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INEC pledges professionalism ahead Edo, Ondo gov polls

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The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Monday, underscored the importance of professionalism and competence among election personnel for the success of elections.

Yakubu conveyed this in an address honoring the former Director General of The Electoral Institute, the late Prof. Abubakar Momoh, in Abuja ahead of the Edo and Ondo off-cycle governorship elections scheduled for September 21 and November 16, 2024, respectively.

The focal point of this year’s lecture was “The 2024 off-cycle elections: Achieving professionalism among election personnel through effective training in preparation for Edo and Ondo states governorship elections.”

Yakubu, represented by the Chairman, of the Board of Electoral Institute, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru, highlighted the necessity for election personnel to be knowledgeable, skilled, and equipped to handle the complexities of the electoral process.

He stressed that effective training was crucial in fostering a high level of professionalism among election officials.

“The success of any election largely depends on the professionalism and competence of those responsible for conducting it.

“Therefore, this lecture which is organized in memory of the former Director General TEI, the Late Prof, Abubakar Momoh, could not have come at a better time, considering that the Edo and Ondo off-cycle governorship elections are around the corner, having been scheduled for September 21, 2024 and November 16, 2024 respectively.

“It is important that our personnel for these elections are knowledgeable, skilled, and well-equipped with relevant competencies to handle the complexities and challenges of the electoral process,” he said.

The INEC chairman noted that professionalism was essential for maintaining the integrity of the democratic process and ensuring voter confidence, which in turn affects voter participation and turnout.

Yakubu emphasised that voters should be treated with respect, and any unethical or corrupt practices by election officials would incur severe punishments.

He outlined key principles for election officials, including integrity, impartiality, transparency, professionalism, gender and disability sensitivity, and consideration for vulnerable groups.

The chairman stated, “Hence, a high sense of professionalism amongst election personnel engendered by effective training cannot be over-emphasised.

“The manner, in which they discharge their duties and responsibilities, affects the degree of confidence voters will have in the electoral process, which will impact their participation and turnout.

“To ensure the credibility and trustworthiness in our elections and build trust among the electorates, it is imperative that we prioritise the professional development of our election personnel.”

He added that to achieve these standards, INEC was committed to comprehensive and interactive training programs for its staff and trainers.

In his lecture, the Director of the Mac Arthur Foundation, Kole Shettima, revealed a comprehensive strategy to overhaul and improve various facets of the electoral process.

Central to Shettima’s vision was the integration of civic education into the training curriculum for election officials.

Emphasising the importance of understanding civic duties, democracy, and the history of elections, Shettima, who doubles as a member of the Board of the Electoral Institute stressed the need for election officials to embody integrity and accountability.

Shettima added that the revamped training would not only cover technical processes but also instil a deeper appreciation for the electoral process’s significance.

He said, “Revamp the curricula of training of election officials to include civic duties, the history of elections, democracy, integrity and accountability of election officials, the role of INEC, credible elections, among others, in addition to the technical processes and procedures.

“Physical screening should be conducted before ad-hoc staff are recruited and deployed. This will present a more robust check against the recruitment and deployment of unqualified persons. It is advised to recruit in partnership with institutions instead of recruiting as individuals.

“Ensure that recruited personnel possess the requisite educational qualifications. This will address challenges with a poor understanding of the electoral process and duties by ad-hoc staff.”

Security concerns were not overlooked, as the Director advocated for establishing direct links with security personnel and fostering collective responsibility among stakeholders to protect electoral materials and personnel.

In his remarks, the Director General of the Electoral Institute, Sa’ad Idris, attributed INEC’s successes in the 2023 General Elections and recent off-cycle governorship elections to substantial investments in the training and capacity enhancement of its personnel.

Idris stated that the effective training programmes have directly contributed to the high level of professionalism exhibited by election personnel.

“The successes achieved by the Commission in the recently conducted 2023 general elections and other off-cycle governorship elections both in 2023 and 2024 bear credence to the fact that the investment made by the commission towards enhancement of the capacities of its trainers is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Idris assured that the upcoming elections would reflect a high standard of professionalism, technical competence, and the ability to address various challenges effectively.

During the period of Continous Voter Registration which began on May 27, 2024, and ended on June 9, 2024, the exercise recorded significant progress, with over 120,458 new voters registered.

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