The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified Voter Education and Sensitization as one of the 5 core areas it will be needing support from the United Nations in order to successfully conduct a free, fair, credible, and inclusive 2023 general election.
The Commission noted that given the size of the country there is need to keep engaging citizens and stakeholders using different media platforms.
Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, outlines these core areas of support, when he received in audience the United Nations Needs Assessment Mission, led by Serge Gakwandi Kubwimana, at the Commission’s headquarters, in Abuja.
The INEC Chairman reiterated that The conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive election remains the core concern of the Commission “and consolidating the gains of electoral reforms through increased capacity building for the Commission and other stakeholders, voter education and publicity, enhancing the security of elections, increasing inclusivity and participation, as well as expanding the use of relevant technology in the electoral process are therefore high priorities for the Commission.”
While noting that there are issues in the conduct and management of the electoral process that are actually sovereign responsibilities to be borne by Nigerian government, Professor Yakubu said “there are some areas of electoral activity where support will be appreciated and we have prioritized 5 areas”.
According to him, “the first one is Training and Capacity Building support for staff of the Commission. The second is Voter Education and Sensitization. Given the size of the country we need to keep engaging using different media”.
Number three area of support as highlighted by the INEC Chairman “is election security and conflict mitigation, while the fourth area of support enumerated by Professor Yakubu is “capacity building for political parties”. Because, according to him “basically what the Commission does is to conduct the secondary election. The political parties conduct the primary elections, so the candidates we put on the ballot are candidates nominated by the political parties”.
“So we need to build the capacity of the parties to nominate good candidates, so that when elected they can represent the country well”, he added.
The INEC Chairman further identified inclusivity measures as the 5th area of support. He said “In your interaction with the technical staff of the Commission, you will discuss the specific issues under each one of the 5 broad areas we have identified.”
Speaking on the huge task ahead of the Commission in conducting the 2023 general election, Prof. Yakubu explained that the general election will be conducted in 1,491 Constituencies across the country.
He said “We have 18 political parties. Assuming that half of them field candidates in all the constituencies, we are talking about close to 15,000 nominations which is really a huge task.”
Commenting on the size of the voting population in Nigeria, he said it was currently 11 million larger than the other 14 countries in the West African sub-region put together.
“In 2019 we had 84 million registered voters, we are still registering voters for the 2023 general election, and in our estimation the voter population will be at least 90 million for 2023. At 90 million, it will make our voter register in Nigeria the largest in West Africa. ”
“Out of the 15 countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, the other 14 countries all together have about 73 million registered voters. At present we have 84 million registered voters so we have 11 million more registered voters than the rest of West Africa combined. So each time we conduct an election in Nigeria it is like we are conducting an election in the whole of West Africa. So, election in Nigeria is no joke at all”.
He further hinted that the 2023 general election will involve about 1million election officials including regular and temporary or ad-hoc staff across 176,846 polling units, across 8,809 Wards, and 774 Local Government Areas across the country.”
Professor Yakubu expressed delight that the election will be governed by the new Electoral Act 2022 which he said “contains many progressive provisions that will enhance the capacity of the Commission on the conduct of elections and the management of the electoral process.”
Earlier in his remarks, the leader of the delegation from the United Nations, Serge Gakwandi Kubwimana, said they were in Nigeria in response to a letter written in January to the United Nations Secretary General, seeking the support of the organisation ahead of the 2023 general election.
He explained that the meeting with the Chairman and members of the Commission was the highpoint of series of scheduled meetings with other key players in the democratic process such as the Leadership of the National Assembly, Leaders of Political Parties and the Government of Nigeria, to explore ways of the U.N intervention through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other entities on ground can support the democratic process in Nigeria.
Mr. Kubwimana , also said that the visit to Nigeria would equally help the UN keep abreast with the state of preparedness for the 2023 general election, and added that they were on ground to listen to other issues that the Commission may wish to bring to their notice. “We also use this to serve as your ambassadors when we go back, if need be to encourage others to support the very important work that you do”, he added.