The Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, on Wednesday, said as Nigeria prepares for the 2023 General Elections, conducting credible poll goes beyond laws.
Itodo stated this at the opening of a two-day workshop for journalists organised by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) on “The 2022 Electoral Act: Emerging Challenges and Improvements” in Abuja.
YIAGA executive director, who called for independence of all institutions in the electoral process, said all stakeholders must be ready to work towards credible and transparent elections.
He said that the 2022 Electoral Act reflected the will and aspirations of Nigerians, pointing out that the level of independence conferred on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would further guarantee credible elections.
“I also note that the law is the law as at today, but you need more than the law to promote credible elections.
“It goes beyond the law to the independence of the judiciary.
“It also goes to the security agencies in ensuring that they are neutral; they are professional and non-partisan in election security operations.
“There cannot be credible elections if we have a security architecture where loyalty is not to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, but to an individual.
“And where the individual interest varies with public interest, what you have is confusion,’’ he said.
He, however, noted that the provision in the electronic transmission of accredited voters as well as results is a laudable one with remarkable transforming process.
“The provision on INEC’s financial independence under Section 3(3) of the law will guarantee INEC’s independence.
“Also, the discretion conferred on INEC to determine the procedure for voting and the transmission of results will strengthen INEC’s operations,” he said.
INEC’s National Commissioner for Information and Voter’s Education, Festus Okoye, said the commission is determined to conduct credible elections.
He said provisions in the 2022 Electoral Act are improvements on the electoral process which would enhance INEC’s capabilities in conducting elections.
“There are so many new innovations in the new electoral framework that will assist and aid the Commission in conducting credible elections.
“The use of smartcard readers and other electronic devices have been inputted into the electoral legal framework and the implication is that we can now confidently use them for accreditation.
“Not only that, the law has also made it specifically clear that what will now be used for measuring over-voting will be the data of accredited voters and no longer the number of persons on the voters’ register.
“That has also cleared the pathway and some of the big challenges we had previously.
“The law has also tried to sanitise the regime of internal democracy in political parties.
“So I think that is a plus in relation to internal democracy in political parties
“Also on the issue of collation of results, there is now a duality in terms of manually collated results and electronically transmitted results and if there is a challenge, there is a problem.
“If there is a dispute relating to the results, the law now says that the collation officer will look at the manually collated result, look at the electronically transmitted results and look at the data from the beavers.
“The collation officer then uses them to resolve whatever problems there are.
“That for me is a very big improvement in our electoral process,” he said.
According to him, we are confident that with some of the new improvements and some of the new innovations that have been introduced in the law, we have added advantage in terms of making sure that we organise a good elections.
The Resident Representative, KAS Nigeria, a German foundation, Dr Vladmir Kreck, said the workshop was organised to enlighten journalists about changes that had been made in the Electoral Act by the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He acknowledged the role of the media in ensuring credible electoral processes, hence, the need to understand constitutional provisions on elections.
Kreck, who stressed that the organisation has been promoting democracy in Nigeria in the past 20 years, said the Electoral Act sets the framework for the new elections.
“It is important for the press to know what is anchored in the Act in order to properly report whether, especially INEC and political parties do comply with regulations set by this new Act.
“I believe that the Electoral Act contains a lot of checks and balances that were not in place before.
“I believe also that if it is possible to have checks between manual transmission and electoral transmission, results will be more credible than in the past.
“This workshop has been to evaluate the challenges and hopefully the improvements that will come in the 2023 elections,’’ he said.