The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on Saturday met with stakeholders in preparation for the July 16 governorship election in Osun State, decrying increasing spate of insecurity in the state.
The meeting which was attended by the INEC National Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, to review the security arrangement for the upcoming election as part of the inter-agency consultative committee, was attended by heads of various security agencies as well as the Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Commissioner of Police, Osun State.
Welcoming the committee members, Mahmood said the
synergy between the Commission and the security agencies on the one hand, and among the security agencies on the other, ensured a seamless coordination of efforts resulting in the widely acclaimed success of the election in Ekiti State.
The Ekiti State election did not spill over to the second day as happened with past elections in Nigeria. Although ballot box snatching and destruction of voting exercise were not recorded, vote buying was rife and Mahmood drew the attention of the committee to the malaise.
He however promised to build on the success of the Ekiti experience to ensure improved performance in subsequent elections, including the 2023 General Election.
The Nigerian general elections kick-off in February 2023 with the presidential election and end in March with the governorship and state houses of assembly elections.
Mahmood said the next two weeks will be devoted to the Osun election as one of the series of off season elections.
He explained that “all the major activities that are supposed to be carried out at this stage have been successfully undertaken” and that “the Commission is deploying a readiness assessment team to Osun State next week to assess our preparations for the elections.
“We will visit some of our Local Government offices in the state, hold meetings with our staff, brief the Council of Traditional Rulers to solicit the support of their Royal Majesties for peaceful elections and meet with the security agencies and transporters.
“We will also observe the mock accreditation of voters in some Polling Units across the three Senatorial Districts of the State to test the functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
“A few days to the election, we will return to Osun State to meet with the stakeholders and for the signing of the Peace Accord by political parties and candidates under the auspices of the National Peace Committee,” he said.
While noting that the atmosphere was generally calm at the moment, the electoral umpire boss said the Commission was “nevertheless concerned about reports of clashes in some places. In one recent example, the collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) was disrupted in Erin Oke and Erin Ijesha Wards of Oriade Local Government Area resulting in the loss of 46 PVCs.
“While the matter is being investigated by the police, the collection of PVCs for the affected Wards is now taking place in the INEC office in Ijebu-Jesha.”
He further explained that the state office has compiled the Voter Identification Numbers (VINs) of the cards and the Commission had already reprinted the PVCs for the affected voters.
He assured all valid registrants in Osun State that no one will be disenfranchised on account of such incident.
He further noted that, “It is futile for anyone to attempt to vote using another person’s PVC. The BVAS biometric accreditation will expose such fraud and persons apprehended will be prosecuted under the law.”
He said recent experience had shown that, “Vote buying remains a major area of concern. We appreciate the role played by the anti-corruption and security agencies in apprehending some of the perpetrators of this brazen assault on our democracy.
“In particular, we are working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ensure the prosecution of persons arrested in the recent Ekiti Governorship election. Action will commence as soon as the EFCC completes its investigation. I appeal to all security agencies to continue to join hands with the Commission to tackle this menace.”
Mahmood used the occasion to reassure all Nigerians who applied for Certified True Copies (CTCs) of documents arising from the recent party congresses, primaries and nomination of candidates that all requests are being attended to expeditiously despite the huge quantities of documents involved.
He said Nigerian elections, especially the conduct of primaries for the nomination of candidates by political parties, is one of the most litigated in the world.
“As at yesterday evening (Friday 1st July 2022), 216 requests have so far been processed involving the certification of over One Million Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand (1,650,000) pages of documents.
“Indeed, there are now far more cases challenging the breach of internal democracy within political parties than those involving the conduct of the main elections by INEC.”
He promised to “work round the clock, including the weekends, to ensure that we attend to all applications received at the headquarters of the Commission promptly.”