The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the nation has entered a critical stage ahead of the 2023 general elections.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this at an ‘Expert Meeting on Conducting Elections in Volatile Security Environment’, organised in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja, on Thursday.

He said all hands must be on deck to ensure the success of the elections.

“Activities towards the 2023 General Election will enter the critical stages this month. In the next 19 days that is on 20th September 2022, the commission will publish the final list of candidates for national elections (Presidential, Senatorial and House of Representatives) as provided in Section 32(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 and the Timetable and Schedule of Activities released by the commission.

“This will be followed on 4th October 2022 by the publication of the final list of candidates for State elections (Governorship and State Houses of Assembly). Campaign in public by political parties will officially commence on 28th September 2022 as provided by Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022,” Yakubu said.

The INEC boss also urged all political parties and candidates to focus on issue-based campaigns.

“This is the best way to complement our efforts to ensure transparent elections in which only the votes cast by citizens determine the winner,” Yakubu said.

He also commended the CDD for providing a platform for stakeholders to discuss an important enabler to the full participation of citizens in the electoral process that is election security.

According to him, by bringing together experts, senior security officials and the INEC leadership to share experience and discuss security concerns ahead of the 2023 General Election, CDD hopes to kickstart further collaborative engagements among stakeholders around the security challenges ahead of the election.

He said, “It is timely because the election is fast approaching but there is still time to address the security concerns ahead of the election. Most appropriately, I believe that arising from the shared experience of participants at this meeting, specific recommendations will be made to further enrich our understanding of the security issues in the forthcoming election, the various dimensions of the challenges and, most importantly, possible measures to respond to them to ensure that elections peacefully hold nationwide as required by law”

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