From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has listed insecurity, thuggery and social media fake news as major threats to next year’s general elections. 
It also claimed that the ineligibility of the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the presidential election will make the poll very significant.
Commission’s Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, made the disclosed at an event organized by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) at the NED Headquarters, Washington DC, USA.
He also revealed that an estimated number of 94 million voters will participate in the general elections, assuring that the commission will commence distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to new registrants from next month, November.
On the concerns ahead of the poll, he said; “Are there concerns about the 2023 general election? I will be the last to say there are no concerns. The first concern is the perennial issue of insecurity in different parts of the country, compounded by the traditional issues of thuggery during elections organized by some of the political actors.
“I say it is a perennial issue because at the end of the day, it is nothing new. However, the dimension of the insecurity is a concern in the sense that in the past, it was localized or confined to a particular part of the country, the northeast. But now it is more widespread and we are keeping our eyes particularly on the northwest and the southeastern parts of the country.
“Elections are conducted by human beings. We worry about the security of our officials, voters and the materials to be deployed. Without them, we cannot conduct elections. We have spoken to the security agencies, they have assured us that the situation will improve before the elections. So, fingers crossed. Those who are supposed to secure the environment have assured us that they will secure the environment for us to conduct elections. Our responsibility is to conduct elections.
“The social media has been a force for good. The commission does not support censorship. We believe that the antidote to fake news is greater transparency and openness and we have been demonstrating greater transparency and openness.
“The social media plays a very important role in voter education and deepening democracy but it also has the potential of skewing the narrative with the wrong information that  impugn the integrity of officials or seek to delegitimize the Commission and the process either before, during or after the elections. Publication of fake election results is a potential trigger for violence. What we have done is to continue to deepen our cooperation and relationship particularly with the organized social media,” he said.
On the significant of the poll, the electoral umpire boss,  said: “It’s exactly 136 days to the 2023 general election. It is the seventh successive general election since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria 23 years ago in 1999. This is the longest unbroken period of democracy and democratic elections since independence from British colonial rule 62 years ago in 1960. We have never had this long spell of unbroken period of democracy, democratic governance and elections.
“The election is significant because the incumbent President is not eligible to run, this being his second and final term. There are 18 political parties in the race to produce the next President to be elected by 95 million voters. We had over 84 million registered voters in 2019.  But with last Continuous Registration of Voters (CVR), we are going to add at least 10 million Nigerians and that will take the Register of Voters to 95 million,” he said.
Yakubu also addressed concerns over PVCs, noting: “Nigerians have been asking the commission, when you finish registration and clean-up of the data, what about our PVC? This will be available for new registrants by next month – November.  We are looking at early to the middle of the month to make the cards available. We have already printed over 50 percent of the cards but we haven’t delivered them to the states yet.
“As we clean the data, we also print the cards. Nigerians who have registered should be rest assured that they will have their cards ahead of the general election. We also need to do so in good time because the law now requires us to publish the number of cards collected per polling unit,” Yakubu said.

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