INEC: We’ll Ensure Only Eligible Voters Determine Next Anambra Governor

As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) moves both personnel and materials to Anambra State in readiness for the governorship election yesterday, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, has said the commission would do everything in its powers to ensure only eligible voters determine the next governor of the South-east state. Yakubu stated this on Wednesday in Awka during a pre-election stakeholders meeting with the political parties, religious leaders, traditional rulers, and civil society groups.

But the commission was quick to add, “We are also determined to prosecute perpetrators of electoral malpractice, including any election duty staff found to be complicit. The choice of the next governor of Anambra State is in the hands of the eligible voters and their will must prevail.”

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Usman Baba, issued a stern warning on the general conduct of people during the election. Baba said the police were determined to guarantee a peaceful election in the state. He explained that the heavy deployment of security personnel to the state was not to scare away voters, but to protect everyone.

Also yesterday, the Chairman of THISDAY/ARISE Media Group, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, thanked the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, and the Director General of the Department of State Security, DSS, Mr. Yusuf Magaji Bichi, for providing solid security during the ARISE News and Enough is Enough group jointly organised governorship debate in Awka, the Anambra state capital on Monday. He explained that other media houses pulled out of participating in the debate because of security concerns, “essentially, other media houses had pulled out of the debate; some wanted it done in Abuja, owing to security fears, but Arise News Channel refused, insisting that we can’t run away from any part of the country. The CDS assured of security and he lived up to his word.” Obaigbena urged the security forces to provide the same security so that voters will come to go and cast their vote for candidate of their choice and “we are urging them to extend same security for the election to encourage people to vote.”

Also reacting, Tthe Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), on its part, asked INEC and all the security personnel deployed for the governorship election to ensure the process was credible, fair, and transparent.
Accordingly, the United States warned that anyone, who interfered with the lawful conduct of the election or instigated violence, would face visa restrictions along with their families.
Yakubu, speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting, said some of the sensitive materials had been secured at the Anambra State branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in Awka.

The INEC chairman said as a usual practice on the eve of major elections, INEC would invite political parties, civil society organisations, and the media to the CBN on Thursday to inspect the sensitive materials and witness their movement to the various local government areas under security escort.
By the same arrangement, Yakubu said the materials would be delivered to the Registration Areas or Wards on Friday to facilitate the opening of Polling Units at 8.30am on Election Day.

He assured voters in the state that in designing the sensitive materials for the election, the commission had introduced additional visible and invisible security features, including different colour codes. He said election materials had also been customised according to local government areas and polling units, warning those who may attempt to compromise the process that INEC has put in place sufficient security features to detect counterfeits.

The INEC chairman stated, “On Saturday, 6th November 2021, Anambra State will make history as the first governorship election in Nigeria in which the commission will deploy the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device. This new device replaces the Smart Card Reader (SCR) used in previous elections since 2015.

“We are satisfied with the pilot deployment of the BVAS in the Isoko South I State Constituency bye-election in Delta State on 11th September 2021. The BVAS has the dual capacity for fingerprint and facial authentication of voters. This is to guard against voting by identity theft, where one person uses another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to vote using the incident form.
“With this development, the use of the incident form is abolished. No voter without genuine PVC will vote. No voter, who has not been successfully accredited electronically, using the BVAS, will vote.

“At the same time, the BVAS is also equipped with a camera. Therefore, it has the capacity to snap Polling Unit level result and upload same to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal, so that citizens can view results as election is concluded in each Polling Unit.

“Therefore, there is no need for the Z-Pad since its functions have been embedded in the BVAS. I am glad to report that all the BVAS required for the election on Saturday have been configured and delivered to Anambra State. Election duty staff have also been trained on the use of the device and we have sufficient technical staff to respond to any glitches that may occur.”

Yakubu acknowledged concerns expressed about the availability of PVCs for new registrants in the state.
He said, “At the end of the recent Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, a total of 138,802 citizens completed the registration. After cleaning up the data, the commission identified and archived 62,698 multiple registrants. Consequently, the number of valid registrants is 76,104.
“This figure has been added to 5,674 requests for transfer, update of voter information and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs, bringing the total of valid registrations to 81,774. I am glad to report that the PVCs have been printed and delivered to all the local government areas for collection by voters.

“We have also contacted the voters by text messages and email addresses and informed them of the exact locations to collect their cards. Through the media, we have also been sensitising them to the availability of the cards for collection. Many of them have done so already. Let me, therefore, once again appeal to those that have not done so that their cards are available for collection.”

On the issue of voters’ distribution by polling units, Yakubu stated, “About four weeks ago, the commission published the register of voters for the election on 7th October 2021 i.e. 30 days to the election as required by law. Each of the 18 political parties was given a soft copy of the register here in Awka. In addition to meeting, the requirement of the law, the presentation of the register is significant for another reason.

“The Anambra governorship election is the first time that voting is taking place in polling units since the recent successful conversion of voting points arising from the expansion of voter access to polling units in Nigeria.
“An additional 1,112 polling units were established in Anambra State in addition to the existing 4,608 locations. This brings the total number of polling units in the state to 5,720. Voters were encouraged to seize the opportunity of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise to transfer to the new polling units most convenient for them. Many did not do so.

