The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has affirmed that the rescheduled presidential and National Assembly will hold on Saturday because it has put all its acts together.
INEC assured Nigerians and the international community yesterday that the election is a fait accompli because all the logistics challenges, which prompted the last minute cancellation of the first phase of the 2019 general elections last Saturday, had been addressed.
In the words of the electoral umpire, “we are good to go.”
At the third press briefing since the postponement of the elections, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said that with the configuration of the Smart Card Readers (SRCs) nationwide and maximum progress on logistics recorded, the commission was set to conduct credible and transparent polls on Saturday.
Yakubu said that all the SCRs meant for the Saturday’s election had been reconfigured, adding that 10 of the 36 states in the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had even gone ahead to distribute elections materials to the local government areas (LGAs).
He expressed the confidence that all the 36 states and the FCT would complete the distribution of all election materials to the councils today.
The INEC boss said: “The card readers were introduced in 2015 to facilitate accreditation of voters and they are configured on election day to shut down by 10pm on the same day. We have achieved 100 per cent configuration,” adding that the commission is “good to go.”
According to him, “we invited stakeholders to the various Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN’s) offices to witness the withdrawal of the materials distributed last week and we got full compliance. With this, we are good to go.”
Responding to questions from journalists, Yakubu disclosed that 10 states completed the movement of materials to their LGAs and asserted that other states would complete theirs today.
He said: “We’ve been making progress on logistics. Everything is on cause” and warned political parties against releasing fake results during the poll.
Yakubu vouched for the openness of the collation of results when he said that, “the integrity of the collation process is intact. We are going to paste the form EC8A where people will be at liberty to take pictures of the results which can give them an idea of what the result is.
“But why should politicians take the mirror image of the result when copies of the results will be given to every party? Yakubu asked.
On the extra cost INEC had incurred following the postponement of the elections, Yakubu said that it was impossible to put a finger on the issue.
“After the election, we will be able to know how much it cost us,” Yakubu said, as he revealed that each ad-hoc staff, won’t get less than N30,500.
He insisted that National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members remain the most reliable ad-hoc staff for the polls, adding that as graduates, they were easy to train.
As part of the measures to enhance the transparency of the electoral process, Yakubu said that INEC had secured lodges for the corps members.
On litigations where some candidates sued INEC for “not” taking action against certain politicians who spent beyond their campaign limits, Yakubu said: “We have not been served. If we are served, the commission will look into such.”
He admitted that INEC received a report of missing materials in a state and explained that the commission had compiled reports on the affected areas so that that all materials would be made available to them for the elections on Saturday.
On the virulent attacks on INEC by political parties and the federal government following the postponement of the elections, Yakubu said that “it’s normal.”
“We can only be worried if only one party accused us. But if it is different parties, you should know that we are independent.
“We are happy to be criticised. We have no candidate in the election and different political parties can criticise us. We are focused and we will ensure we do the right thing,” he said.
Yakubu, who denied that INEC is under pressure from politicians, said that the commission’s facilities were well protected across the country.
“I want to assure you that it is almost impossible to attack something that is off line,” Yakubu said of the INEC server stressing that, “we will strengthen security around our ICT facilities.
“At yesterday’s (Tuesday) briefing, we reported that we achieved 95 per cent configuration of the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) nationwide. The card readers were introduced in the 2015 general elections to facilitate the accreditation of voters using the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). They are configured to specific polling units and only open for use at 8 am on election day. They automatically shut down by 10 pm in order to forestall any illegal use before the appointed time of elections. I am pleased to report that we have now achieved 100 per cent completion of the configuration. We are good to go on this score,” Yakubu said.
“Similarly, I briefed you yesterday (Tuesday) that our state offices had commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the CBN to examine the retrieved materials deployed last week and to witness the batching of materials according to LGAs. Reports from the states indicate full compliance.
“Similarly, I briefed you yesterday (Tuesday) that having moved the sensitive materials to the 36 states and the FCT, the forward deployment to the 774 LGAs nationwide will commence today (yesterday) and be concluded today (Thursday). Already, Adamawa, Anambra, Benue, Ekiti, Jigawa, Katsina, Osun, Ogun, Oyo and Taraba States have commenced the movement of materials to the LGAs. Other states will do so and conclude tomorrow. We will give a full rendition of movement to LGAs across all states of the federation tomorrow (today),” Yakubu said.
The INEC chairman said that arrangements for the movement of personnel from the LGAs to the wards were on course and promised to brief the press today at 3pm.
