The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has identified Voter Education and Sensitisation as one of the 5 core areas it will need support from the United Nations in order to successfully conduct a free, fair, credible, and inclusive 2023 general elections.

Addressing a delegation of the United Nations Needs Assessment Mission, led by Serge Gakwandi Kubwimana, in his office on Wednesday, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said given the size of the country there is a need to keep engaging citizens and stakeholders using different media platforms.

Professor Yakubu who restated his Commission’s fidelity to conduct of a free, fair, credible and inclusive election, identified five areas of concern that it would request the assistance of the global body.

He said: “The first one is Training and Capacity Building support for the staff of the Commission. The second is Voter Education and Sensitization. Given the size of the country we need to keep engaging using different media.”

Number three area of support as highlighted by the INEC Chairman “is election security and conflict mitigation, while the fourth area of support enumerated by Professor Yakubu is “capacity building for political parties”. Because according to him “basically what the Commission does is to conduct the secondary election. The political parties conduct the primary elections, so the candidates we put on the ballot are candidates nominated by the political parties.”

“So we need to build the capacity of the parties to nominate good candidates so that when elected they can represent the country well,” he added.

The INEC Chairman further identified inclusivity measures as the 5th area of support. He said, “In your interaction with the technical staff of the Commission, you will discuss the specific issues under each one of the 5 broad areas we have identified.”

Prof. Yakubu who disclosed that 18 political parties would be fielding candidates in 1,491 Constituencies across the country in the next general elections further disclosed that the voter’s population could be 90 million for the 2023 elections.

He said “We have 18 political parties. Assuming that half of them field candidates in all the constituencies, we are talking about close to 15,000 nominations which is really a huge task.”

“In 2019 we had 84 million registered voters, we are still registering voters for the 2023 general election and in our estimation, the voter population will be at least 90 million for 2023. At 90 million, it will make our voter register in Nigeria the largest in West Africa.”

“Out of the 15 countries in West Africa, including Nigeria, the other 14 countries altogether have about 73 million registered voters. At present we have 84 million registered voters so we have 11 million more registered voters than the rest of West Africa combined. So each time we conduct an election in Nigeria it is like we are conducting an election in the whole of West Africa. So, election in Nigeria is no joke at all.”

He further hinted that the 2023 general election will involve about 1million election officials including regular and temporary or ad-hoc staff across 176,846 polling units, 8,809 Wards, and 774 Local Government Areas across the country.”

Professor Yakubu restated the electoral body’s support for the Electoral Act 2022 as he noted that it “contains many progressive provisions that will enhance the capacity of the Commission on the conduct of elections and the management of the electoral process.”

Leader of the delegation from the United Nations, Serge Gakwandi Kubwimana, said they were in Nigeria in response to a letter written in January to the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, seeking the support of the organisation ahead of the 2023 general election.

He explained that the meeting with the Chairman and members of the Commission was the high point of a series of scheduled meetings with other key players in the democratic process such as the Leadership of the National Assembly, Leaders of Political Parties and the Government of Nigeria, to explore ways of the U.N intervention through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other entities on the ground can support the democratic process in Nigeria.

Mr Kubwimana, also said that the visit to Nigeria would equally help the UN keep abreast with the state of preparedness for the 2023 general election.

“We also use this to serve as your ambassadors when we go back if need be to encourage others to support the very important work that you do.”

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