INEC begins its six steps to the final conduct ofthe presidential and national assembly elections
Mahmood Yakubu,embattled chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Saturday, apologizedfor the inability of the electoral management body to conduct the presidentialand national assembly elections on Saturday, February 16, as scheduled.
“As Chairman of INEC,and on behalf of the Commission, we take full responsibility for what happenedand we regret any inconvenience our decision might have caused. We believe thatultimately, this is for the good of our democracy and country.”
He reaffirmed that the new dates of February 23 and 9 for the federal and state elections were sacrosanct. He outlined six steps the Commission would follow to complete the election process culminating in voting on Saturday, as follows:
1 Completion andconfirmation of deployment of materials: Monday, February 18.
2. Configuration ofSmart Card Readers: Sunday, February 17 – Thursday, February 21
3. Receipt and deployment of sensitive materials to local government areas: Wednesday February 20 and Thursday 21
4. Refresher trainingfor ad-hoc staff: Thursday, February 21
5. Deployment ofpersonnel to Registration Area Centres: Friday February 22.
6. Election: Saturday,February 23.
A very sober Yakubuexplained the Commission’s dilemma to stakeholders at the InternationalConference Centre, Abuja: “Faced with these challenges, we initially thoughtthat we only required a maximum of 24 hours to resolve the logistics issuesinvolved and complete our deployment for the election. This would mean shiftingthe elections to commence on Sunday 17th February, 2019. However, given therestriction of movement during elections, that could affect many voters whoworship on Sunday. While the commission considering the following Monday, 19thFebruary, 2019 as an option, our ICT department advised us that it wouldrequire 5-6 days to configure about 180,000 smart card readers earlierprogrammed to work only on election day, Saturday, 16th February 2019.”
While some politicalparties saw reasons and empathized with INEC, some were bitter and condemnedthe Commission. The most vociferous was the ruling All Progressives Congress,APC, Adams Oshiomole, its chairman, took the Commission to task: “Why did youhave to wait till 2.30am this morning to postpone the election? You keptreassuring Nigerians that you were ready!”
He insisted thatYakubu’s pleading that 176, 000 polling stations across the country are a “hugestatistics to cope with|” was “begging the question…You have embarrassed us asa people. You must apologize to the country. We insist it was wrong to announcethe postponement at 2.30 am”
He admonished somepolitical parties which commended the Commission for doing a good job: “I amshocked! I am disappointed! What will you do if the election was successful?”
He agreed withstakeholders who suggested that INEC should have briefed political partiesbefore announcing the postponement, arguing that “the society is not driven bylaw but by consultation.”
Still on the war path,the APC chairman threw a bait at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which justsent a representative. “I am happy with the moderate tone of PDP,” he saidsarcastically.
But the main oppositionparty ignored him. The Party was rather concerned about an INEC Card Readerscontractor, Activate Technologies, who he alleged is an APC candidate in NigerState. He wanted reassurance that the card readers will not be rigged to favourAPC, as being suspected in some selected states the APC consider crucial. TheParty requested that there should be third party verification of the cardreaders when released by CBN to be sure they had not been tampered with.
Yakubu explained thatActivate Technologies had been working with INEC since 2011 and assured that“no electoral assets with the Commission will be compromised. The integrity ofthe process is protected.”
He reaffirmed thatuncollected Permanent voters cards cannot be used in the elections and wonderedwhy people were allegedly buying up PVCs to gather voters’ information whilethe Commission had given each political complete information of the voters’register. “Why buy what you already have? We assure the information cannot beused to rig the election.”
It was revealed that inLagos State there was selective release of PVCs to favour APC as PVCs for areasconsidered not to be the party’s strongholds were withheld by the Commission’srepresentatives in Lagos. These areas include: FESTAC Town, Ojo, Alaba, andLekki. “When they see your name, they tell you, ‘no pvc!’ reported GodsonOkoye. Yakubu promised he wouldinvestigate it.
Parties were worriedabout the financial cost of the postponement and inquired if INEC couldcompensate them. Yakubu said only the national assembly can make a lawempowering the Commission to fund political parties. On the cost implicationson INEC, he assured that the Commission can cope without asking for extrabudget: “We are not complaining.”