Committed to delivering a free, fair and credible governorship election in Edo State on September 19, 2020, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said from the lessons learnt four years ago, the Commission would speed up the process and declare results on time because according to him, “the longer it takes, the more it becomes problematic to manage it so we must get logistics right”.
Addressing INEC staff from the 18 local government areas of Edo State on Friday in Benin pursuant to the off-season election, Yakubu said in addition to the use of the card reader for authentication, the Commission would be deploying yet another innovation called the “Zip with Z-file” to guarantee the integrity of the election. Explaining what the device is and its functionality, the INEC boss said “The Z-file is a tablet with camera that captures the entire voting exercise in every polling unit. It functions in such a way that at the end of the process after voting has been concluded and sorted out, the ballots counted, the picture of the form EC8A would be taken and transmitted to a dedicated portal so that Nigerians can view the polling unit results live and direct by those close to the polling units”.
According to Yakubu, the innovation was deployed at the Nasarawa State Central Federal Constituency by-election such that before the declaration of results, Nigerians were able to view the few clean results of the polling units. He said with a sense of satisfaction that “It was a great enhancement of the previous elections and this is the major election after the Nasarawa State by-election. So, Edo will set the pace for the conduct of other major by-elections and we look forward to not just a successful conduct but also transmission and availability of EC8A for public views on election day”.
Warning the staff against any act that could compromise the integrity of the election, Yakubu stressed the need for them not to descend into the arena but to maintain neutrality. In his words, “Neutrality and professionalism are very important, we are not supporting any political party or candidate; and we are not against any political party or the candidate either. Our concern is the integrity and transparency of the process. The choice of who becomes the governor of Edo State is entirely in the hand of Edo people and we are going to protect the process”.
And in furtherance of this, Yakubu charged the officials “You are required to manage the polling units in a manner that we have not been doing before as the cubicle would be demarcated in a manner that will give two-meter distance between voters since it is going to be accreditation and voting.
“I want to stress the importance of opening the polling unit early. I want Nigerians to find officials and materials waiting for them and not the other way round hence we have to address the issue of logistics. We have adjusted the time from 8 am to 8:30 and the closing time from 2 pm to 2:30 pm. I am confident you will not let the Commission down”.
On the challenge of conducting the election under COVID-19, the INEC boss said a number of innovations had been introduced “and I am sure you have seen the policy of conducting election under COVID-19. We have made compulsory the wearing of face mask and the use of hand sanitizers, and we have made provision for that.
“At the collation centres, we have made provision for infrared thermometers and we are working to extend this to polling units. So we have made request to PTF (Presidential Task Force on COVID-19) to avail us with about 3,000 infrared thermometers for polling units and voting points. But on our own, we have made provision for 192 ward collation centres and when PTF is able to avail us, we would extend it to the collation centres in the 18 local government areas and state collation centres”.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Johnson Alalibo, earlier in his remarks, expresses misgiving about the cut in the Commission’s budget. Describing the crucial meeting as “apt, timely and important”, it would afford top officials of INEC in the state an opportunity to brief Chairman on the state of their preparedness for the election and challenges, if any. According to him, “Barely 23 days to the election, we have come a long way in our preparations for the governorship election in Edo State. Our only challenge is reduction of budget”.
The REC however assured of credible, free, fair and peaceful election in the state on September 19 in view of the efforts of top officials and other staff of INEC and assurances by security agencies.