2023 Poll: How INEC survived CBN’s currency swap, attacks, other challenges

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday insisted that the 2023 poll was free and fair because it reflected the wishes of Nigerians.
An Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) official stand next to the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) at a Registration Area Centre in INEC Collation Centre in Kano, Nigeria on February 26, 2023, a day after Nigeria's presidential and general election. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON / AFP)

[FILE PHOTO]An Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) official stand next to the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) at a Registration Area Centre in INEC Collation Centre in Kano, Nigeria on February 26, 2023, a day after Nigeria’s presidential and general election. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON / AFP)
•Insists Glitch Didn’t Affect Credibility Of Poll
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday insisted that the 2023 poll was free and fair because it reflected the wishes of Nigerians.

The commission said the analysis of the poll showed that no party dominated it. It said the spread of results across party lines was better than in all elections that have been conducted in the country.

It, however, admitted that the currency swap by the Central Bank of Nigeria, attacks on INEC facilities and a few glitches were the challenges encountered during the elections.
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INEC had come under fire over its inability to upload results immediately on its result viewing portal during the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023.

INEC’s position was contained in a 526-page document titled the Report of 2023 General Election.

The same report was backed up by a statement by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Sam Olumekun, mni.

The commission said the poll was unique in terms of keeping to the timetable, new 80 clauses in the Electoral Act and introduction of new technologies, which made voting easier.

Olumekun said: “On Thursday, 22nd February 2024, the Commission convened for its weekly meeting, where the 2023 General Election Report was reviewed and approved for publication.

“In keeping with our tradition over the last four electoral cycles, and our commitment to transparency, we are pleased to announce the release of the official INEC report on the 2023 General Election.

“This comprehensive 526-page document, structured into 13 chapters and enhanced with 60 tables, 14 boxes and 10 graphs, offers an in-depth analysis of the election’s key processes, achievements, and challenges, alongside valuable lessons learned.
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“The Report showcases the election’s unparalleled diversity in party representation, demonstrating significant democratic progress.

” This election saw four political parties winning gubernatorial races, seven parties winning senatorial seats, eight in federal constituencies and nine in State legislatures, illustrating a broad shift in political representation across Nigeria.”

But INEC was more forthcoming in the 526-page report by insisting that the 2023 poll reflected the wishes of the people.

The report said in part: “The 2023 General Election is perhaps the best planned and most innovative election in Nigeria.

“The election witnessed the highest number of eligible voters and voting locations across the country with the participation of over one million election duty officials and deployment of enormous logistic requirements including over 100,000 vehicles and about 4,000 boats protected by gunboats.”
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“Given the meticulous preparations for the election, the transparency of the entire electoral process, from the casting of the vote, the publication of the number of collected Permanent Voters Card for the election down to the polling unit level for the first time ever, the presence of security personnel, party agents, election observers and the media along the entire voting process and result collation chain, as well as the layers of stringent checks and control put in place by the Commission before making a declaration and return for an election, the outcome of the election, based on immutable provisions in the electoral legal framework, is a true reflection of the wishes of the electorate.”

INEC also explained why the poll was unique.

The report said: Third, several other innovations by the Commission in the 2019-2022 period peculiarly made the 2023 General Election unique. It was the first general election to be conducted after the amendment of the Electoral Act 2022.

“Furthermore, the Presidential and National Assembly election, for the first time in two Electoral Cycles 2010-2015 and 2015-2019, held on schedule without postponement as a result of logistics or other challenges. Moreover, voter access to polling units was expanded countrywide after 25 years when in June 2021 the Commission converted the 56,872 Voting Points and Voting Point Settlements into full-fledged Polling Units, bringing the number of polling units in Nigeria to 176,846.
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“In addition to expanding voter access to polling units, the Commission also relocated 749 polling units from inappropriate to more appropriate public facilities or open spaces to guarantee unencumbered access for all voters. Sequel to the foregoing, there was voter migration and inadvertently, de-congestion of some over-crowded polling units. This exercise is on-going as some polling units are still congested as a result of voter reluctance to relocate mainly for security consideration.”

The report highlighted some of the challenges of INEC during the 2023 poll.
Apart from attacks on its facilities, INEC said currency swap by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the limit placed on cash withdrawals from banks constituted encumbrances to the last elections.

It added: “However, the implementation of electoral activities were not without challenges, the most devastating of which was the spate of attacks on Commission’s personnel and facilities by thugs, unknown gunpersons, and arsonists nationwide.

“During the period between the 2019 General Election and 12th December 2022, the Commission suffered over 50 attacks on its buildings and facilities in various LGAs and State Offices across 15 States of the federation in which vehicles, office equipment and election materials were destroyed.
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“Furthermore, currency swap by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the limit placed on cash withdrawals from banks constituted encumbrances on the Commission’s operations for the payment to some unbanked service providers and the ability of particularly transport providers to service and fuel vehicles in boats and motorcycles in readiness for Election Duty.

“The prevailing fuel scarcity across the country and inadequate numbers of vehicles and boats for the transportation of election personnel and materials within the required timeframe posed a great challenge to the logistics plan for the election.

“This is more so considering the size and diversity of Nigeria, as well the state of national infrastructure. Indeed, election is the largest and most complex logistics undertaking in Nigeria involving the simultaneous movement of personnel and material to 176,846 polling units across 8,809 wards spread across 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in 36 states and FCT.”
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