The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated its determination to frontally tackle the issue of political party campaign spending ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The nation’s electoral body said areas of violation include party and candidate expenditure beyond what is provided by law and the diabolical practice of vote buying at polling units on election day.
LEADERSHIP reports that financial audit reports submitted to the INEC as required by law by political parties have shown that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are among the parties that exceeded campaign spending limits during the 2015 general elections.
The reports exclusively obtained by LEADERSHIP revealed that the two major parties ran afoul of campaign spending as they reportedly exceeded the N1 billion ceiling set by the Electoral Act for presidential campaign.
Equally, the Commissionhas not published the audited accounts of political parties in five years, which clearly shows that the commission was shielding parties in the country in defiance of the electoral act.
Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke at a national stakeholders’ forum on elections, organised by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR) yesterday in Abuja, said the Commission will today publish a summary of the guidelines on finances and election expenses of parties and candidates.
“Beyond that, we are mobilising every national institution with the responsibility for tracking and combating the illicit flow of funds as well as the broadcast and print media regulatory agencies to confront the problem head-on. The details of this will be unveiled shortly,” he said.
He also said it would dutifully clean up the voters’ register that will be used for the 2023 general elections, following several complaints it has received from Nigerians. The INEC boss described the cleaning up of the voters’ register as very critical to the impending polls.
He said: “We have been transparent in making the register available both online and manual copies in 9,583 locations nationwide (8,809 wards and 774 local government areas) for scrutiny by citizens as required by law.
“The voters’ register is the largest database of citizens in Nigeria. Like all databases of this size, it cannot be perfect. However, the Commission believes that Nigerians are the real owners of the voters’ register. They are therefore in a best position to point out ineligible persons on the register, including deceased persons, that will help the Commission to improve on this critical national asset.”
Besides, Prof Yakubu said there is no truth in the insinuation that the Commission would not allow Nigerians to view election results uploaded from various polling units in real-time. He said the Electoral Act (2022) required the Commission to deploy technology on election day for voter accreditation and for uploading polling unit results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal.
According to him, these processes will be achieved through the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). He reassured Nigerians that the BVAS had come to stay as the only means of voter accreditation, adding that there will be no incident form on election day.
Results from polling units will be uploaded to the IReV portal in real-time and Nigerians will view the results as they are uploaded, he insisted. He went on: “For the last two years, beginning from August 2020, the Commission has published results directly from polling units in 105 off-cycle governorship and bye-elections in real-time and the results can still be viewed on the IReV portal.
“The 2023 general election will not be different. There is no truth in any insinuation to the contrary. This should put to rest the erroneous notion that Nigerians will not have the opportunity to view polling unit results uploaded by presiding officers in real-time on Election Day.”
On the collection of permanent voter cards (PVCs), the INEC boss said the process was delayed to allow the Commission to conclude the process of identifying and removing ineligible registrants that may attempt to use them during the election.
“We wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will soon release the timelines and procedure for the collection of PVCs. We understand the anxiety of Nigerians to collect their PVCs and appeal for a little patience as we speedily conclude the necessary safeguards for a transparent process,” he said.
On electoral logistics, he stated that arrangements were on for the movement of personnel and materials to various locations during election, adding that the Commission met again with the service providers and reviewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the road transport unions.
“However, there are four broad areas that Nigerians would like to receive assurances of the progress the Commission is making and challenges (if any) being encountered. They are security, campaign finance, technology, the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and assurances that their votes will count on Election Day,” he said.
On security, he said the Commission has said repeatedly that it is an area of concern, but that it only has the responsibility to conduct elections.
He, however, said securing the environment for the deployment of personnel and materials as well as the peaceful conduct of elections is a shared responsibility involving the security agencies, the political actors and their supporters, the media and all other critical stakeholders.
In a separate meeting, INEC chairman described as fake the reports in some section of the media claiming that the commission is planning to jettison the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) for the real-time upload of polling unit results at the 2023 general election.
Yakubu said this when he received the Common Wealth Pre-Election Assessment Mission to Nigeria in Abuja yesterday. Yakubu said the innovation was the brain-child of INEC and there was no way it would turn around to undermine itself, reiterating that the use of technology in enhancing the integrity of elections had come to stay. He appreciated the contribution of the Common Wealth Observation mission to the deepening of democracy through their progressive recommendations after the 2019 general election.
The INEC chairman reassured Nigerians and the international community of the commission’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process and delivering the best election ever in the history of Nigeria.
“We have a brand-new law in Nigeria called the Electoral Act 2022; it is IT friendly, and perhaps the most progressive of legislation as far as elections in Nigeria are concerned. The law has enabled the Commission to deploy technology in elections and is also very strong on inclusivity, particularly on provision of assistive devices for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). It is now a legal requirement as far as resources permit.
“As a Commission, we have been deploying some of these devices in the off-season elections in preparation for the general election, we have introduced the brail ballot guide that enables the visually impaired to vote unassisted, and for those with albinism we introduced the magnifying glasses, and for the deaf we have posters.
“I want to assure you and reassure you that the 2023 general election is going to be our best ever. We are committed that the votes cast by Nigerians will determine the outcome of elections, nothing more, nothing less”. In her remarks, the convener of the NCSSR, Ms Ene Obi, commended the Commission for displaying the preliminary register of voters online for claims and objections.
2023: APC Chairman Doubts Use Of BVAS, Electronic Transmission of Results
Meanwhile, the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, said yesterday that he was skeptical about the effective use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and electronic transmission of results in the 2023 election.
According to him, the assurances by INEC that it would transmit election results electronically in real time may not be possible, especially in remote villages where there are network challenges.
INEC had in 2021 introduced the use of BVAS designed to read permanent voter cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters using their fingerprints. The device will also be used for electronic transmission of results in the 2023 polls.
But the APC national chairman, who spoke during a visit by a delegation of Commonwealth to his office at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, said INEC must make assurance doubly sure that results would be transmitted promptly through electronic transmission. The Commonwealth delegation was at the APC headquarters to advocate for a free, fair and credible process for the 2023 general elections.
Adamu said, “I was privileged to serve as a Senator. Our concern is how ready are we to deploy some of these technologies as regards transmission because we are taking a major step in transmitting election results in real time. To transmit results, I’m not sure that the network covers every part of Nigeria. I know that even in parts of Abuja there is no network and we have from now till February when in substantial parts of the country there is no electricity.
“INEC must assure us 100 percent that as at when due, in transmitting results, they are ready because they spoke about recharging batteries but we heard in previous elections when it says it can’t recharge.”