The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said it would not shift date for the presidential election, despite recent fire incidents that destroyed several Smart Card Reader Machines it originally configured for the 2019 polls.
The electoral body expressed its readiness to conduct the most credible elections in the history of the country, during the unveiling of a central election monitoring hub for Civil Society Organisations, CSOs.
The monitoring centre which is situated at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, will be manned by the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room and foreign election observation groups.
Speaking at the event, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, who was represented by one of his National Commissioners, Mr. Festus Okoye, noted that fire outbreaks that gutted election materials in three of its offices across the federation, constituted a set-back to its earlier arrangements for a smooth conduct of the 2019 polls.
However, he insisted that the set-back was not such that could significantly affect the election process, saying the commission had since made alternative plans to replace over 4, 695 Card Readers that were destroyed on Tuesday at INEC’s warehouse in Anambra State.
He said the commission would not postpone the impending elections for any reason.
According to him, “INEC will be open and transparent through out the entire election process. We are going to be upfront with information relating to our processes and our procedures.
Were ever we have challenges, we are going to be honest with the Nigerian people relating to our challenges.
“In relation to this particular elections, we had some challenges yesterday (Tuesday), but we were able to recover, and as I speak, we are moving all the Smart Card Readers required for the conduct of elections in Anambra State and we are not going to postpone the election in any part of Nigeria on grounds of some of these challenges
“As some of you are aware, this election will be conducted in over 120,000 polling units, and we also have over 50, 000 voting points. The voting points were created to ease the process of voting, especially for the Nigerian people. “
We have over 91 political parties that are registered in Nigeria and 73 of these political parties sponsored candidates for the presidential election.
“The process of collating the results manually will be issued out and INEC had decided that one collation officer per registration area cannot do the job and do it effectively and do it in such a way that the anxiety of the Nigerian people relating to who will be their next president will be addressed on time.
“Based on that, INEC has recruited two collation officers for each registration area and two collation officers for the 774 Local Government Areas.
“So, the collation officer for the presidential election is different. The collation officer will collate and proceed and since the presidential election will move from the registration area to the local governments and then to the state before it gets to the Federal Capital Territory to the national collation center.
“While the collation officer for the Senatorial and the House of Representative elections will move and stop at a certain point where declaration will be made.
In order for us not to keep the Nigerian people waiting for too long, we are going to have two collation officers in the 8,809 registration areas and two collation officers for the 774 LGAs in the country for the purposes of the first election.
“Secondly, we are going to conduct elections in all the IDP camps. During the continuous voter’s exercise, we asked all the Resident Electoral Commissioners in all the States with IDP problems, to document all eligible voters in the IDP camps.
“Those who lost their PVCs on account of misplacement, we replaced all their voters card, having satisfied ourselves that they were registered voters.
We also registered new voters in the various IDP camps. “So we have made robust arrangement for them to vote because we don’t want to get any Nigerian disenfranchised.
“Thirdly, in relation to the role of the military in this election, the Electoral Act was amended in 2015 to give INEC specific functions in relation to deployment of the Nigerian Police Force and the military in elections.
“For this election, we are utilizing the services of the Nigerian Air Force in lifting sensitive materials like ballot papers and result sheets to the various states and to the various Central Banks and they are also lifting sensitive materials to difficult terrains.
“Likewise, for the riverine areas, INEC will hire gun boats that will escort both the sensitive materials and the election personnel.
The gunboats will be in the front and back to protect some of the young people that are going to be engaged in this elections.
“That will be the extent to which we are going to use the Nigerian military for the purpose of this election.
“Having said that, let me also reiterate the fact that the Nigerian military is also involved in internal security operations in almost 32 states of the federation and they are going to remain and do their internal security operations which has absolutely nothing to do with the conduct of these elections.
“On behalf of INEC we want to thank the CSOs and international observers, and we pledge that we are going to corporate with everybody to give Nigerians an election they will be proud of”, Okoye added.
He however enjoined observers to give accurate report of the elections. Meanwhile, in her speech, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said the United Kingdom would not hesitate to take stern actions against anyone found to have instigated violence in any part of the country during the elections.
She noted that the UK government had earlier issued a statement to remind all the political actors about its visa policies.
“Anyone who is found to incite violence or encourage violence could be subject to visa ban or have their assets seized, and in the worst case scenario, face prosecution”, Laing added.
She expressed concern about what she termed as “horrible cases of hate speech” during presidential rallies of the leading political parties in the country.
In attendance at the occasion included the Ambassador of the United States of America, Mr. Stuart Symington, and representative of the United Nations, Mr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas.
Earlier in his remarks, convener of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room and Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, stressed the need for security agencies to adopt a non partisan stance throughout the elections.
He further urged the foreign election observers to disregard the “body bags” comment of the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, even as he knocked FG over its failure to denounce and distance itself from El-Rufai’s position.