The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will spare no effort to ensure that every validly registered voter get his / her Permanent Voter Card (PVC) to be able to exercise their franchise in the 2015 General Election.
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, gave the assurance,adding that the Commission had reached a comfort level to boldly say the forthcoming general election will be free, fair, credible and transparent, and will be of far higher standard than what was achieved in 2011. He spoke on Thursday when he played host at the Commission’s head office to Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West and Central Africa, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas.
Professor Jega said the challenges experienced during the third phase of PVC distribution and Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) in some states were transient and do not threaten the Commission’s readiness to deliver superlative elections in 2015.
Explaining what INEC has been doing to meet up to this target, he said: “Since the 2011 elections, the Commission has devoted a lot of time and energy to keep on improving the processes and setting up policies and mechanisms that can help us have remarkably better elections in 2015. We’ve done quite a lot…Of course, there are challenges; and we have to acknowledge these challenges. One of the key things we have done is that we have updated the register, we have cleaned it up and we have been working very hard to produce and distribute what the law says we should – Permanent Voter Cards. We have gone very far with this. So far, we have produced PVCs and distributed them in 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and we have also done an update of the register in those states.
“The last phase of the distribution of PVCs and updating the register was to cover the remaining 12 states. I must say with regret that we experienced some challenges in the production of those cards within our defined time schedules, and this has necessitated adjustment of the timeline for distribution of the cards. Whereas we had wanted to distribute the cards within the same period in all the remaining 12 states, we now have to stagger it in order to ensure that we have all the cards before they are distributed. And, of course, people have been very anxious and many have been disappointed – not just by the change in the timetable for distribution of the cards but also by the logistical challenges and operational delays experienced in the field. But these are minor challenges as far as we are concerned. We are absolutely sure that before the February elections, every validly registered Nigerian will have his / her PVC to be able to exercise their voting right. And we are doing everything possible to ensure that happens.”
On the readiness of INEC to deliver superlative elections, Professor Jega said: “We have reached a comfort level to say categorically that we will deliver credible, free, fair and transparent elections in 2015 that will be much better than what we did in 2011. Our hope and prayer is that in those areas where there are security challenges, the challenges will be minimised and sufficient normalcy and stability restored for us to be able to conduct elections; so that at the end of it all, we will be satisfied as Nigerians that we’ve conducted the best elections in the history of our country.”
The Chairman noted, however, that getting the best standards of elections is not the sole responsibility of INEC. “We know that whatever we do as an Election Management Body (EMB), we cannot guarantee peaceful conduct of elections unless there is an equal commitment by the political parties and the candidates. In our engagement with political parties, we constantly put the issue on the table, and we are trying to find ways and means of ensuring this.”
The visiting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General stressed Nigeria’s place as a strategic member of the global community. He said the country “must set the standard for others to follow because Nigeria has a special place in West Africa and, indeed, Africa.”
Dr. Chambas, who is also a former President of ECOWAS, added: “2015 will be a year in which we will witness some very significant elections in West Africa. In addition to Nigeria, we have elections in Togo, Cote d’ivoire, Guinea, Burkina Faso. These are all countries that, within the ECOWAS context, are very significant. Some of them, for example Cote d’ivoire, Guinea and even now Burkina Faso, will be conducting election post-conflict. So, we expect to face some challenges there. It is in that context that we hope that Nigerian elections will be standard setting, so that we can hopefully use the expertise from Nigeria to support these other countries in the region.”
The Resident Coordinator of the UN Systems in Nigeria, Dr. Daouda Toure, accompanied the Special Representative to INEC offices.