Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu has restated that the Commission has no plans to postpone the general elections slated for February 16 and March 2, 2019, assuring Nigerians and the international community that the elections will hold as scheduled. Against the backdrop of pending legal tussles from the primaries organised by
Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu has restated that the Commission has no plans to postpone the general elections slated for February 16 and March 2, 2019, assuring Nigerians and the international community that the elections will hold as scheduled.
Against the backdrop of pending legal tussles from the primaries organised by political parties, suggesting that INEC may have to postpone some elections, Yakubu told stakeholders at a meeting on Thursday, that the Commission will not be swayed into postponing any of the scheduled polls. “INEC will not postpone any elections but we will make contingency arrangements in case some of the orders come close to elections,” the INEC boss says.
While disclosing that the Commission has been dragged to court for 640 times and received 540 applications for the Certified True Copy (CTC) of documents, Yakubu promised that the Commission under his watch will continue to obey all court orders, stressing that it would not be deterred in the discharge of its functions.
Said he: “Court cases arising from the conduct of congress and primaries have risen to 640. INEC has been dragged to court 640 times. We have received 540 requests for certified true copy of documents. We have received 186 petitions over the conduct of congresses and party primaries.”
“It is the policy of INEC to obey court orders. People ask if the judgments from these courts are decided close to elections if INEC will postpone the elections, INEC will not postpone any elections but we will make contingency arrangements in case some of the orders come close to elections.”
The INEC chairman also assured the stakeholders that he would “never fail Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Stating that Smart Card Reader (SCR) will be deployed in the elections, Yakubu expressed surprise that many Nigerians complained of not collecting their PVCs at the centres.
He revealed that the Commission printed a total of 14.2 million PVCs after the voters’ registration, adding that those cards were ready for collection.
He said: “Let me assure the nation and the stakeholders that smart card reader will be deployed in the 2019 elections. The next big issue for us is the voter register and the availability of the PVC.”
“We have heard so many complaints by citizens that they have been to collection centers but we are surprised to hear that in some centres they were told to come back that the cards were not printed. We have 14.2 million new voters, the Commission printed 14.2 million cards. The Commission is going to meet today (Thursday) and where it is necessary, we will review the arrangements for the collection of PVC.”
He urged the transport companies to ensure that polling units receive the electoral materials at 7:30am while voting should commence at 8am. According him, priority has been given to the elderly, visibly pregnant women and the physically challenged persons to vote at the polling units or voting points.
The INEC chairman reiterated that while magnifying glasses and Braille have been provided for the visually impaired to aid them to vote, form EC30 containing bold instructions on how the deaf should cast their votes will be posted at every polling units as well as the voting points.
He also stated that the list of returning officers would be vetted to ensure that partisan members of academic staff were not included.
According to him, 148 observer groups comprising 119 domestic observer groups and 29 foreign observer groups have been accredited by the Commission to monitor the polls.
Also speaking on the preparations for the elections, the Acting Inspector-General (IG) of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, noted that the security agency has identified the flashpoints.
Also, as part of the efforts to address the issue, the IG said no VIP (Very Important Person) would be allowed to move around with police escort on election days, warning that any policeman who contravened the rule would be arrested.
“No escort of VIPs on election day, any policeman who contravenes this order would be arrested,” the acting IG said.
Head of the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission for the 2019 elections, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, earlier asked the Police to ensure a peaceful, free and fair general election. She made the call on Wednesday when she visited the acting IG, Mohammed Adamu.
Sirleaf, a former Liberian President, however, commended the Police for what she described as their professionalism in the run up to the elections.
Responding, the acting IG said Police personnel were fully prepared for a hitch-free exercise. According to him, they have been trained in various aspects of election security matters, before, during and after the elections.
Meanwhile, INEC has extended the deadline for collection of PVCs from Friday, 8th February to Monday, 11th February, 2019. This will include Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 6pm. Yakubu made the announcement at today’s meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners in Abuja.
The Commission directed all state offices to review the procedure for the collection of PVCs and dedicate all the staff of the Local Government offices to the collection process.
INEC enjoined its staff to be civil in attending to citizens and to report issues that they cannot immediately resolve to their superiors.
The Commission further reassured Nigerians that it will continue to take every necessary step to ensure that no registered voter is disenfranchised on account of non-collection of PVCs.
Similarly, the Commission said it is taking urgent steps to address complaints of unavailability of the PVCs of some registered voters before the end of the deadline for the collection.
“We wish to reiterate that after the deadline of Monday 11th February 2019, all uncollected PVCs will be recalled and deposited with the CBN for safe-keeping until after the General Elections when the collection of cards and the continuous registration of voters will resume,” INEC said on the microblogging website, Twitter.
In a related development, INEC office in Abia state has confirmed that 319 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were burnt in Monday’s fire at the Commission’s office at Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of the state.
Head, Voter Education and Publicity of the Commission, Mr Godfrey Achibie, disclosed the figure in an interview with journalists in Umuahia on Thursday.
He dismissed as unfounded the report in some section of the media that over 15,000 PVCs were destroyed by the fire.
Imploring journalists to always verify their reports from the right source before publication, Achibie said, “Don’t listen to the people on the roadside and start publishing.’’
According to him, only a section of the office, where the PVCs were stored, was affected by the fire and not the entire building.
He said that the Commission was deeply concerned about the incident and was taking serious steps to quickly address it.
Achibie gave assurance that the Commission would replace the burnt PVCs, but could not confirm whether they would be ready before the February 16 presidential election.
While expressing happiness over the enthusiasm shown by the people of the state towards the collection of their PVCs, he urged the people to be of good conduct during the polls, saying that INEC was ready to conduct free, credible and transparent elections.