The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has mandated all security and law enforcement agencies, to arrest, investigate and prosecute anyone involved in electoral violence and any other misconduct, including incendiary statements capable of inciting a breach of the peace.
The INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, made the call at a meeting with leadership of political parties in Abuja on Monday.
Prof. Yakubu expressed his dismay about violent attacks on supporters of political parties across board resulting in the loss of life in some cases and advised the chairmen and leaders of political parties to continue to call their candidates and supporters to order, saying that a situation where two or more agents claim to represent a political party, resulting in commotion at polling units or collation centers, is unacceptable.
Prof. Yakubu also enjoined the chairmen and leaders of political parties to ensure that only agents accredited by the Commission and wearing the correct identification tags, appear at polling units and collation centers during elections.
According to him, only Identification tags issued by the Commission would be recognized on election day and violators are liable to be arrested and prosecuted for impersonation.
“We have consistently assured the leaders of political parties that the Commission will regularly consult you with a view to bringing you up to date on the preparations for the forthcoming elections.
“Let me therefore start with the issue of polling units. You may recall that in 2021, with your support and that of other critical stakeholders, the Commission successfully expanded voters’ access to polling units 25 years after the last delimitation exercise in 1996. Consequently, the number of polling units increased from 119,973 to the current figure of 176,846.
“At previous meetings, we also briefed you on our efforts to redistribute voters to the polling units in order to avoid the congestion that made voting cumbersome in many of them nationwide.
“This requires the redistribution of voters to new polling units in proximate locations. Where they are separated by distance, this must be done after consultation with the voters. This has been done by our State offices nationwide. However, there are 240 polling units without registered voters spread across 28 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“They range from one polling unit to 12 polling units in each State and the FCT, except Taraba and Imo States with 34 and 38 polling units respectively. No new registrants chose the polling units and no voters indicated interest to transfer to them during the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), mainly for security reasons. This means no election will hold in these polling units”, he said.
Prof Yakubu disclosed that in the feedback received from its officials and accredited observers following the recent nationwide mock accreditation using the BVAS, showed that some voters could not easily identify their polling units, saying, this should not happen on election day.
He therefore advised voters to confirm the locations of their polling units through a dedicated portal on INEC website, adding that, all voters who have been assigned to new polling units will receive text messages from the Commission indicating their polling units.
“Voters can locate and confirm their polling units before election day by sending a regular text or WhatsApp message to a dedicated telephone number.
In his response, the Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Engr. Yabagi Yusuf Sani, reaffirmed the confidence of IPAC in the leadership of INEC for its consistent demonstration of diligence, uncommon zeal and patriotism in the pursuit of the agency’s statutory mandate.
Mr Yabagi warned INEC Chairman that under no circumstance should this election be postponed and congratulated all the parties for putting up the healthy campaigns while thanking INEC with great expectations to deliver a credible election.
He reiterated the continual commitment of IPAC to the long standing cooperation and mutually beneficial relationship between them and INEC.
IPAC Chairman commended the efforts of INEC in confronting the extraordinary environmental challenges occasioned by naira redesign and fuel scarcity.
“Mr. Chairman Sir, I am confident that, as it has always been in the past, IPAC arid INEC will be coming away from the meeting more prepared to face the onerous historical challenge of conducting credible, transparent, and acceptable elections in 2023.
“Usually, Siamese twin needed to be in constant agreement to enable them live together harmoniously. Also it is said that a case that is discussed does not usually cause trouble. It is on this philosophical note that I want to thank INEC and her Commissioners for constantly calling us to rub minds together because of Nigerian political project
“By what we hear and read in the news, your mock accreditation exercise was a success. That is very encouraging. As we know, a mock examination cannot be taken to be the real examination whose coverage is wider and complex. So far, the BVAS that were used were reported to have performed perfectly. We are encouraged by this and also wish to appreciate INEC while expecting them to keep the flag of perfection flying.
“Similarly, the Electoral Institute conducted a train-the-trainer workshop for polling agents/collation officers recently. The move is commendable but the Parties are trying to meet the challenges of lean resources to cascade the training down to other critical levels
“The 2023 general elections seemingly will be a watershed in the history of elections in Nigeria. Today, the tide has changed, because an unknown Party could pull a surprise to the greatest chagrin of all. From this point of view, it is necessary to advise INEC to keep its date with history which must not be wasted.
“INEC should create a golden niche for herself especially the Chairman, who has become the child of history. Nigerians are watching, the international community is watching and the Parties are palpitating: I therefore call on all Nigerians of good conscience to take credible results of the election the way it is.
“At worse, parties should resort to the law court for adjudication. Today it is an abhorrence and crudity if not savagery to see States Governors denying campaign venues to political parties other than their own. This is crude, primitive and uncivilized” he stressed.