INEC ON COURSE TO FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN ANAMBRA, WARNS AGAINST VOTER APATHY

Yakubu concluded by appealing to all political parties and candidates not to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity in Anambra State through unguarded utterances and actions

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

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has assured that INEC  has met most of the milestone requirements for organizing credible elections in the forthcoming Anambra gubernatorial elections scheduled for 6th November 2021. He however decried the deteriorating security situation in the state which he said was a threat to free participation of the electorate;

The Chairman made his comments at an emergency meeting held on Friday, October 8, 2021, in Abuja with the political parties in the state.

Below are excerpts of the meeting:

“This emergency meeting has become necessary in order to brief you on our continuing preparations for the election and to discuss recent developments in the State beginning with the registration of voters and compilation of the voters’ register.”

“You may recall that before the end of the First Quarter of the CVR nationwide, we devolved the exercise to the Wards or Registration Areas in Anambra State. The end of registration was followed by the cleanup of the data to remove the names of ineligible registrants before the printing of the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).”

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“In Anambra State, a total of 138,802 citizens completed the registration, including applications for transfer and requests for replacement of lost, damaged or defaced PVCs as required by law. However, in the process of cleaning up the registration data, we discovered that many previously registered persons re-registered afresh. As a testimony to the effectiveness of our new system for checking double and multiple registrations, the Commission found out that some 62,698 persons who are already registered voters in Anambra State went ahead to register again. These double or multiple registrations are invalid by law. We have archived these registrations and will not print new PVCs for them. Their old PVCs remain valid and they can use them to vote at the Polling Units where they registered and probably voted in previous elections. The same cleaning-up exercise is going on nationwide. As soon as it is over, the Commission will provide further details to Nigerians on the situation in other States of the Federation and action to be taken on the matter. Let me remind all Nigerians that the law prohibits double registration. The Commission appreciates the fact that the deployment of technology, including the online pre-registration, has simplified the process and made voter registration in Nigeria easier. However, the same technology has also made it easier for us to detect multiple registrations.”

“Consequently, the number of valid registrants in Anambra State at the end of the First Quarter of the CVR exercise on 5th September 2021 is 77,475. This figure has been added to the existing register of 2,447,996 eligible voters used for the 2019 General Election. Accordingly, the number of registered voters in Anambra State now stands at 2,525,471. We shall provide a detailed breakdown of the figure for public information in the days ahead.”

“I am glad to report that we have already completed 10 out of 14 activities in our Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Governorship election. Only yesterday, we published the final list of candidates in our State and Local Government offices in Anambra State and simultaneously uploaded the same information to our website and social media platforms. Furthermore, all the 18 political parties participating in the election were issued a soft copy of the updated register of voters at a meeting held in our State Office in Awka. We are presently working on the printing of the PVCs. We shall use various channels, including e-mails and text messages, to contact the new voters to collect their PVCs before the election.”

“We have almost completed the recruitment of ad hoc staff for the election. In all, about 26,000 election duty staff are required. Although there are still some minor shortfalls, we believe that we will complete the recruitment in time for their training scheduled to commence on 19th October 2021. The training of other categories of staff, such as Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) has been completed, while the training of Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) will commence soon.”

“Turning to voter accreditation, I wish to assure you that the Commission is committed to deploying the BVAS for electronic fingerprint and facial accreditation of voters. The pilot deployment of the system in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State held last month was very encouraging. For example, successful full biometric accreditation was 32.8% in the constituency during the 2019 General Election. However, using the BVAS in the same constituency during the recent bye-election, successful accreditation sharply rose to 97.4%. The Commission will continue to deploy appropriate technology to improve our electoral process. Let me once again reiterate the position of the Commission that going forward, nobody will be allowed to vote in any election without successful biometric accreditation.”

“You would recall that in May this year, our State office in Awka was attacked and the main building, collation centre and store were either completely or partially damaged. Also damaged in the attacks were 60% of non-sensitive materials for the election, including 326 generating sets and several Hilux vehicles, which we had assembled at Awka. I am glad to report that we have fully recovered from that attack. The buildings have been completely reconstructed and renovated in readiness for the election. All the non-sensitive materials have either been procured afresh or sourced from neighbouring States and our Zonal stores. We are working assiduously with security agencies to ensure that such an attack does not happen again.”

“However, security remains a major challenge to our preparations. For the political parties, these heinous attacks have truncated campaigns, making voter mobilization and sensitization impossible. Consequently, Anambra State is not in the usual election mood. It is in the light of the security situation in the State that the Commission held an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) last Tuesday. The meeting was frank and productive. We are assured of the determination of the security agencies to protect voters, election staff, election observers, the media, transport providers and candidates during the election. Already, security around INEC facilities in the State has been ramped up. We are also confident that the heightened deployment of security officials, which is expected in the coming weeks, will further give citizens the confidence to turn up and vote on Election Day. We shall continue to work with the security agencies to ensure that the election is successful and violence-free.”

Yakubu concluded by appealing to all political parties and candidates not to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity in Anambra State through unguarded utterances and actions. This could compound the security situation and make the work of the Commission, political parties and security agencies even more difficult. This according to Yakubu could lead to voter apathy.

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