THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it will deploy three National Commissioners to supervise the Saturday, February 12 Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council election.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the commission’s stakeholders meeting held on Tuesday in Abuja, said six Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) would also be deployed to support the FCT REC for a hitch free poll.
Prof Yakubu, who assured of INEC’s commitment to conduct free, fair, credible and transparent elections, urged stakeholders to reciprocate the gesture by ensuring peaceful exercise. The chairman noted that INEC’s eyes were on all its officials, “be they ad hoc or regular staff,” to ensure that they strictly abide by the rules.
“All parties, candidates and their supporters should do the same. No one will benefit from the disruption of the process or other acts of bad behaviour. Let the voters in the FCT choose their leaders in a free, fair and peaceful contest,” Yakubu said, adding that INEC had engaged and trained adequate ad hoc staff for the election.
He added that all non-sensitive materials had been delivered to the area councils, while sensitive materials would be delivered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to FCT Office in Garki, on February 10.
“Non-pharmaceutical materials had been procured to protect voters and personnel from COVID-19 in line with the commission’s policy based on the protocols. Transport arrangements have been made, including motorcycles for remote locations and boats for riverine areas.
“We shall deploy assisting devices such as Braille ballot guide and magnifying glasses for the physically challenged voters,” Yakubu said. He added that Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) had been configured and ready to deploy for the election, noting that its performance had been reviewed from previous election in Anambra.
“For congested polling units, the commission will deploy more than one BVAS to facilitate a speedy accreditation of voters. We will also deploy additional staff to these locations. We also agreed with the security agencies to deploy more personnel to ensure peace and order.
“We have also made adequate arrangements for technical support and transportation to speedily respond in the unlikely event of glitches on election day. Similarly, election results will be uploaded to the INEC Result Viewing portal (IReV) in real-time when voting ends and votes are counted at polling units on election day,” Yakubu said.
According to him, the FCT election is not without its fair share of litigations as there are eight cases in court, challenging the nomination or educational qualification of candidates.
He said, while some of the cases were already before the Supreme Court, there were no conflicting judgments or orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction anywhere on the elections.
“Let me seize this opportunity to appreciate the judiciary, particularly the FCT High Court, for standing firm to the shenanigans of forum shoppers and litigation-happy individuals who often waste the precious time of the Courts and INEC by litigating even the most improbable cases.’’
He disclosed that INEC had accredited 58 observer groups (53 domestic and 5 foreign) that would deploy no fewer than 2,242 field observers.
Yakubu said the commission had accredited 45 media organisations expected to deploy 340 journalists to cover the poll.
He, however, reiterated that voter inducement in all forms, including vote-buying at polling units, remained a violation of the law.
“The ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices in the voting cubicles is still in force,”Yakubu said.
On his part, the FCT Minister, Mr Muhammad Bello assured that the administration would support INEC and other stakeholders to ensure free, fair and credible elections in the Territory’s area councils.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba, said the police as the lead agency, was working in synergy with other security agencies to provide the enabling environment for peaceful election.
Baba represented by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr Basil Idegwu, said the police were poised to ensure they deployed the best of their human and material resources during the exercise.
The I-G assured that his personnel would be professional and ensure a hitch free poll devoid of political thuggery or any violent crimes.
“On the part of the Nigerian police, efforts have been made to ensure a hitch free election.
“Part of strategies put in place to ensure free, fair and credible election, threat analysis, information gathering and intelligence sharing with sister security agencies led to the identification of peculiar threats in all the area councils,” Baba said.
The Executive Director, Yaiga Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, expressed confidence in INEC capability to conduct free and fair election.
Idoto, however, advised INEC to ensure that the BVAS work effectively and that voting commenced early as scheduled on election day.
He urged the FCT minister to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Amended Bill into law to enhance credibility of the nation’s general elections.
Mrs Felicia Sani, the National President of Market Men and Women Association of Nigeria, urged youths and women to shun violence during the FCT council election.
Sani said that she had advised market women to caution their wards against violence, saying, “always remember there is life after election.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 475 candidates have been cleared by 18 political parties, including the ruling APC and main opposition, PDP, to contest the chairmanship and councillorship seats in Bwari, Abaji Gwagwalada, Kuje, Kwali and Abuja Municipal Council (AMAC).
NAN reports that the candidates took oath, committing to ensure a peaceful exercise. (NAN)