Nigerians are deeply concerned about the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, to conduct a smooth election on January 25, the day of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Until this point, the nation’s electoral umpire maintains that it is prepared to hold free, fair, and credible elections.
In any case, no one has any reason to doubt INEC’s ability because it has consistently fulfilled its mandate in recent elections (such as the governorship elections in Edo and Osun) and earned the trust of Nigerians.
Concerning Nigerians, however, is the country’s tense atmosphere, which has the potential to sabotage INEC’s efforts and voters’ determination to elect new leaders.
The worsening insecurity in parts of the country, particularly the South East, and the choking naira redesign policy that was recently implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which has inflicted new hardship on the citizenry, are two major obstacles threatening the peaceful conduct of the Saturday election with just 48 hours to D-Day.
It is reasonable to be concerned that these obstacles could harm INEC’s efforts.
There are real threats to the election posed by the incessant targeted attacks on INEC offices, courts, and police stations. The cycle of unidentified gunmen’s violence and their threat that elections will not take place in the South East have created a climate of fear that has the potential to lower public morale and could result in a low turnout on election day.
Over 50 INEC offices had been attacked in 15 states over the course of four years. At least 11 of those attacks were in Imo State alone; seven were in Osun; five were in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, and Ebonyi; four were in Abia and Cross River; two were in Anambra, Taraba, and Borno; and one was in Ogun, Lagos, Bayelsa, Ondo, and Kaduna.
As the surveys move closer, the assaults strengthen, in spite of the endeavors of safety associations.
In Anambra State, escalating attacks on police divisions have resulted in the deaths of eight police officers over the past ten days. The organization of violence against opposition political figures across communities continues unabated in Imo and Ebonyi states.
Despite assurances from the police, the situation is so dire that Nigerians are concerned about whether or not a peaceful election can be held on January 25 in some areas.
However, INEC maintains that elections will be held nationwide and that no Nigerian will be denied the right to vote. During a meeting with members of the international election observer mission led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki at the Commission’s Abuja office, the chairman of INEC recently reiterated this assurance.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu explained the foundations of INEC’s assurances during a crucial meeting with security agencies on January 21 and pledged: The commission is encouraged by assurances of security in all locations where elections and activities related to elections will take place. Equally important, the commission is aware that security agencies will protect not only our officials and facilities, but also accredited observers, journalists, service providers, and, most importantly, voters themselves.
In a similar vein, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, who was represented at the meeting by Sanusi Galadima, gave a firm assurance that the election would be safe for everyone.
In fact, in an effort to improve public confidence, state police commands and formations, in conjunction with other security agencies, have begun a mobilization and show-of-force movement.
Concerning the other major concern, the cash crunch brought on by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s naira redesign policy, INEC acknowledged that the policy could affect its activities in crucial areas that require immediate cash responses, such as the election logistics services provided by citizens who are not banked and therefore require cash for service delivery.
However, when Prof. Yakubu led a delegation to the apex bank last week to seek assistance in addressing the challenge posed by the naira policy, the CBN assured INEC of its complete support in making cash available for logistics.
At the meeting, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele said that the apex bank will help INEC pay for its logistics and hold a successful election.
The outcome of this and other developments that are taking place behind the scenes between the two bodies is hoped to improve the situation; however, their efficacy will not be known until the day of the elections.
In the meantime, public opinion regarding INEC’s election-day readiness is, at best, cautious and largely based on optimism.
According to DAILY POST, Dr. Ejike Orji, a senior special adviser to the Federal Capital Territory Minister and a member of the All Progressives Congress, or APC: They (INEC) have consistently stated that they are prepared at every turn in the road leading up to this election. Yesterday, a government official stated that all local government areas had received nonsensitive materials, with the remaining nonsensitive materials expected to be delivered at the last minute.
He continued: Regarding transportation and the cash crunch, anyone who is familiar with government procedures and the vehicles would select those materials. Since the government does not pay you in advance, I’m sure the contracts have already been signed. After you finish your work, the government will pay you, and if they do pay you, they will do so electronically.
“And if you go into any filling station, you can pay for fuel with your ATM card, whether it’s gasoline or diesel for the vehicles.”
He believes that INEC is prepared for the election.
“Professor Yakubu has repeatedly stated that they are prepared for this election unless something else occurs. According to the facts provided by INEC, no one will use the cash crunch to stop the election.
Convener of the Concerned APC Members and Civil Society Directorate, Okpokwu Ogenyi, also stated that although INEC has done everything it should have done, there are still areas of concern.
“INEC needs money for some impromptu activities and logistics; He remarked, “I’m not sure if INEC has received such physical cash.”
He went on to tell DAILY POST: I have to tell you that the preparations for the 2023 election are significantly different from those for the 2019 election. By this time in 2019, everything else was moving and the sensitive materials had all been moved. Therefore, the fact that INEC announced less than two weeks before the election that it did not have enough money to pay for logistics moves demonstrates that the commission may encounter hiccups from time to time.
He came to the conclusion that INEC must issue a public statement prior to election day.
“INEC ought to come out and inform us whether or not they have had access to CBN funds. He stated, “We require that from INEC.”
Nigerians of all political stripes are unanimous in their determination to vote at the polls on January 25 as security personnel works around the clock to eliminate agents of destabilization and continue their search for the shadowy, unknown gunmen.
The onus is now on INEC to get its act together and hold a credible election that will be well-received by future generations.