From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja and Chukwudi Nweje
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again raised fresh fears that the forthcoming general election faces serious threats of cancellation and postponement if security challenges across parts of the country fails to improve.
Its Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who expressed the concerns, also warned that the cancellation or postponement of elections due to insecurity in some areas would not only hinder the declaration of elections results, but also precipitate constitutional crisis.
He stated this at the validation of election security training resources in Abuja, yesterday.
The INEC boss, however, assured that the commission was not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that security was provided for election personnel, materials and processes.
Represented by the Chairman, Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, the INEC chairman said: “We all appreciate the fact that election security is vital to democratic consolidation through provision of enabling environment for the conduct of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections and thus strengthening the electoral process. Consequently, in preparations for the 2023 general elections, the commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security are provided for election personnel, materials and processes.
“This is particularly significant to the commission given the current insecurity challenges in various parts the country and the fact that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members constitute the core of the polling unit election officials.
“Moreover, if the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results and precipitate constitutional crisis. This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen. Therefore, security personnel in particular and all election officials in general must be security conscious and alert to unusual activities in their environment and must be fully equipped to deal with any challenge at all times.”
Yakubu assured that working the National Security Adviser, Gen. Mohammed Babagana Monguno, he was optimistic that a conducive environment would be provided for successful conduct of the 2023 general elections.
In a goodwill message, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), said the training of security personnel to be deployed for the poll remained the antidote for peaceful elections.
In a speech delivered by the Country Director, Seray Jah, IFES said: “Managing security threats in the electioneering process is a tall order for INEC, which has the responsibility, together with Nigerian security agencies of preventing, mitigating, and resolving electoral violence.
Meanwhile, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), and Aka Ikenga have described as unfortunate the alarm raised by INEC.
The three groups warned that any attempt to postpone the election would truncate the democratic process.
TMG chairman, Ahmed Musa Rafsanjani warned the electoral commission not to succumb or give credibility to the pressure mounted on it by those he referred to as anti-democratic forces who do not want the election to hold.
“There is no alternative to free, fair, and credible 2023 election in Nigeria. INEC cannot give credibility to those who do not want election to hold in Nigeria. By making this pronouncement, INEC is succumbing to the plot of those who do not want elections to hold in Nigeria. We urge INEC to remain focused and insist that the election must go on. In 2015 when Boko Haram was at its peak, INEC was able to conduct elections in Maiduguri and those places Boko Haram operated. If INEC says the election cannot be held as scheduled, at what time will it be held?
“There will not be anytime these anti-democratic forces will want the election to hold. We must be able to manage and defeat those who do not want the election to hold.”
MBF President, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said any attempt to postpone the election would spell doom for the nation’s democracy.
“It is unfortunate and would spell doom for Nigeria’s democracy because postponing the election will disrupt the democratic process.”
Former President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, said holding election was a constitutional matter, even and rejected the idea of postponement.
“There is one form of insecurity or the other in all parts of Nigeria, but statistics shows that more people were killed in Kaduna and Zamfara states that the whole of Southern Nigeria, yet whenever they talk about insecurity they point at the South East.There is a conspiracy going on in Nigeria, they are trying to manipulate votes that will determine what happens in this country, they can do their worst but God will have His way, elections will hold,” he said.