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2019 Elections; ECOWAS To Send 200 Observers
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been assured by the Economic Community Of West African State ECOWAS of its support, including finance, for the smooth running of the 2019 general elections. Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief press Secretary to INEC Chairman quoted Gen Francis Behanzin as making the promise when he led a delegation of the Sub-regional body on a courtesy visit to INEC headquaters in Abuja. Behanzin also disclosed that ECOWAS would send 200 Observers for 2019 polls. He said that the purpose of his visit was to ascertain among other things INEC readiness for 2019 polls and the challenges it was facing in view of Nigeria’s large voter population of over 80 million.
He also expressed his appreciation to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for his improvement of the electoral process and sustenance of democracy across the West African sub-region.
Oyekanmi quoted Yakubu in his response as explaining the Commission’s preparations for the 2019 polls. Yakubu said the Commission had developed, validated and was already implementing its 2017 – 2021 Strategic Plan, the Election Project Plan and had also released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections since Jan. 9.
He said the Commission also carried out the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) that allowed citizens who just turned 18 years and other Nigerians who had never registered the opportunity to do so. He informed the delegation that over 14.5 million voters were registered during the exercise between April 2017 and August 2018. “This new figure will be added to the almost 70 million citizens already in the national Voter Register after due processes.” He added that the country might have about 83 million voters after the register had been cleaned up. Yakubu observed that conducting general election in Nigeria could be likened to conducting an election for the whole of ECOWAS.
He informed the delegation that Nigeria currently has 91 registered political parties out of which 89 will field candidates for various positions in the next year general elections. Yakubu, who is also the President, ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), said Nigeria has fulfilled its promises to the body since his election as its President in Cotonu, the Republic of Benin in March 2017.
These, according to him, include the location of the ECONEC Secretariat in Nigeria and the organisation’s visit to many member countries. He expressed the hope that by the end of March 2019 when his tenure would end, more countries would have been visited. Yakubu said the Electoral Commission in Guinea Conakry recently asked INEC for help to clean up the country’s voter register, which was done, while Nigeria also observed the elections in Mali. He said that INEC had supported other Electoral Commissions in the ECOWAS Sub-region, especially in the area of voter registration. He added that Burkina Faso and Ghana were also provided with ballot boxes. He identified finance as the major challenge facing ECONEC. He said that while each member country is expected to pay $5,000 per annum, he was of the opinion that ECONEC would still require some support from ECOWAS. Yakubu said he leant that ECOWAS had promised to support ECONEC with $1 million dollars and expressed the hope that with the General’s visit, the account of ECONEC would be credited within a short time.