Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu said, “only an Act of God can stop the conduct of the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly election slated for Saturday. He stated this in Abuja while addressing a cross section of the diplomatic community and international election monitoring groups in Nigeria, for the
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu said, “only an Act of God can stop the conduct of the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly election slated for Saturday.
He stated this in Abuja while addressing a cross section of the diplomatic community and international election monitoring groups in Nigeria, for the 2019 General Election.
The briefing which was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in conjunction with INEC, was aimed at engaging with friends and partners of Nigeria on the rescheduled election.
Yakubu, who was represented by an INEC National Commissioner, Dr Mustapha Lecky, said that the Commission had put in place everything possible to ensure the elections hold on Saturday.
The INEC boss said that the commission had no reason to feel that anything would stop the conduct of the election on February 23.
He said the Commission has developed a six-point agenda of what needed to be done to ensure success of the election, revealing that the INEC has now completed the deployment of materials.
“We believe that as a prayerful nation, the act of God has been assuaged and that things will go right, we have no reason to feel that anything will go wrong.
“We have received all the materials, they have been checked, audited, people have been informed, party agents have gone there to check,” he said.
The official said that INEC had already taken responsibility for the postponement and that the body was committed to surpass achievement of previous elections in the country.
He blamed the postponement on logistics and problems associated with the primaries of some political parties, which according to him delayed the printing of ballot papers.
The Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, said the Police was working with other security agencies to ensure maximum security during the elections
Adamu said that he would ensure ballot box snatchers and other criminal elements who may attempt to scuttle the polls are arrested and prosecuted according to the law.
He said, the Police had taken measures to protect voters, officials as well as election observers during the polls, warning trouble makers to rethink or be made to face the consequences of their actions.
“The police will be professional, impartial and will create a level playing ground for all parties. All security personnel were trained by various security agencies, training was also given by Civil Society Organisations and other partners towards free, fair and transparent elections.”
“We on our part, will be professional and impartial. We are going to create enabling environment for all the political parties to operate freely without molestation without favouring one party against another,” he said.
The INEC Chairman, earlier on Tuesday, said that anyone who engages in ballot box snatching during the rescheduled general elections will be punished legally in according to the stipulations of the Electoral Act as amended.
He said this at the at the International Conference Centre, Abuja while updating the press on preparations of the Commission towards Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections in response to question on President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to military personnel to deal decisively with ballot box snatchers.
Dismissing speculations that the INEC National Commissioner in-charge of Logistics, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, was being interrogated by the Department of State Security (DSS), Yakubu said that no official of the Commission was invited by security agencies. “No Commissioner of INEC was picked up or being interrogated by security agents,” he said. He specifically said “Prof. Ibeanu is as we speak in his office at the Commission”.
Yakubu pointed out that plans by the Commission to correct its steps consequent upon the botched polls last Saturday has been strictly followed to the letters. To this extent, he promised that from Wednesday, all election materials will be transmitted from local government areas across the country to polling units.
Although INEC has identified eight local government areas in Borno State that has security challenges and which is seriously affected by the Boko Haram onslaught, Yakubu promised that election will take place in the troubled state.
Speaking on logistics infractions that led to the rescheduling of last Saturday’s polls, he admitted some mix up of election materials especially that of transporting parcels of materials meant for Katsina State to the Federal Capital Territory. While explaining that there was no way the mix up could have affected the election, the chairman assured that such mix up will not happen during the March 9 governorship and State Assembly elections.
He also assured that there is no way the firm contracted to provide smart card readers and PVCs could have any inputs in the configuration of such machines for the election, even as he disclosed that “98 per cent of the Smart Card Readers have been reconfigured” in preparation for the Presidential and National Assembly elections rescheduled for this Saturday.
He said: “Last Saturday, the Commission, after extensive review of our preparedness for the 2019 general elections, decided that it was necessary to reschedule the elections by one week. As I explained to stakeholders, we were constrained to shift the polls due to severe challenges and lapses that we experienced with arrival and distribution of sensitive materials, as well as the fires that gutted some of our offices in quick succession, destroying several election materials”.
In order to achieve its set objectives, INEC, Yakubu said, had identified six areas covering three broad areas like deployment of materials, movement of personnel and reconfiguration of Smart Card Readers.
“Let me therefore present to you the level of implementation so far achieved as follow: By 4pm yesterday, all issues relating to the delivery of the materials were identified and virtually addressed. Ballot papers, result sheets and a host of non-sensitive materials are now in location across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.”
“Our State offices commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine the retrieved materials deployed last week and to witness the batching of materials according to Local Government Areas LGAs. This is ongoing at the moment and is expected to be completed today, Tuesday 19, February 2019.”
“The movement of materials to LGAs for batching according to Wards and Polling Units shall take place on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st February 2019. All Registration Area Centres (RACs) are to be activated by 9.00 am on Friday 22nd February 2019.”
“Personnel and materials should be at the RACs by mid-day on Friday 22nd February 2019. Refresher training for ad hoc personnel should take place at the RACs on Friday 22nd February 2019. Personnel and materials must arrive at the Polling Units latest 7am on Saturday 23rd February 2019. Opening of polls nationwide will take place at 8am on Saturday 23rd February 2019”, he declared.
Explaining further on rationale for postponement of the polls, the INEC Chairman said: “You would recall that in my address to stakeholders, I mentioned that we intended to reschedule the elections for just 24 hours to enable us to deliver the final batch of sensitive materials for the elections. However, our ICT team notified us that it would require more time to reconfigure the Smart Card Readers in time for the elections.”
“Let me explain why: The Smart Card Readers (SCRs) are configured to only open for use at 8am on Election Day, and to automatically shut down by 10 pm. This is designed to forestall any illegal use of the SCRs before the appointed time of elections.”
“There are roughly 180,000 SCRs to be deployed for the elections and the ICT team said that they would require 5-6 days to complete the configuration. I am glad to say that as at today, about 98% of the SCRs have been reconfigured and we are confident that by tomorrow all would be ready, which is a day earlier than scheduled.”
“Following requests by some stakeholders last Saturday and further consultation with political party leaders, the Commission has approved that campaigns by political parties and candidates can resume immediately for the first set of elections. Consequently, campaigns for the Presidential and National Assembly elections shall now end at midnight on Thursday 21st February 2019 while campaigns for the Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council elections shall end at midnight Thursday 7th March 2019. Accordingly, media organizations are at liberty to accept, publish, broadcast and circulate campaign materials until the specified end of campaigns.”
“Preparations for Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council elections are well underway. Already, the sensitive materials for the elections have started arriving at various locations for onward movement to various Central Bank branches across the country.”
“Indeed, some of these materials arriving through our airports have been erroneously construed by some people as materials for the elections holding this weekend. I want to reassure you all that all materials for the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections next Saturday are already in the States ready for deployment to LGAs, Ward and Polling Units.”
“We have learnt a lesson from the preparations for the elections holding this weekend. For this reason, we shall start the movement of materials for the next elections early to ensure that nothing disrupts our process.”
“While we fully understand the disappointment and even anger that followed that rescheduling of the elections on 16th February, I wish to appeal to stakeholders to be more dispassionate and circumspect in their comments in order not to overheat the polity.”
“The Commission is focusing on the elections to be held on 23rd February and 9th March 2019 to ensure that they are free, fair and credible. We urge all Nigerians to participate fully in the elections, notwithstanding the disappointment caused by the rescheduling of dates”, he added.