The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said that the commission is ready for the Saturday Edo governorship election in Edo State, saying it won’t postpone the exercise.
The INEC boss who disclosed this in Benin, the state capital, said the election will go on even though the West African Senior School Certificate Examination was also scheduled to hold on the same day.
Yakubu, who was speaking during a stakeholders’ meeting assured that necessary measures for a hitch-free exercise has been put in place.
A total of 1,742 candidates are expected to sit Mathematics 1 and 2 papers on September 10, a development which sparked a protest by some of the affected candidates and parents on Monday.
There had also been calls for the postponement of the poll to a later date to allow the students exercise their rights to vote.
But the national commissioner, who spoke through the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sam Olumekun, said INEC had given adequate notification on the date for the election prior to the date fixed for the examinations.
He explained, “It is important to draw your attention to the fact that INEC gave notice of this election on March 2, 2016. There was no registration for WASSCE candidates as of that time.”
The INEC boss noted that the commission had held a robust discussion with the examination body and security agencies on the issue, where it was agreed that the examination should be moved to Ondo and Delta states, as holding it simultaneously may create security challenges.
Yakubu said, “The issue is, basically, security. So, the security agencies advised WAEC accordingly that giving room for people to move around may pose some challenges because many people will cash in on the situation.
“Permit me to remind you also that there are about 1.9 million registered voters in Edo State, whose interest also should be taken care of. At the end of that meeting, we agreed that the exams be shifted outside Edo State to places that are nearby.”
“Indeed, WAEC had even concluded arrangements to do this. It suggested Ore, Agbor and one other place. Yes, there might be some inconveniences for the students to travel outside Edo State; but, of course, it is not too much pain to bear if you have your state at heart.”
“I do not think we need to suspend an election because WAEC is going to conduct GCE. It is not SSCE but GCE for those who did not do well in the past exams,” the INEC chairman added.
Full Text Of The INEC Chairman’s Statement
1. On behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I would like to join the Resident Electoral Commissioner Edo State to welcome you all to this very important meeting.
2. Many of you here would recall that six months ago on 2nd March 2016, INEC issued the timetable and schedule of activities for the Governorship election in Edo State as required by Law. The timetable provides for fourteen (14) activities ranging from the publication of the notice of election, conduct of party primaries to nominate candidates, submission of names of candidates to INEC, the publication of names of candidates, publication of official register of voters, commencement of campaign to the last day of campaign and date of election. So far, the Commission has fully implemented these activities, leaving only two (2) of them outstanding. These are the last day of campaign which is tomorrow 8th September 2016 and date of election which is Saturday 10th September 2016.
3. Simultaneously with the publication of the timetable, INEC identified a range of activities under our election plan from voter education, continuous voter registration for those who have attained the age of 18 as well as cases of transfer and relocation, configuration of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs), distribution of uncollected PVCs from the 2015 General Election as well as the recent CVR, presentation of voter register to political parties, recruitment and training of personnel for election duty, transportation (including special arrangement for difficult terrain), the accreditation of observers to the delivery of sensitive and non-sensitive materials. Every step that INEC is supposed to take to ensure the successful conduct of the Governorship elections in Edo State this weekend has been taken. The stage is therefore set for eligible voters to choose the next Governor of the State from the list of 19 political parties participating in the election. As a testimony to the continuing expansion of the democratic space, one Governorship and 8 Deputy Governorship candidates are women.
4. As was the case in recent elections, every eligible voter shall be accredited and immediately thereafter receive the ballot paper and proceed to vote without a break. This means that there will be simultaneous accreditation and voting. The means of accreditation remains the SCR upon the presentation of the prospective voter’s PVC. During the course of training of election duty staff for the 4,011 Polling Units and Voting Points, we emphasised the use of the Smart Card Reader as a necessary mechanism for accreditation of voters. Accordingly, we have configured, recharged and deployed enough SCRs for the election. In the event of malfunction, we have enough spare Card Readers for immediate replacement. In the event that a voter’s finger print is not authenticated by the SCR, the incidence form will be available so that no registered voter is disenfranchised. For emphasis, I wish to reiterate that the Commission will not tolerate any wilful disregard of the use of the SCR or circumventing it for the purpose of accreditation.
5. We have been assured of adequate security by the Nigeria Police as the lead agency in election security. We had a meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) comprising of all security agencies at the national level as well as several meetings of the Committee at State level. Arising from these meetings, an elaborate deployment and operational plan was agreed upon. This involves early and adequate deployment for general security as well as specific deployment for the protection of staff and material from our State Headquarters to the 18 Local Governments, the 192 Registration Areas (i.e. Wards), 4,011 Polling Units/Voting Points as well as the various Collation and Declaration Centres. The Inspector General of Police will provide details in his address to this forum shortly.
6. On this note, I wish to reiterate that no voter entitled to security protection should be accompanied by armed escorts to the Polling Unit on election day. Police orderlies may accompany such high profile voters but must never bear arms. Similarly, high profile politicians should never be seen moving from one area to another on election day or engage in any other violation of the Electoral Act. Like every voter, they should exercise their civic responsibility in the designated Polling Units and thereafter return home. We have been assured by the security agencies that any act contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act will be promptly dealt with. This is without prejudice to the rights of citizens who may wish to stay some distance away from the Polling Units after voting in order to witness the counting of ballots. While the Commission has been encouraging this practice as Citizens’ Mandate Protection Mechanism, the actual responsibility of witnessing and attesting to ballot count and escorting same to the collation centres belongs to the accredited political party agents under the watchful eyes of similarly accredited national and international observers as well as the media. As in previous elections, INEC will continue to respect this well-established practice.
7. The conduct of the Edo election involves a large deployment of personnel. Already, we have recruited and trained 18,511 electoral officials. The majority of these personnel are drawn from the pool of young Nigerians on national assignment through the National Youth Service Corps scheme. Their service, complemented by other patriotic Nigerians, is essential to the electoral process and our democracy. They operate often under difficult circumstances. While we have done everything possible to ensure their safety, I appeal to all those involved in the election, be they voters or candidates, to assist the Commission and the security agencies in ensuring the safety and security of all our electoral officials. For our part, we have warned all our officials to operate strictly within the confines of the Law and our guidelines. All election duty personnel have sworn to an oath of neutrality and fairness to the process. Any infraction will attract severe sanctions from the Commission.
8. Our plea to political parties and their supporters is that they should eschew violence and the attendant culture of intimidation of electoral officials and the desperate resort to ballot box snatching and falsification of results. It is unfortunate that already, one SCR was snatched at one of the training centres recently. Although it was a futile effort because the card reader had not been configured to any Polling Unit for the election, it was nevertheless a disturbing incidence. The security agencies are on the trail of the snatchers. Similarly, a number of PVCs were snatched at one of the distribution centres last week. Arrests have been made and some of the cards recovered. I want to assure you that those responsible will be punished accordingly to the law. Generally, however, the atmosphere in Edo State has been peaceful since the commencement of the electioneering campaign. I urge all political parties and candidates to maintain the same spirit of orderly conduct during and after the elections.
9. I wish to assure you of INEC’s preparedness and neutrality. Our responsibility is to ensure that, as a legal process, elections are conducted strictly according to the dictates of the Law. We have taken every step within the powers of the Commission to ensure that the election this weekend is held as scheduled and that it is free, fair and credible. We have also been assured by the security agencies that they are equally prepared to ensure that there is a conducive atmosphere to support the elaborate plans we have put in place for the success of the election.
10. Once again, I welcome all stakeholders to this meeting and I forward to roust discussions. I thank you for listening and may God bless our efforts.