The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UNOWAS, has expressed concerns over incessant attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in the build up to the 2023 general election.
Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Officer in Charge of UNOWAS, Ms Giovanie Biha, laid the concerns on Monday when she led a delegation on a visit to INEC headquarters, in Abuja, ahead of the 2023 general election.
Biha said the UN has observed the latest attacks on INEC facilities in some places, including the latest ones; noting that the attacks are some of the concerns the body has as the country prepares for election.
The UN representative also stated that the global body wanted to hear about the partnership INEC has forged with the federal police to provide security arrangements for the conduct of the exercise.
“We met with the Deputy Chief of Police, especially the Deputy Chief of Operation; he outlined the architecture that he has put in place to ensure that security will be there, especially at the polling stations,” she said.
While applauding the role of INEC in ensuring the integrity of elections in Nigeria, the UN delegation said it understands the demands on the commission and the effort being made to address them.
“I would like to commend your leadership and also the commissioners and the whole team and the way you are leading this organisation by example that you set for the whole region in terms of professionalism, integrity and independence; the trust that people put into INEC for the upcoming election.
“We also appreciate the fact that your organisation has also shared experiences across the region in terms of organising credible, transparent and inclusive election. So, we also look forward that once you are through with the general election, this sharing of experience will continue in the region.
“It is very crucial because the whole West African region is going through some kind of turmoil and there is still a lot to do in terms of deepening democracy across the region including actually democratic governance,” she said.
Biha, who also expressed the continued support of the UN system to INEC, asked the commission to brief the global body on the strategies that are put in place to address the soft spots.
Responding, INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, assured that the commission will not fail the nation and the international community, adding that it will “continue to make incremental improvement to our electoral process supported by the deployment of appropriate and relevant technology that will make voter accreditation and result management more credible and transparent.”
Yakubu noted that Biha’s visit was part of the long-standing relationship between INEC and UNOWAS in particular and the United Nations in general.
He expressed belief that the visit by the UN delegation will not only encourage the commission in is determination to conduct credible, transparent, inclusive and verifiable elections, but we will also share the outcome of its discussion with colleagues from other electoral commissions in West Africa and beyond.
“At different fora, Electoral Commissions in West Africa and beyond have expressed concern about the impact of prevailing insecurity on the conduct of elections, particularly with regard to insurgency, banditry and other forms of armed conflict.
“Consequently, a 9-nation conference of Electoral Commissions and election experts is holding this week in Ouagadougou involving the host, Burkina Faso, as well as Benin Republic, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo from West Africa; and the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo from Central Africa. Nigeria will be making two presentations at the Conference,” he said.