Paschal Emeka, Abuja

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has urged political parties to endeavour to study and get used to the provisions of the New Electoral Act passed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2022.

The INEC Chairman said the Commission was determined to scrupulously apply the provisions of the new electoral laws in its resolve to conduct the 2023 general elections without fear or favour and ensure free, fair, credible, inclusive and transparent elections in February, 2023.

Prof. Yakubu made the call, while delivering the keynote address at the 4th Abubakar Momoh Memorial Lecture with the theme “Electoral Act 2022: Imperatives for Political Parties and the 2023 General Elections”, held at The Electoral Institute (TEI), Abuja.

Represented by the Chairman of the Board of TEI and National Commissioner, Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, INEC Chairman tasked the Party Chairmen and members present to be committed to ensuring that the 2023 General Elections are devoid of deliberate infractions to the 2022 Electoral Act essentially by allowing the electoral process to run smoothly thereby growing a rich democratic culture and acceptable election outcome.

He explained that the Prof. Abubakar Momoh memorial lecture was a platform established by the Commission to project the ideals of a social activist and an advocate of citizens’ involvement in elections and nation building, adding that “It is therefore, befitting to ride on this platform for advocacy on the electoral legal framework that will drive the 2023 General Elections”.

Speaking further on the need for parties to know and understand the provisions of the new Electoral Act, Prof. Yakubu said “as the 2023 general elections draw near, it is imperative for all stakeholders, especially the political parties to note the major features introduced by the new Electoral Act 2022 and the possible implications of these changes on the upcoming elections: the happenings that accompanied the recent party primaries attest to this”.

He added that: “These changes include amongst others, the conduct of Early Party Primaries by political parties, technological changes in the electoral process, the Commission’s power to review the decision of Returning Officer and Overvoting based on the number of accredited voters. 

“These initiatives as contained in the law served as the bedrock for the reviewed Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections 2022 released by the Commission on 24th May, 2022. This in turn dictated the review of the Manual for Election Officials, 2022”.

Speaking on the Legal backing the new Electoral Act gives INEC’s technological innovations, the INEC Chairman said: “Let me draw your attention to the fact that the use of electronic devices such as Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED), INEC Results Viewing Portal (IRev) and other technological devices, are now legally allowed in the accreditation process for voters, collation of results and in the general conduct of elections”.

“Please, be assured that these innovations are intended to deepen the Electoral Process in our country and their optimal performance in the just concluded gubernatorial election in Ekiti and Osun states is an eloquent testimony to their electoral value. 

“We shall only do more to consolidate their deployment in our election. Once again, I wish to assure you that INEC has no preferred party or candidate. We shall only ensure that valid votes count and the winners are decided solely by the voters.”

In his welcome remarks, the Director General (DG) of TEI, Dr. Sa’ad Umar Idris, said the theme of the lecture was carefully chosen considering the necessity and requirements for conducting the 2023 General Elections under a new law and the implications of the new electoral law for not only the Commission, but also in particular, the 18 political parties that will be fielding candidates for the various elective offices in the General Elections.

Dr. Idris added that “the unfortunate preponderance of many legal cases arising even from the pre-election period up till after the conduct of the elections, indeed have at many times brought a lot of challenges to the electoral process and our country’s political development at large”.

He continued: “It is hoped that with this lecture and training for party executives, due influence can be brought to bear and reduce the swift race to the courts that has characterized our political space in the last 10 years”.

The DG expressed optimism that the memorial lecture will interrogate the relationship between the new Act and the roles of all stakeholders particularly the Commission and the 18 political parties and 2023 General Elections and suggest ways of conducting free, fair, credible and inclusive elections without unnecessary litigations that could be drawbacks to the election.

In his paper presentation, the Guest Lecturer, Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), highlighted the new introductions and modifications in 2022 Electoral Act and their implications to the Election Management Body and political parties.

He harped on the need for internal party democracy and pointed out that “the Supreme Court has decided in several cases that political parties must obey their own constitutions as the court will not allow them to act arbitrarily or as they like.”

The Guest Speaker ended his lecture with a food for thought for the political actors. He said: “Politics is not anarchy; it is not disorderliness; it must be punctuated by justice, fairness and orderliness.” 

The wife of the late DG of TEI, Prof. Abubakar Momoh, in whose memory the lecture was held, appreciated the Commission for the gesture of honouring her late husband five years after his demise.

Mrs. Tawa Momoh, in her goodwill message said it was a great honour to the family to see Prof. Momoh’s legacies being sustained by the Commission.

There was also a training for political party executives on critical components of the Electoral Act 2022, immediately after the Lecture ended.

Also, in attendance at the Lecture were National Commissioners: Festus Okoye Esq, Prof. Rhoda Gumus, Dr. Baba Bila, Mal. Mohammed Kudu Haruna, and Prof. Kunle Ajayi.

Also, present were representatives of Civil Society Organizations, the security agencies, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for FCT, Alh. Yahaya Bello, and technical aides of the INEC Chairman: Prof. Bolade Eyinla, Prof. Mohammad J. Kuna, and Rotimi Oyekanmi, as well as directors and other management staff of the Commission.

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