FG Warns Foreign Observers To Be Neutral
Meanwhile, the federal government has drawn the “red lines” within which foreign election observers and members of the diplomatic community must operate during the general elections.
The government tasked the international observers to remain neutral throughout the entire elections.
At an interactive session the minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, had with the International Election Observer Missions, members of the diplomatic corps and the media at the ministry in Abuja, yesterday, Onyeama said that Nigeria cherishes the support of friendly, not so-friendly nations and the international media, in a bid to deliver peaceful and credible elections. He however insisted that such support should not be taken to the level of dictating to Nigeria on how to conduct its affairs.
He expressed the disappointment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government on the inability of INEC to deliver on elections, after being given all the resources requested and three and half years of preparations, warning that no excuses would be tolerated from the commission again. Onyeama said: “Mr. President and indeed all Nigerians will not accept any excuses for elections not to be held this Saturday. Nothing less will be acceptable to the government, and I am sure, to Nigerians.
“We have heard all kinds of conspiracy theories, that is why we deemed it necessary to hold this kind of interaction with you. I had cause to meet with some of you to discuss the general narrative. As members of the diplomatic community and international election observers, we welcome your engagement. We appreciate the support of your countries in the whole process, just like in 2015 when we were able to deliver credible and transparent elections.
“We welcome friendly and not so-friendly countries and the media in this process. But we have occasion to be concerned about the way the engagements have been communicated. One thing must be made clear, that the red lines must not be crossed from exalting us, to dictating to us or get into the nitty-gritty of how we run our country, which is exclusively the right of this government.
“It will be extremely surprising for Nigeria to dictate to you if you are holding elections in your countries. We hope that you will be impartial, and observe to ensure the elections are free, fair and credible and, not to show an indication of preference. That is the least this government will expect from a country with which Nigeria shares diplomatic ties,” the minister warned.
The chairman of INEC, who was represented at the event by Mustapha Lecky, a commissioner in the commission, reaffirmed that “all is now set for the Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.”
He said that only an act of God can stop the elections from commencing on Saturday, stressing that as praying country, “nothing will happen that will stop the elections.”
On security arrangement for the election, the acting inspector- general of police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, said that personnel had been trained and deployed before the election was postponed.
He said men and officers of the Nigeria Police would remain professional and impartial in the conduct of the elections and assured the election observers of their safety.
Buratai Orders Commanders To Enforce PMB’s Directive
From the chief of army staff (COAS), Lt-Gen. Tukur Butatai, came a reminder to commanders to comply with President Buhari’s order to the military to deal decisively with electoral crime offenders.
Buratai gave the order during a meeting with principal staff officers, general officers commanding and directors at Army Headquarters, Abuja in Abuja yesterday.
He however charged commanders to ensure that they steer clear of politicians at any level, remain apolitical and professional in the discharge of their duties
The COAS told the senior army officers that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable.
He said: “Those who seek to undermine our democracy by interfering in our electoral process must be seen as enemies of Nigeria and dealt with appropriately.”
He stated that the role of the army is aptly captured in the 1999 Constitution (as amended): the army must defend Nigeria’s territorial integrity as well as act in aid of civil authority when called upon to do so.
“Therefore, commanders must work with all stakeholders, interest groups and agencies to avert any act by any individual, groups or entities that seek to undermine our democratic process.
“Commanders must deal decisively with any electoral crime or action that would be inimical to national security.
“Commanders are to ensure that they and their personnel do not hobnob with politicians at any level. In this regard, there will be no military escort for any politician and all Nigerian Army personnel are to stay clear of retired military officers, especially those who are now politicians until after the elections.
“Commanders are to conduct extensive patrols within their Areas of Responsibility (AORs). They must ensure that all flash points within the area are dominated.
“Commanders must in conjunction with the NPF enforce the restriction on movement within their AORs. All vehicles must be searched and suspicious persons or vehicles arrested/impounded and later hand over to the NPF.
“Commanders must ensure they key into the Army Elections Security Monitoring Situation Room to send and receive near real-time information on events, as they occur in their area of responsibility (AOR),” he said
On the ballot box snatching saga, Gen. Buratai said that it was time the army and other security agencies rise up to the challenge of ensuring a peaceful outcome to this general election so as to give confidence to the citizens and to reassure the international community about the nation’s electoral process.
He said: “As we engage in these operations, we must remember that the army remains apolitical to ensure that no negative aspersion is cast on the Nigerian Army before, during or after the elections.
“It is unfortunate to hear persons who are aspiring to rule this country again inciting the army to disobedience.
