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INEC kicks as EU mission gives damning report on conduct of 2023 polls

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INEC releases report of 2023 general elections

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has kicked against the verdict of the European Union mission on the conduct of the 2023 general election, arguing that Nigeria is on course to achieving optimal democracy.

Festus Okoye, INEC national commissioner for information and voter education, spoke on Tuesday in response to the European Union election observation mission’s final report on the recently concluded general election.

Barry Andrews, the chief observer had in the report said the elections exposed enduring systemic weaknesses that need to be corrected.

Andrews faulted INEC for the operational challenges and glitches experienced with the bimodal voter accreditation system (BVAS) and the result viewing portal, saying the discrepancies severely damaged public confidence in the electoral body.

“Public confidence in INEC was severely damaged on 25 February due to its operational failures and lack of transparency,” he said.

“While some corrective measures introduced before the 18 March elections seemed to have a positive impact, overall trust was not restored and eventually led civil society to call for an independent audit of the entire process.”

However, reacting to the report, Okoye said it is unfair to judge the commission and the entirety of the polls off a few glitches.

He noted that in other reports submitted, domestic and international observers attested to the fact that in terms of voter accreditation, the BVAS performed optimally.

The national commissioner, however, noted that certain factors contributed to issues encountered in the conduct of the elections.

“If you look at those challenges, you must also look at the context of the elections, also the environment which was surrounded by, one, insecurity in so many parts of the country. Nobody can dispute that,” he said.

“Secondly, there were also issues targeted at some of our staff and other Nigerians.

“You have to also look at the issues of fuel scarcity during that particular period and the issue of the naira redesign and also that we had significant challenges with transporters.

“So these are some of the issues we’re going to look at.”

Okoye said INEC would act on the recommendations made by the EU mission.

“One of the lessons that we must learn is that we must have faith in our democratic institutions. Is it every time that we have a challenge with a particular section of the constitution that we now run to the national assembly to amend the law? There has to be some level of fidelity, that is the only way we can progress,” he said.

“The other issue I want to outline is that democracy is not a 100m dash, we as a people and a nation have to build our democratic institutions and our own democracy.

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“You heard the chief observer say that there is democratic regression in so many countries of the world, are we supposed to also regress? No. We have to be positive and build our own.

“Those who say there is nothing positive about our democracy are saying that we should allow anti-democratic forces to take over and nobody does that.”

 

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