ABUJA – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has reaffirmed the assurance by security agencies that everything is under control regarding the identified hotspots in Edo ahead of Saturday’s governorship election.

Mr Festus Okoye, National Commissioner in Charge of Information and Voter Education of INEC, made this known on Thursday when he featured in the News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN), Forum in Abuja.

Okoye said that personal experience with elections had shown that sometimes those areas projected to be hotspots ended up becoming calm, while areas never anticipated to be violent might likely be the hotspots on election day.
According to him, there is no cause for alarm as the Edo polls will be violence-free.

“What the commission normally does is to project that all the areas that elections will be conducted must be secured, and that voters must have confidence that they can go out on election day to cast their ballots without any major challenge.’’

He said that the commission was already in contact with the police hierarchy under the auspices of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security at the national level.

He also said that the chairman of INEC and national commissioners had gone to Edo state twice over the security issue.

“We have had meetings with the state’s Inter agency Consultative Committee on Election Security chaired by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), and co-chaired by the Commissioner of Police.

“They have assured us that they have everything under control that they are going to provide adequate security; we just came back from Edo state yesterday (Sept. 16), with the chairman of INEC.

“We had a stakeholders’ meeting with all the political parties with civil society groups and organisations and also there was the peace pact that was signed by the political parties.

“When we were living Edo, things have calmed down a little bit and we hope and pray that that calmness will be translated into calmness on election day.

“This is because one of the biggest challenges we have is, the moment people disengage from the electoral process, it becomes a huge problem.’’

Okoye said that the election was being conducted under the shadow of a pandemic and so INEC wanted people to go and vote in health and safety.

He added that the commission would not want to jeopardise people’s health and also it would not want people to get killed just because they went to the polling units to exercise their franchise.

He further explained that the police have assured the commission that they had the capacity and the professionalism and that they were going to conduct themselves ethically on election day.

“We believe them; and we hope and pray that the political parties will also do their own beat.

“One of the things I find very puzzling is that a political party will go and train thugs and deploy thugs on election day and turn around to blame the commission for not stopping them.

“You don’t go out and commit a criminal offence and insist that somebody must stop you from committing a criminal offence,’’ he said

Okoye expressed optimism that political parties would play by the rules of the game on election day so that the election would be a success.