“We have consistently stated our position in the political dispensation to remain neutral and apolitical. However, direct and public incitement of the Nigerian military against democracy and constituted civil authorities will not be tolerated.
“I request such persons to withdraw this inciting statement. Let me reemphasise loud and clear, that the Nigerian Army is a professional army, “he said
“One of our core values is loyalty to constituted authorities. Loyalty must be hundred per cent. I shall leave you in no doubt as to our resolve to bequeath a professionally responsive army to Nigeria and Nigerians.
“Should any officer or soldier have doubts as to his loyalty to the Nigerian state as at present constituted, such a person has up to 22nd February, 2019 to resign. There is no room for indiscipline or disobedience to lawful orders in the NA today,” he warned.
The COAS restated that the acts of electoral thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of election materials and similar crimes are intended to mar an election and create deliberate avenues for post-election violence and mayhem.
Buhari, APC Arm-twisting Security, INEC – PDP
In its comments on the raging issue, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) accused the Buhari presidency of plans to ambush the rescheduled elections using INEC and the security agencies.
PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, made the allegation at a press conference in Abuja yesterday.
He lamented that the presidency had been breathing down the neck of the INEC chairman (Yakubu) and alleged that resident electoral commissioners (RECs) had been directed to issue out result sheets to APC agents to falsify and declare results in favour of the ruling party.
The PDP said that the directive was given at a meeting held in the Presidency/APC Situation Room in the presidential villa on Tuesday night, where some key senior government officials were in attendance.
The PDP spokesman said that “since the postponement of the elections, the presidency and APC have been breathing down on the chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in a desperate and feverish bid to consolidate their control of the operations of the commission and execute its rigging plot.
“Intelligence at our disposal reveals that the INEC chairman has succumbed to back channel bullying by the Buhari presidency and APC to accede to their demand to replace electoral officers (EOs) in various critical states with APC agents who will vehemently execute President Buhari’s rigging plans in the February 23 presidential election,” the party said.
The PDP said it had full details of how the Department of State Services (DSS) has allegedly been interfering with operations of critical departments of INEC, including the ICT department, to do APC bidding.
“The PDP also has details of the meeting last night by President Buhari, some APC northern governors and Service Chiefs last night, whereupon pressure was mounted on the Service Chiefs in connection with the APC rigging plans.” it alleged.
The opposition party alerted Nigerians to the fact that “the INEC Chairman has been intimidated with threat of ‘Onnoghen’s treatment’ to accept a list of APC members and agents and post them to serve as EOs in various states including Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, Bauchi, Akwa-Ibom, Zamfara, Benue, Sokoto, Lagos, Plateau, Taraba, Borno, Adamawa, Kogi, Delta, Ebonyi among others”
The PDP therefore cautioned INEC to immediately end its back channel links and disentangle itself from the Buhari presidency or risk being on collision course with the Nigerian people.
Also yesterday, the PDP urged Gen. Buratai to refrain from acts or actions that would suggest that the military had become an arm of a political party.
The PDP, in a statement issued by Ologbondiyan, said that Gen. Buratai’s allusion to Atiku Abubakar as well as his threats to officers and ranks to execute the unlawful order by President Buhari to participate in the electoral process was an aberration of the nation’s laws and a recipe for crisis.
The PDP stated that Atiku spoke on the side of the law and wishes of Nigerians and cannot be intimidated by anybody no matter how highly placed.
“Gen. Buratai is counselled to note that the loyalty of the military is to the state and that the president lacks the powers, under our laws, to deploy soldiers for the conduct of elections.
“Our party urges Gen. Buratai to concentrate on his very demanding assignment of protecting the territorial integrity of our nation and ending insurgency rather than dabbling into partisan politics at the risk of our national cohesion,” he said.
PMB Will Get 78% Of Votes – Enang
In his permutation, the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, has said that Buhari would win Saturday’s presidential election with 78 per cent of the votes cast.
Enang told State House correspondents that his position was informed by the achievements of the president; the vigorous campaigns of APC, and the president’s fair treatment of all parts of the country.
He said: “From the campaigns on the field, all the fillers we had, the support we had from the East, the West, the South, the North and all parts of Nigeria and the words of the president, the capacity of the campaign team and campaign machinery, the intellectual and intelligent words that hold and convince Nigerians that President Buhari is the best person to go for a second term as president.
“This makes us confident and I am sure that in every state of the federation, President Buhari was able to show what he has done for that state,” Enang said.
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