Ekiti Voters Will Decide Who Becomes Next Governor – INEC

So far, the Commission has implemented several activities for the election. We held many meetings with political parties and their candidates

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Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has assured political parties, candidates and the electorate that only voters will determine who becomes the next governor in the Ekiti State Governorship Election which holds on Saturday 18th June 2022.

Prof. Yakubu gave the assurance at the traditional pre-election Stakeholders’ Meeting, held today in Ado Ekiti against the backdrop of various concerns expressed about the credibility, transparency and security of the election.

Addressing those concerns directly, Prof. Yakubu said, “for us in INEC, let me reassure 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.”

Prof. Yakubu also spoke extensively on the Commission’s readiness for the election. His words: “So far, the Commission has implemented several activities for the election. We held many meetings with political parties and their candidates. We had several engagements with the security agencies at the 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 are ongoing. We have made arrangements for the transportation of personnel and materials to all polling units on Election Day. For 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.”

He continued: “Voter registration was carried out all over the State, including the devolution of the exercise to the 177 Wards across the State. We have printed and delivered the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) for all valid registrants in Ekiti State and the 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 of yesterday Monday 13th June 2022.”

Prof Yakubu noted that the Commission had, in the last few days, received several inquiries from citizens who are yet to collect their PVCs and who would like to know when the collection of cards will be suspended before the election.

He said: “I wish to announce that the collection of PVCs will continue in all our 16 Local Government Area Offices until Thursday 16th June 2022, to allow us one day (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.”

To underscore the Commission’s commitment to an inclusive, credible and transparent electoral process, Prof. Yakubu said some assistive devices for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) will be deployed to give them a more pleasant experience on election day.

Specifically, he revealed that Magnifying Glasses, Braille Ballot Guide and Posters for voters with hearing conditions will be deployed at the 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,” he said,

The INEC Chairman also stated 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. He affirmed that the devices had already been configured and fully charged for the election, just as steps have been taken to ensure that the BVAS machines function optimally during voter accreditation, based on lessons learnt from recent elections.

He said: “A few weeks ago, a mock accreditation exercise was conducted in polling units across the three Senatorial Districts of Ekiti State. I 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.”

According to Prof. Yakubu, 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.

The INEC Chairman said: “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 organisations were accredited to cover the election as of yesterday afternoon.

According to him, on Election Day, the national headquarters of INEC in Abuja will monitor the election throughout the State from the Zoom Situation Room that will be activated. Accredited observers and the media will be invited to join Commission at intervals to provide live reports from the field. At the same time, citizens can contact the Commission through its various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line in addition to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

On the menace of vote-buying, Prof. Mahmood was emphatic: “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.”

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr  Usman Alkali Baba, said the Police force has put appropriate strategies in place in addition to setting up actions directed at mitigating possible threats to the election and guaranteeing adequate security across the state, before, during and after the election.

He assured that all Police officers and other security agencies, including the military that has been mobilized to complement the police, shall remain apolitical, firm, and professional in the discharge of their election security mandate.

The IGP disclosed that the Police would deploy 17, 317 personnel to secure the electoral space in Ekiti. He assured that while the security personnel would remain civil enough and protect the law-abiding citizens, they “will be decisive in dealing with any political and subversive deviants that may test our will by attempting to disrupt the peaceful order during the election”.

IGP Baba called on peace-loving and law-abiding citizens to go about exercising their franchise without fear, as the Security agencies, he assured, have been trained on what to do. He however warned those who may be planning to disrupt the process for political gains through thuggery or other means to have a rethink. He warned: “they will be identified, isolated and decisively dealt with as prescribed by law, irrespective of their status, inclination or political affiliation.”

In his remarks, the Supervising National Commissioner for Ekiti State, Mr Sam Olumekun, noted that the campaigns by political parties and their candidates, held between 20th March and 14th June 2022,  witnessed minimal challenges, in terms of violence and offensive language.

“We pray this activity (campaign) concludes peacefully as scheduled on the 16th June 2022”, he said.

The National Commissioner added: “It is also our hope and prayers that this gathering of stakeholders will end with a renewed commitment to the successful conduct of the 2022 Ekiti State Governorship Election on 18th June 2022”.

In his welcome remarks, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti state, Dr Adeniran Rahmon Tella, said “the Commission has deployed all the non-sensitive materials that will be used for the conduct of the election to all the INEC Offices in the 16 LGAs of the State.”

He continued: “the sensitive materials that will be used are already in the custody of the INEC State Office. These will be distributed on Thursday, 16th June 2022 in the presence of Party Agents and security personnel”.

The REC disclosed that the inspection of the materials in the State Office has been scheduled for Wednesday, 15th June. “Only the invited Officials will be expected at the inspection,” he said.

Dr, Tella also called on all election stakeholders, especially the political party leaders, to positively play their various roles during the period of this election  “by desisting from making unguarded utterances; shunning all forms of violence, malpractices, thuggery and other forms of vices that are inimical to the peaceful conduct of this election”.

He particularly called on parents to warn their children not to present themselves as tools for thuggery and violence. He said: “It is necessary to also inform you that ‘vote buying or selling’ is criminal and an electoral offence.”

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