Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said reassured political parties, candidates, and the electorate that the choice of who becomes the next governor of Ekiti State is entirely in the hands of voters.
INEC stressed that it will not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate, adding that the commission has taken every step to ensure that the election this weekend is free, fair, credible, inclusive, and safe.
The chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this in his address at the Ekiti Governorship Election Stakeholders’ Meeting in Ado Ekiti yesterday, said the focus of the Commission is on the processes and procedures as provided by law.
Like every conscientious Nigerian, Yakubu said the Commission is deeply worried about the use of money to induce voters on election day.
He said, “Clearly, vote buying is a threat to our electoral democracy. To discourage the practice, we changed the configuration of our polling units to bring the ballot boxes closer to the voting cubicles and also banned the use of mobile phones and photographic devices by voters while in the voting cubicles.
“We have also intensified our collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to deal with both the buyers and the takers under the law. I urge all stakeholders to join the commission in tackling the menace.”
Yakubu said the election is historic being the first Governorship election that the Commission will be conducted based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 which came into force about four months ago on 25th February 2022.
He said INEC had held several meetings with political parties and their candidates.
“We had several engagements with the security agencies at national, state and local government levels. We consulted with stakeholders.
“We sought for, and received, the blessings of Royal Fathers and religious leaders. We have recruited, trained and carefully screened all categories of ad-hoc staff to be deployed to the field. We have delivered all non-sensitive materials for the election.”
He said voter education and sensitisation are ongoing in the state.
“We have made arrangements for the transportation of personnel and materials to all polling units on Election Day. For a more effective supervision of the process, we have deployed four National Commissioners, eight Resident Electoral Commissioners and many senior officials to support our State office here in Ekiti State to deliver credible elections.
“Voter registration was carried out all over the State, including the devolution of the exercise to the 177 Wards across the State. We have printed and delivered the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for all valid registrants in Ekiti State and collection of the cards by voters is ongoing.”
He said he was happy to note that many citizens have already collected their cards. Of the 988,923 registered voters in Ekiti State, 749,065 (or 76 per cent) have collected their cards as at yesterday Monday 13th June 2022.
He, however, said in the last few days, the Commission had received several inquiries from citizens who are yet to collect their PVCs and were demanding to know when the collection of cards would be suspended before the election.
“In response to these inquiries, I wish to announce that the collection of PVCs will continue in all our 16 Local Government Area Offices until Thursday 16th June 2022 to allow us one day (i.e. Friday 17th June 2022) for movement to the Registration Area Centres. I appeal to all registered voters that are yet to collect the PVCs to seize the opportunity to do so.
“To underscore our commitment to an inclusive, credible and transparent electoral process, the Commission is deploying a number of assistive devices for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) to have a more pleasant voting experience on Election Day. Magnifying glasses, Braille Ballot Guide and Posters for voters with hearing conditions will be deployed at polling unit level in areas of need based on data collected in collaboration with the PwD community.
“Similarly, our revised Regulations and Guidelines provide for priority to be accorded at polling units to PwDs without waiting in long queues during voting as is the case with elderly people, pregnant women and nursing mothers,” he said.
Speaking further, he said the Commission would continue to deploy technology in the electoral process both as a matter of practice and a requirement of the law.
He said the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would be deployed for voter accreditation and uploading of election results to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal on Election Day.
“The devices have already been configured and charged for the election. Steps have been taken to ensure that the BVAS machines function optimally during voter accreditation based on lessons learnt from the conduct of recent elections.
“A few weeks ago, a mock accreditation exercise was conducted in polling units across the three Senatorial Districts of Ekiti State. I personally observed the mock exercise in Ado, Ikere and Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Areas. We are encouraged by the successful outcome of the exercise. We have also trained enough Registration Area Technical Support (RATECHs) staff and made adequate transportation arrangements for their rapid response in the event of reported glitches on Election Day.
“The Commission has accredited Polling Agents nominated by political parties for all the 2,445 polling units, 177 Ward collation centres, 16 Local Government Area collation centres and the State Collation Centre where the final declaration of result will be made.
“As a testimony to the intense national and international interest in the 2022 Ekiti State Governorship Election, 87 observer groups (79 domestic and 8 international) have been accredited to observe the election. Similarly, 483 journalists representing 91 media organisation were accredited to cover the election as at yesterday afternoon.”
He said the INEC headquarters would monitor the election in Ekiti throughout the state.
He said, “Our Zoom Situation Room will be activated. We are working to ensure that accredited observers and the media are invited to join us at intervals to provide live reports from the field. At the same time, citizens can contact us on our various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.”