The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has assured voters in Ekiti state that their choice through their votes will determine who will be the next Governor of the State.
Chairman of the INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, during a stakeholders meeting ahead of the election scheduled for Saturday, said the Commission is aware that stakeholders have expressed concerns about the election and would like to be given assurances in two critical areas.
On transparency, credibility of the election; and security and peaceful conduct, Yakubu said all those critical issues have been taken care of, adding, “We are taking both issues very seriously. I will speak about our preparations for free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive election. I am also glad that the Inspector General of Police, as the head of the lead agency in internal security, is personally here today to address the triple dimensions of securing the process before, during and after the elections.”
For INEC, the Chairman, 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 will not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. “Our focus is on the processes and procedures as provided by law. In this regard, the election holding this weekend is historic being the first Governorship election that the Commission will be conducting based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 which came into force about four months ago on 25th February 2022.
“It is also the first election to be conducted based on our revised Regulations and Guidelines anchored on the provisions of the new Electoral Act. We have also revised our Training Manual to reflect the provisions of the new Electoral Act as well as the Regulations and Guidelines.” he said.
So far, he said the Commission has implemented several activities for the election. According to him, We have taken every step and made every arrangement for the successful conduct of the Governorship election this weekend. We held many 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.
Voter education and sensitisation is ongoing. 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.
Yakubu stated that vote registration was carried out all over the State, including the devolution of the exercise to the 177 Wards across the State and that the Commission has printed and delivered the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for all valid registrants in Ekiti State and collection of the cards by voters is ongoing.
“I am happy to note that many citizens have already collected their cards. Of the 988,923 registered voters in Ekiti State, 749,065 (or 76%) have collected their cards as at yesterday Monday 13th June 2022.
“However, in the last few days, the Commission has received several inquiries from citizens who are yet to collect their PVCs and are demanding to know when the collection of cards will be suspended before the election. In response to these enquiries, I wish to announce that the collection of PVCs will continue in all our 16 Local Government Area Offices until Thursday16th 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.”
Speaking further he said, “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.”
The Commission he said has continued to deploy technology in the electoral process both as a matter of practice and a requirement of the law.
Yakubu assured that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will 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, 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.” he added.
Also, he said 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.
“On Election Day, the national headquarters of INEC in Abuja will monitor the election throughout the State. 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.” he added.
Yakubu noted that “Like every conscientious Nigerian, the Commission is deeply worried by the use of money to induce voters on Election Day. 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.”