By Chimezie Godfrey
The Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has assured Nigerians that the Commission will continue to use innovation for transparency and credibility of elections in the country.
Yakubu gave the assurance at the Retreat on the Optimization of the Election Monitoring and Support Centre (EMSC) Operational Structure on Friday at Nasarawa state.
He said that the EMSC has become a vital tool in the monitoring, implementation and management of Nigeria’s electoral plans and activities.
He recalled that when the Commission was first inaugurated in November 2015, their resolve was to consolidate on the gains of the last Commission (2010-2015) in building systems for the continuous and effective management of the electoral process.
According to him, the goals were not only to address the challenges encountered during the 2011 and 2015 General Elections, but to also develop proactive and knowledge-driven systems that would address these challenges in 2019 and at the same time continue to support the Commission’s efforts in the planning, conduct and management of elections.
Yakubu added that the continuous search for innovative and better systems for the management of the country’s electoral process crystalized into the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan (SP)/Strategic Programme of Action (SPA), the 2019 Election Project Plan (EPP) as well as the Election Monitoring and Support Centre (EMSC).
He said consequently, the Commission has, over the years, continuously expanded the frontiers of electoral management and governance by introducing innovations and knowledge-driven systems. The EMSC is one such innovation.
He therefore assured that the Electoral body will continue to use innovation to achieve transparency and credibility in the conduct of subsequent elections.
He said,”I am glad that this retreat is taking place six weeks after the commencement of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.
“Over the last five weeks, eligible citizens have been given the opportunity to commence their registration online and then complete it physically at designated centres.
“At the same time, those who prefer the in-person option can register at any of our State or Local Government offices nationwide. The two processes are going ahead simultaneously.
“We are glad that INEC is the first Election Management Body (EMB) to introduce online voter registration in Africa. The benefits are already encouraging. Citizens are served promptly and seamlessly without congestion at the registration centres and in full compliance with COVID-19 protocols.
“I wish to assure Nigerians that we will continue to innovate for the transparency and credibility of our elections.
“We will continue to work hard to ensure that citizens have a pleasant experience at every stage of the process.”
The INEC boss explained that as an electoral early-warning, monitoring, implementation and management tool, the EMSC, relying on field offices and personnel across the 36 States and the FCT, alerts the Commission to the challenges, identifies electoral risks/threats and provides real-time information on the status of an election.
He said in doing so, the EMSC makes available to the Commission the necessary information in making real-time interventions to avert or mitigate potential risks or threats to an election.
He recalled that in the build-up to the 2019 General Election, it became increasingly clear to the Commission that a coordinated early warning, monitoring and implementation system was necessary to track hundreds of inter-related electoral activities in the Election Project Plan for the 2019 General Election.
“Accordingly, the Commission accepted the recommendations of the 2019 Election Project Plan Committee (EPPC) to integrate the three monitoring mechanisms of the Commission – the EMS, ERM and EOSC – into a single unit called the Election Monitoring and Support Centre (EMSC).
“The EMSC has greatly helped the Commission in managing the electoral process. As a testimony to its robustness as an election management tool, many countries in the West African Region and beyond have shown interest in studying and adopting the system for their use.
“The Ethiopian and Malawi Electoral Commissions are already considering the deployment of some aspects of the tool in the management of their elections. The EMSC may well be another contribution of INEC (and indeed Nigeria) to election management in the world.
“As pioneers, we need to keep pushing the frontiers of this system, fortifying its strengths, addressing its challenges and expanding its reach in the conduct and management of elections.
“Having deployed it for the 2019 General Election, the Commission has certainly seen its advantages as well as its challenges. The advantages need to be strengthened and improved upon while resolving the anticipated challenges before the 2023 General Election which is just 560 days away,” he said.
Yakubu who said that the retreat is crucial to the EMSC and the Commission, urged participants to work round the clock in these two days to suggest novel ways of tweaking the EMSC, addressing its challenges and formulating comprehensive policy guidelines for its operation.
“It must be repositioned to discharge its most primary responsibilities of providing early warning, identifying threats/risks, monitoring the implementation of election activities and ensuring real-time and accurate information to the Commission on all field-related activities that have a direct bearing on elections,” he urged.
He appreciated the Directorate of Planning and Monitoring and other staff of the Commission for their efforts in making the retreat a reality.
He also appreciated the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES), for the consistent partnership with the Commission, including the organization of the retreat.
“We are looking forward to such positive collaboration that would enhance our preparation and planning for the 2023 General Election,” he said.