*Outlines procedures for likely second vote
*Assures all genuine registered voters will collect PVC
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
Ahead of the 2023 general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has decided to print 93.5 million extra ballot papers for possible presidential election runoff, along with the 93.5 million ballot papers needed for the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
The commission also explained that if the presidential runoff election happens, it would be carried out strictly in line with Section 134 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who was represented by the commission’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, stated these at an interactive session with the media in Abuja yesterday.
To take care of probable presidential runoff election, Okoye said, in all, 187 million ballot papers would be printed by the Commission.
He said 93.5 million ballot papers will be used on 25 February 2023 for the presidential election and the remaining 93.5 million ballot papers will be for runoff in a case where there is no clear winner. The National Commissioner argued that the Commission decided to print 187 million ballot papers for the presidential elections, as it would be difficult to engage printers at a short notice and also the issue of logistics.
Okoye said, “As of today, 18 political parties will participate in the 2023 general election and the law has outlined how candidates will emerge and how a presidential candidate will emerge in Nigeria. Because of the limited time on the Commission and by the law; in case a candidate does not emerge from the first ballot, the Commission prints ballots for run-off elections (second election) when we are printing ballots for the main election.
“This is because the law gives the Commission just 21 days within each to engage in reverse logistics and conduct a run-off election in case there is no winner.
He disclosed further that registered voters in Nigeria now stand at 93.5 million, noting that 9,518,188 new voters were added to the existing register of 84,004,084 voters.
Assuring that the processes and procedures as well as the preparations for the conduct of the 2023 general election were on course, he revealed that out of the 14 items in the INEC’s timetable and schedule of activities, it has implemented nine and all on schedule.
“We are comfortable with the level of our preparations and as the chairman of the commission has assured the nation, never again will scheduled elections be postponed or rescheduled on account of logistics and logistics challenges.
“If, for example, we are printing 93 million ballot papers for the first presidential election, we will also print 93 million for the run-off election – in case there is no clear winner in the first election.
“If at the end of the day, there is a clear winner in the first election, we will destroy the ballot papers for runoff election’’, Okoye stated.
Explaining the procedures for the runoff election, he said Section 134 of the Nigerian Constitution states that a candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected, where there are more than two candidates for the election, he has the highest number of votes cast at the election. And also, he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He explained further, “In a default of a candidate duly elected in accordance with subsection (2) of this section, there shall be a second election in accordance with subsection (4) of this section at which the only candidate shall be the candidate who scored the highest number of votes at any election held in accordance with the said subsection (2) of this section.
“And one among the remaining candidates who have a majority of votes in the highest number of states; so however that where there is more than one candidate with majority of votes in the highest number of states, the candidate among them with the highest total of votes cast at the election shall be the second candidate for the election.’’
He said that the INEC is mandated to carry out this exercise within seven days, after the first election.
On the Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) collection, the commission said it had worked out, approved, and adopted the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the collection of the PVC.
“The Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu will in the next few weeks outline the fine details of the SOP. The commission will ensure the seamless collection of Permanent Voters Cards by all eligible registrants.
“We assure all Nigerians that the PVCs of those that registered between the 15th of January 2022 and July 31st, 2022, will be ready this month and the chairman will give the exact date for collection.
“All those that registered within this period as well as all those that carried out transfer and those that applied for replacement will get their cards. Nigerians will have sufficient time for PVC collection.
“No Nigerian that validly and genuinely registered will be denied the opportunity of collecting his or her Permanent Voters Card. We plead that Nigerians should not wait till the 11th hour before approaching our local government offices and the wards for PVC collection.’’
Reacting to many complaints arising from the display of Voter Registers across the country, the commission said it would continue to be open and transparent in the management and running of the elections.
“The display of the preliminary register of voters for claims and objections at the registration areas ends today; and all other activities relating to claims, objections, and complaints will be entertained at the various offices of the commission in the 774 Local Government Areas of the Federation and on the Commissions website”, he said
He reiterated that the use of the BVAS and IREV were legal requirements, and the commission is irrevocably committed to their use in the 2023 general election.
Assuring that the commission was working hard to deliver a free, fair, acceptable, and inclusive election in 2023, Okoye said INEC was working with the various security agencies in election security.
“We are mapping levels of threats and risks and sharing our findings with the various security agencies. The Commission has received assurances from the various security agencies that Nigeria will be safe for election as measures have been put in place to ensure a free and hitch-free election’’, he added.
The INEC said its allegiance would remain with the people of Nigeria while seeking the cooperation and partnership of the media in the task of conducting an election that Nigerians will be proud of.