PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has promised to leave a legacy of free and fair elections for the country in next year’s general elections.
Buhari made the pledge when he addressed the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the United States, on Wednesday.
“Indeed, we now are preparing for general elections in Nigeria next February. At the 78th UNGA, there will be a new face at this podium speaking for Nigeria,” he said.
“Ours is a vast country strengthened by its diversity and its common values of hard work, enduring faith and a sense of community. We have invested heavily to strengthen our framework for free and fair elections. I thank our partners for all the support that they have provided for our elections.
“As President, I have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies I will like to leave is to entrench a process of free, fair and transparent credible elections through which Nigerians elect their choice.”
The president’s statement amid growing concerns among Nigerians and civil societies organisations (CSOs) about the impartiality of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver credible polls next year.
Earlier this month, a coalition of CSOs led by YIAGA Africa accused President Buhari of nominating members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and questionable characters for the positions of INEC national commissioners.
The CSOs argued that the action was not just a violation of the country’s constitution and the electoral act but would also have grave implications for INEC’s credibility, independence and capacity to deliver credible, transparent, inclusive and conclusive elections.
The Nigerian presidency has rebuffed the CSO’s calls for Buhari to withdraw the said nominees.
The Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, urged Nigerians to allow the National Assembly, whose majority of its members are APC, to screen and determine the fate of the affected nominees.
Nigerians were taken aback the allegations of voters registration fraud uncovered by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) on INEC’s national voter register.
CUPP alleged that the register was filled with names within and outside the African continent.
Although INEC had refuted the allegations, CUPP said some of the names were allegedly were sourced from countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Togo, Guinea, Gambia, Jamaica, Brazil and New Zealand.
CUPP also alleged that it uncovered a suit seeking to stop the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine for the 2023 general elections.
The suit, according to CUPP spokerson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, was among several plots to ring the outcome of the 2023 polls for an undisclosed political party.
The umbrella body for all political parties in the country also alleged that there was a plot to remove the INEC chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, from office should he fail to stop the use of BVAS.
Reacting to the allegations, the INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, clarified that the commission had not added new names to the national register since the suspension of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in July this year.
“Nigerians would recall that on 31st July 2022, the Commission suspended the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) to commence supplemental activities that will culminate in the integration of new registrants into the final Register of Voters for the 2023 General Election.
“It is important to reiterate that no new registrant has yet been added to the Register of Voters for the 2023 General Election or will be included until these supplemental activities have been completed, in line with the law.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we restate the main components of these activities. First, the Commission is conducting a comprehensive Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) clean-up of the registration data by scrutinising every record.
“Based on the Electoral Act 2022, any record that does not meet all the criteria for inclusion as stipulated in Section 10, including the appearance in person by the registrant at the registration venue with proof of identity, age and nationality and our business rules requirements of adequate number of fingerprints and clear pictures, will be invalidated.”