Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, described the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as under threat, saying it is currently populated by politicians.
The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote democratic governance, human rights and civic engagement.
Itodo also said that any improvement in the professionalism and independence of INEC is a threat to the Nigerian political class.
Itodo made the presentation during a speech on Tuesday at a program organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) titled “Nigeria 2023: The New Electoral Act and the Road Ahead.”
According to him, the more the CENI improves its technical expertise, the more the political class interferes in its affairs.
He said that for the commission to register a high turnout, the independence of INEC must first be guaranteed in order to maintain citizens’ confidence in the electoral process.
Itodo further noted that voter safety is central to participation in the 2023 elections.
He said: “The reforms, improvement, professionalism of INEC are a threat to the political class, the more INEC improves its technical experience and its management of elections, the more political interference in the electoral commission is high.
“As we think about the 2023 elections, one of the biggest concerns is how to protect the independence of the electoral commission, because the law gives a lot of discretionary powers to the INEC and we have seen times, l “INEC is populated by politicians and members of political parties. This gives serious cause for concern to citizens and the public, if there is ever a time when the institution needs protection, it is in fact now.
“We have seen the commission take a stand and try to draw the attention of political actors to the provisions of the law in relation to the regulatory powers of the commission.
“It is a positive point, but I think that with the approach of the elections, the independence of the INEC is essential to protect the commission…”, he declared.
“Our expectation is that if the new law brings integrity to the electoral process, it will strengthen citizens’ confidence in their willingness to participate in elections.
“If citizens continue to observe and struggle with access to polling stations or problems with election logistics or even interference from the state and security agencies, it will discourage their interest in participating in elections.
“If we register 35% in 2019, we could have an increase in voter turnout in the 2023 elections. Civil society has made efforts to mobilize voters, but if parties do not present credible candidates and it seems that the institutions have been captured by the state, you will observe a drop in the number of voters in the 2023 elections.
“I agree with Festus (Okoye) 100% that we need to invest in voter mobilization for the 2023 elections, but before that, it is about assuring the people of Nigeria that when they will go to the polls, its security is guaranteed and it is really up to the heart of participation in the 2023 elections. If people do not feel safe, then even INEC cannot deploy in certain areas .