The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has explained why the Commission has remained silent amidst recent criticisms trailing its conduct of the 2023 general elections.
According to Tribune, during a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners on Tuesday, aimed at appraising the electoral umpire conduct and performance of its statutory roles in the last general elections, Yakubu noted that it would not be right for him to take a position as “several issues around the election are sub-judice.”
He said, “Since the conclusion of the election, diverse opinions have been expressed by political parties, candidates, observers, analysts, and the general public on aspects of the elections that took place in February and March. Such diverse opinions should normally be expected, and the Commission welcomes all of them in so far as their purpose is to improve the future conduct of elections and to consolidate our democracy.
“The Commission has consciously not joined in these commentaries in the immediate aftermath of the election for several reasons. First, our preference is to listen more and draw lessons rather than join in the heated and often emotive public discussion on the election.
“Second, since we plan to conduct our own review of the election, we see no need to pre-empt the process. Third, the Commission would not want to be seen as defensive or justificatory in joining the ongoing discussions. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, several issues around the election are sub-judice and it is not the intention of the Commission to either undermine or promote the chances of litigants in the various election petition courts beyond what is required of us by the legal process.
“Indeed, practically anything coming from the Commission could be cited by litigants as either justifying their claims or an indication of bias against them.
“Compared to some previous elections, we believe that the 2023 general election was one of the most meticulously prepared for in recent times. Learning from previous experiences, we started preparations immediately after the 2019 General Election, carefully ticking the necessary boxes over a four-year period. It is the need to learn from both the positives and the shortcomings that make the stocktaking that we are embarking on today essential.
“Among the positive stories is that the security challenges which threatened to derail the elections did not materialise. Concerns that the polls will be disrupted by the perennial insecurity across the country fizzled out on Election Day as the elections were largely peaceful. Despite currency and fuel challenges and widespread attacks on our personnel and facilities nationwide, the Commission proceeded with the election as scheduled. The first set of elections, the Presidential and National Assembly, held as planned for the first time in the last four General Elections conducted in the country.
“Accreditation of voters using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) has generally been scored very high by voters. Our records show that the success rate for BVAS accreditation stands at 98% compared to the Smart Card Reader’s 29.2% during the 2019 general election.
“Above all, despite the divergent opinions about the outcome of the election, the overall outlook suggests that it is a fair reflection of a complex multi-party democracy. We wish to remind Nigerians that elections were held for a total of 1,491 constituencies made up of one Presidential, 28 Governorship, 109 Senatorial, 360 Federal Constituencies and 993 State Assembly seats. Our record shows that these elections have produced the most diverse outcomes ever recorded since 1999.
“Today, five political parties produced State Governors, seven parties won Senatorial seats, eight are represented in the House of Representatives and nine in State Houses of Assembly. Clearly, the 10th National Assembly is certainly the most diverse in party representation since 1999. In some States around the country, different political parties controlled the legislative and executive arms of Government. What is clear from these records also is that the days of single-party dominance of our national politics are probably gone. Furthermore, many prominent candidates lost in the constituencies they contested, and political parties lost in some of their presumed strongholds.”
The INEC Chairman who acknowledged structural and infrastructural challenges and misdemeanors by some of his personnel told the gathering of National Commissioners, RECs and journalists that the Nigeria Police has concluded its investigation of the conduct of the axed Resident Electoral Commissioner in Adamawa State, Barrister Hudu Yunusa-Ari and submitted the case file to his Commission.
He equally disclosed that those involved in alleged votes buying and other electoral offenses would also face prosecution.
“We are presently looking at all the evidence of infractions during the election, including the prosecution of offenders. We are looking at the activities of all actors involved in the election, including some of our high-ranking officials. I can confirm that the Nigeria Police concluded its investigation of the conduct of our Resident Electoral Commissioner in Adamawa State and submitted the case file to us. Appropriate action will be taken in a matter of days and Nigerians will be fully informed.
“I can also confirm that we have received 215 case files from the Nigeria Police following their arrest and the conclusion of the investigation into electoral offences arising from the 2023 General Election. We are working with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to prosecute the alleged offenders. Already, the NBA has submitted a list of 427 lawyers across the country who have volunteered to render pro bono services to the Commission.
“They are not charging legal fees but by mutual agreement, the Commission will provide a token amount to cover for filing fees/expenses. We are most grateful to NBA and its President, Yakubu Maikyau SAN, for this historic collaboration. Similarly, we are working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) on the prosecution of cases relating to vote buying and associated violations,” he added.