By Emmanuel Oloniruha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged registered voters in the 436 designated Polling Units (PUs) nationwide to participate in the Saturday mock accreditation with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the call when he received a delegation of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), led by its President, Mr Anthony Banbury, in Abuja on Monday.
Yakubu also urged registered voters yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to use the opportunity of the extension of the deadline to collect their cards.
Yakubu said the commission was committed to free, fair and credible elections, adding that the will of Nigerians would prevail during the exercise.
“One of the things that we have decided to do is to ensure that we test run the device by conducting a mock accreditation exercise.
“We have announced that this exercise is going to happen on Saturday, Feb. 4, meaning it is going to happen this weekend. So once again, I seize the opportunity of this visit to appeal to Nigerians to please go to the designated polling units,” he said.
According to him, there are 436 of the designated PUs nationwide, 12 PUs in each state of the Federation and four in the FCT so that voters can test run the device.
“In the unlikely event of challenges, we have time between the conclusion of the exercise and the general election to respond to the challenges.
“But we are very happy with the functionality of the machines so far, particularly the tests carried out on the number of machines received in preparation for the general election,” he said.
Yakubu also appealed to Civil Society Organisations, the media, political parties and Nigerians to observe where they wish in the deployment of the BVAS for the mock exercise on Saturday.
On the preparations for the 2023 general elections, Yakubu said that INEC had made progress in terms of acquisition and delivery of materials for the election.
He said that the largest chunk of materials required for the election, both sensitive and non-sensitive, were already in various locations.
“I think we’re lucky the preparation has gone on very well. And then with the benefit of the new Electoral Act, we have more time to prepare than our predecessors had in the past,” he said.
Yakubu said INEC was also working with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to get logistics right for early commencement and conclusion of votes as well as the declaration of results.
He added that the commission would begin the training of election duty staff by Feb. 9.
Commending the partnership and support of IFES, Yakubu said that the partnership would not only continue but wax stronger.
Earlier in his remarks, Banbury said that whatever happened in Nigeria’s forthcoming elections would have impact on other elections coming up this year around the globe.
He said that IFES had been working in Nigeria in the strengthening and consolidation of democracy and electoral integrity throughout the country since 1999.
“Nigeria’s leadership in Africa and indeed around the world, is an inspiration to people in consolidated and struggling democracies around the world.
“What happens in this country impacts struggle for democracy throughout the continent; indeed, I would say every region of the world.
“In 2023 the work of INEC and actions of the voters of Nigeria will constitute the most significant election anywhere in the world this year,” he said.
Banbury said his delegation was at INEC to see how they could assist it to deliver on its mandates in the 2023 general elections and beyond.
He said that IFES tried to take best practices and share with countries around the world.
According to him, INEC has developed world class practice and that the Foundation will be glad to share it with others.
“IFES is deeply honoured to be able to support INEC in the fulfilment of your tremendously important responsibilities.
“Even while we try and bring our perspective from working on these issues around the world and bring some very strong technical expertise on elections, we know every day we learn as much from you as we are ever able to possibly contribute to your work,” he said.
He commended Yakubu for building on the strides made by the commission under the leadership of former INEC Chairmen.
“When one looks at the record, from a technical perspective, of what Nigerians have accomplished to strengthen their democracy since the 1999 constitution, it’s very significant.
“There are few countries anywhere in the world who could point to such a proud record of achievements in the field of democracy and electoral integrity in what is after all a very short period.” Banbury said. (NAN)