“This can be partly attributed to the security situation in the state, which has affected the commission’s pre-election outdoor activities, including voter education and sensitisation. Understandably, the voters have also been cautious.”
Yakubu explained that out of the 5,720 polling units in the state, 86 (1.5%) had no voters. He said the commission would not deploy personnel and materials to these polling units. “Furthermore, 894 (15.6%) of the polling units have between one and 49 voters. Election will hold in these polling units. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that all Polling Units have voters allotted to them ahead of the 2023 general election,” he said.

IG Issues Stern Warning, Says Deployment Not to Scare Anyone
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Baba, yesterday, read the riot act to troublemakers ahead of the Anambra State governorship election. Baba said at a meeting with political parties, religious leaders, and traditional rulers that the police were determined to ensure a peaceful election.
However, he allayed fears and concerns about the heavy security deployment in the state, saying it is not meant to scare away voters, but to reassure them of their security and safety.

The IGP said, “It is to be additionally emphasised that aside these sets of guidelines, which fall under the provisions of the Electoral Act, any person that violates any components of the criminal laws, including being in possession of weapons of violence of any description, either on the streets or around the polling units, engages in any violent act, attacks critical national assets, engages in corrupt inducement of the electorate, or threatens public peace in any manner before, during and after the election, shall be apprehended and dealt with in accordance with the requisite criminal law.

“I, therefore, call on all the political parties to embrace the virtues of democracy by seeing elections as a call to service by the people and not ‘a-do or die’ affair.”
Baba implored parents and guardians to discourage their children and wards from being used to foment trouble or subvert the election process, warning, “Such will be forcefully resisted by the Nigeria Police, the military and other security agencies.”

The IGP said residents and voters should be guided by the following rules, as contained in the Electoral Act, on the election day.
According to him, “No one is allowed to wear any cloth, emblem or colour signifying any political party to the polling units.
“No person is allowed to move around with security details around the polling units. Indeed, appropriate directives have been given for the withdrawal or scaling down of such security details around politically exposed persons and other personalities in the state until after the elections.
“Everyone is enjoined to vote and return to their respective houses or remain peacefully within approved perimeters of the polling centres. No one is allowed to move about from one polling unit to another, as there shall be restriction of movements on the day of the election.

“Only INEC accredited Election Monitors/observers are allowed to move around for the purpose of election monitoring and they must all wear their INEC accreditation tags. Only accredited journalists are allowed to cover the election. All such journalists must carry their accreditation tags.”
He explained that the massive deployment of security was “not designed to intimidate the law-abiding, as being insinuated in some quarters. In the contrary, it is to re-assure them of adequate protection by deterring misguided political elements as well as non-state actors that might be bent on threatening the elections through acts of armed violence or other conducts that violate the provisions of the Electoral Act.

“It is to also serve as a strong warning that the government is determined to bring such subversive characters to justice should they advance their ignoble, undemocratic and unpatriotic intents. The overriding objective of our operational action plan is to ensure an environment that is peaceful enough to encourage the law-abiding people of Anambra State to exercise their electoral franchise.

IPAC Demands Fairness, Transparency from INEC, Security Agencies
Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all the security personnel deployed for the election in Anambra State to ensure a credible, fair and transparent electoral process. It urged the youth in the state to eschew violence and “shun political buccaneers masquerading as democrats, whose stock in trade is to use them for electoral thuggery, ballot snatching and rigging to thwart the people’s mandate”.

IPAC said it had received assurances from relevant quarters that the result of the election would be transmitted electronically.
Addressing journalists on Wednesday in Abuja, National Chairman of IPAC, Mr. Leonard Nzenwa, who is also National Chairman, African Action Congress (AAC), said it was important for INEC and the security agencies to commit to fairness and transparency during the election, and not compromise their integrity.

Nzenwa stated, “INEC should provide a level playing field to all political parties and their candidates participating in the election and ensure electoral materials are provided, and that voting starts as scheduled in all polling units in the state.
“The neutrality of INEC in this election will determine the survival of democracy in Nigeria. All eyes are on the commission and its officials as they discharge this onerous civic responsibility. Security agents should also discharge their duties professionally and ensure adequate protection of lives and property during the exercise.”

US Threatens Visa Restriction on Violence Instigators
The United States warned that visa restrictions would be imposed anyone who interfered with the lawful conduct of the Anambra election or instigated violence. A statement on Wednesday from the US Embassy said the American government looked forward to a peaceful and transparent governorship election whose results would accurately reflect the will of the people of the state.
The statement said, “We will be paying close attention to actions of individuals, who interfere with the democratic process or instigate violence against civilian populations before, during, or after the elections.

“We will not hesitate to consider consequences, including visa restrictions, for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process.”
The statement further explained, “Under US immigration law, certain violations also may lead to restrictions on family members.”
It called on citizens, electoral officials, party members, and security force personnel to do their part in ensuring a credible and secure electoral process.