciary to take action on the 719 pending cases before the courts. The Commission has also called on political parties to resolve their internal issues and on voters to fulfill their civic duties and avoid vote-selling and vote-buying.
The concern about security is a call to duty for us to do more to combat the actions of non-state actors.
Who would have thought that the Commission would be able to successfully conduct the Anambra governorship election? Despite the challenges faced in Anambra, the election was held and we do not believe that the current situation in other parts of Nigeria is severe enough to warrant a postponement.”
“At best, the call for security agencies to step up their efforts is to emphasize the need for more work.”
It is worth noting that past elections that were postponed were primarily due to inadequate logistical arrangements, and not necessarily because of security concerns.
In line with this, the source stated that “the Commission has pledged to ensure that it delivers a legacy of free, fair, and credible elections to Nigerians.”
Source: Vanguard News