Ahead of the 2023 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed the date for the release of the final lists of presidential and governorship candidates. The nation’s electoral body also said all hands must be on deck to ensure the success of the elections as the nation is entering critical stages. The INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the ‘Expert Meeting on Conducting Elections in Volatile Security Environment’, organised in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). Yakubu said on 20th September, 2022 the commission will publish the final list of candidates for national elections (Presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives) as provided in Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. He said, “Activities towards the 2023 general elections will enter the critical stages this month. In the next 19 days, that is on 20th September 2022, the commission will publish the final list of candidates for national elections (Presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives) as provided in Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the commission. “This will be followed on 4th October 2022 by the publication of the final list of candidates for State elections (Governorship and State Houses of Assembly). Campaign in public by political parties will officially commence on 28th September 2022 as provided by Section 94 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022.” He also urged all political parties and candidates to focus on issue-based campaigns. “This is the best way to complement our efforts to ensure transparent elections in which only the votes cast by citizens determine the winner,” Yakubu said. He commended the CDD for providing a platform for stakeholders to discuss an important enabler to the full participation of citizens in the electoral process that is election security. Kudos To INEC For BVAS! According to him, by bringing together experts, senior security officials and the INEC leadership to share experience and discuss security concerns ahead of the 2023 general election, CDD hopes to kickstart further collaborative engagements among stakeholders around the security challenges ahead of the election. He said, “It is timely because the election is fast approaching but there is still time to address the security concerns ahead of the election. Most appropriately, I believe that arising from the shared experience of participants at this meeting, specific recommendations will be made to further enrich our understanding of the security issues in the forthcoming election, the various dimensions of the challenges, and, most importantly, possible measures to respond to them to ensure that elections peacefully hold nationwide as required by law. “The commission welcomes this initiative and as co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), there is no doubt that the security agencies also welcome ideas and citizens’ support towards peaceful elections. “After all, only recently the office of the Inspector General of Police organised a nationwide capacity-building for police personnel on election security. The Police was not only motivated by the same concern of ensuring a secure environment for the election but also enhancing the professionalism of police personnel on election duty.” Earlier, the director, CDD, Idayat Hassan, said that the event was important, especially based on the coming 2023 elections, the seventh consecutive elections since the return to democracy in 1999 and also being the second time Nigeria is having a transition from one government to another government. “This represents the fact that as a country, we do respect the maximum two term-limit. This election is generating a lot of excitement, one because of the youth interest in the election and importantly because of the new Electoral Act, which has infused technological innovations into our election as can be seen in the Ekiti and Ondo governorship elections,” Hassan said. She said that the prevailing insecurity across the country is a source of concern and which must be addressed, especially since they are not the normal electoral violence, but it can also add to the electoral violence. On his part, the director (Development) Foreign Commonwealth and Development, Dr. Chris Pycroft, said that the 2023 elections are very critical and that security is a top priority in the relationship between the British and Nigerian governments. “Nigeria is facing more challenges than ever before to deliver a peaceful and secured elections. At the same time, the demand for democracy remains unchanged, especially among Nigerian expanding youth populations who continue to grow. “These elections are important not only to Nigeria, or Africa but to the world. Democracy across the world is under threat and Nigeria can demonstrate the power of democracy to represent the world and ambition of a nation,” he said.