INEC is ready for credible elections, says Yakubu

“Voting begins at 8.30am and ends at 2.30pm tomorrow. However, any voter who is on the queue before 2.30pm will be allowed to vote

Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is ready for credible Presidential and National Assembly elections on today.

Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman of INEC, said this while briefing newsmen on the Commission’s preparations for the 2023 general elections on Friday in Abuja.

He expressed satisfaction with the level of the commission‘s preparations including the distribution of election materials.

“We are glad about the progress we are making with the movement of materials to the various locations around the country.

“Having deployed these materials to the Local Government Areas, we are today devolving the deployment to the Registration Area Centres (RACs) so that early morning tomorrow the polls will open as planned.

“These RACs have been activated and election duty staff has started arriving in them.”

Yakubu said that generally speaking, the situation nationwide was calm as far as INEC preparations were concerned.

“There has been no incident involving the personnel or huge quantities of materials deployed by the Commission.

“Voter enthusiasm is high and so too is our determination to conduct credible elections,” Yakubu said.

He, however, said that INEC was aware of the situation in Imo State in the South Eastern part of the country.

Yakubu said it was reported that some of the critical polling unit officials drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have withdrawn their participation from some Local Government Areas as a result of the perennial insecurity.

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“From the report we received from our State office, concerns have been expressed about the security situation in Osu Local Government Area, five Wards in Okigwe and six in Orlu.

“However, we have been assured that with enough mobilisations of security personnel to the area, it is possible for elections to hold in these locations.

“I have been in touch with the IGP who will brief us on their plans to secure these locations for elections to hold peacefully when he addresses us shortly,” Yakubu said.

He said that INEC was committed to free, fair and credible elections, as well ensuring that no eligible voter is disenfranchised.

“Voting begins at 8.30am and ends at 2.30pm tomorrow. However, any voter who is on the queue before 2.30pm will be allowed to vote even if voting goes beyond the official closing time. No voter will be disenfranchised.”

Yakubu said that INEC had established a Situation Room at the National Collation Centre.

He said INEC Citizens’ Contact Centre (ICCC) was already up and running, saying Nigerians can contact the commission on its social media handles live and direct on Election Day.

Answering questions on likely challenges on INEC ICT facilities, especially internet services, cyber-attack on its facilities, Yakubu said INEC anticipated two challenges; technical and malicious act.

“On technical we are working with mobile telecommunications company to take care of such challenges. We have taken sufficient steps to fortify our portal and systems.

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“We are aware of the anticipated challenges and we are up to the task,” Yakubu said.

Also speaking at the occasion, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, said that a total of 425,106 joint security operatives had been deployed for the Saturday election.

“In the Police we have 310,973; NSCDC 51,000; FRSC 21,000; Nigerian Correctional Service 11,336; NDLEA 9,447; EFCC 350 and Nigeria Immigration Service 21,000.”

Baba also said that the orderlies attached to the Very Important Personalities (VIPs), and some politicians would be withdrawn during the polls.

He said the Force expects the VIPs to also drop their armed bodyguards or orderlies from escorting them to the polling booths.

“If escorted to the polling units, the orderlies of VIPs should stay at a distance for the VIP to cast his or her vote before being escorted away.

“Just like in any other election, we expect our VIPs to drop their bodyguards/orderlies that are armed in escorting them to the polling stations.

“Even if they escort them, they should stop or stay at a distance so that the person can cast his votes and leave with his aides. We do not expect our men in the polling units.

“We have told our officers to comply. Those of them with the VIPs have also been communicated through our medium of communication,” he said.

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Baba, however, said that the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN) remain a challenge.

He added that political thuggery, inter-party crisis and intra-party violence, hate speeches, political intolerance, extremism as well as anti-democratic conducts of some of the state governors and other strategic political actors remained a challenge.

“The police have established a cybercrime centre to monitor cyber threats in real time and to conduct social media analysis of key and non-key players in the electoral process.

“The personnel to be deployed have a clear knowledge of their roles and ethical standard to carry out their duties.

“The security challenges that have been identified would be managed by the police.

“Our analysis of the current security threats has reduced drastically compared to what we recorded in the last one month,” Baba said.

Asked if security on election duty would be made to swear to oath of neutrality and allegiance, Baba said security offices were already subjected to the oaths in the discharge of the duties to the country.

On the welfare of security personnel, Yakubu said that their welfare had been taken care of.

“As for welfare, government has provided what we have asked and releases have been made. We are taking care of our officers in the six geopolitical zones and the funds are being released,” Baba said.