The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the legal framework that will guide the 2023 general elections.
The guidelines stipulated that only ballot papers with the official watermark and stamp prescribed by the Commission shall be counted by the presiding officer.
On the use of phones during voting, the guidelines said telephones and other electronic devices capable of taking pictures are not allowed in voting cubicles.
On overvoting, the guidelines stated that if the total number of votes cast at a Polling Unit exceeds the number of accredited voters at the Polling Unit, the result of the election for that Polling Unit shall be declared null and void, and a report in that regard shall be made to the Collation Officer.
Also, on the margin of lead principles, the guidelines stated that “where the margin of lead between the two leading candidates in an election is not in excess of the total number of voters who collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in Polling Units where elections are postponed, voided or not held in line with Sections 24(2 & 3), 47(3) and 51(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, the returning officer shall decline to make a return for the constituency until polls have been conducted in the affected Polling Units and the results collated into the relevant forms for Declaration and Return.
“This is the Margin of Lead Principle and shall apply wherever necessary in making returns for all elections in accordance with these Regulations and Guidelines.”
INEC chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu presented the guidelines yesterday in Abuja at a special meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to Review Security arrangements for the Ekiti Governorship election.
Yakubu said with the presentation of the Regulations and Guidelines, the Commission has concluded formal preparations for the polls.
With the coming into force of the Electoral Act 2022, he said it has become necessary to review the Commission’s Regulations and Guidelines to govern the conduct of elections.
He said the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act 2022 and the Regulations and Guidelines constitute the electoral legal framework.
According to him, “On several occasions, the Commission has assured Nigerians that we are finalizing the Regulations and Guidelines for the elections. I am glad to announce that the document is ready and will be presented to Nigerians shortly. The soft copy will be uploaded to our website with the link shared on our social media platforms.
“With the release of the Regulations and Guidelines today, and the publication of the Strategic Plan (SP) 2022-2026 and Election Project Plan 2023 earlier, the Commission has virtually concluded the planning processes for the 2023 General Election nine months ahead of the election.”
In the next couple of weeks, he said the training manual will also be presented to Nigerians.
Going forward, he said the Commission will focus on election administration which includes logistics, training, voter education, technology, sensitization against vote-buying, inclusivity measures, and, above all, security.
He stressed that ICCES will continue to play a critical role and the Commission appreciates the support of all security agencies.
With only 15 days to the Ekiti Governorship election, he said all the major activities that are supposed to be carried out at this stage have been successfully undertaken.
He said, “I led a team of INEC National Commissioners to Ekiti State early this week to assess the Commission’s preparations for the elections. We visited our offices in several Local Government Areas, held meetings with our staff, had audience with the Council of Obas to solicit the support of their Royal Majesties for peaceful elections and met with the security agencies.
“We also observed the ongoing training of ad hoc staff and the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for mock accreditation of voters in some Polling Units across the three Senatorial Districts of the State.
“We will again return to Ekiti State shortly to meet with the stakeholders and for the signing of the Peace Accord by political parties and candidates under the auspices of the National Peace Committee.”
Speaking further, he said as the Commission is getting ready for the Ekiti State Governorship election, the Commission has also gone far with similar preparations for the Osun State Governorship election holding next month i.e. Saturday 16th July 2022.
At the same time, he said the Commission continues with preparations for the 2023 General Election.
“On this note, let me seize this opportunity to address two critical aspects of our preparations for the forthcoming General Election.
“Nigerians may recall that the ongoing CVR started a year ago. For the first time, the Commission introduced online pre-registration as well as physical registration at designated centres.
“As the deadline for the suspension of the CVR i.e. 30th June 2022 approaches, long queues are building up, especially in some states in the South East, Lagos, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“The Commission had anticipated the last-minute surge and therefore established additional centres and deployed more machines to register citizens,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said the security situation in many parts of the country has not allowed full deployment as planned. In some states of the Federation, INEC registration officers were attacked resulting not only in the unfortunate destruction of buildings and loss of equipment but even worse, the death of a staff.
“This has forced the closure of some of the registration centres.
“However, in view of the surge, additional machines will be deployed to some of the most congested areas to ease the surge. Similarly, the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) have been directed to liaise with the security agencies and stakeholders on the possibility of reopening some of the centres earlier closed because of insecurity, but in doing so, they must always bear in mind the safety of registrants and registration officials,” he said.
Furthermore, he said the RECs are directed to do more to provide information, increase awareness of the processes, and more promptly respond to genuine complaints by citizens.
“The Commission appreciates the support of partners and critical stakeholders in mobilising citizens to register. We look forward to such partnership to encourage registered voters to collect their PVCs and for increased voter turnout on Election Day,” he added.