The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned politicians and their supporters against attempts to derail the Edo State Governorship Election billed to hold on Saturday.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who gave the warning yesterday in Abuja, disclosed that result sheets and ballot papers for the poll had been modified to ensure transparency.
Also yesterday, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, declared that 31,000 men would be deployed to provide security for the election.
Yakubu and Adamu spoke on Monday in Benin at a meeting attended by political parties, candidates, civil society organisations and the media.
“No one will benefit from impunity or be rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote-buying, ballot box snatching, and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results. The people of Edo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidates without inducement or harassment,” Yakubu warned.
He told the forum that the National Peace Committee, chaired by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), had arrived in the state to ensure parties signed a peace pact towards violence-free poll.
He said the deployment of smart card readers was compulsory and warned that where it was deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit would be declared void in line with the commission’s regulations.
According to him, the new technology, Z-pad, would not be deployed for the election but would be used to upload polling unit results.
“The Commission decided that since this technology is work in progress, we should carry out further test-run in some of the smaller constituencies during the bye-elections scheduled for October 31, 2020, and thereafter engage with stakeholders before it can be deployed in major elections.
“The atmosphere in Edo State ahead of the election this weekend is already charged. We cannot afford to complicate it further by introducing new technology we are not yet fully satisfied with,” he said.
The INEC boss said the usual process of inspection and distribution of sensitive materials within the state would be done in the presence of party agents, security agencies, observers, and the media.
He assured Edo people their votes would count, adding that only the choice made by the people would determine the outcome of the election.
“Edo people must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment.
Yakubu also disclosed that the national headquarters of INEC would monitor the election throughout the state through Zoom situation room.
“This Zoom situation room will allow us to receive live reports from the field. Accredited observers and the media will also be invited to join at intervals. By doing so, the Commission will receive first-hand information as the election is going on.
On provisions for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), the INEC boss said the Commission would provide magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to facilitate voting by PWDs.
“INEC policy for the conduct of elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and code of conduct have been translated into braille to ensure greater participation of all citizens in the electoral process irrespective of disability,” he said.
The police boss, Adamu, said the Force was aware of pockets of violence during campaigns in the state and assured that the force would ensure security across the state before, during, and after elections.
He noted that election security threat assessment had been undertaken and all flashpoints identified.
“All the three senatorial districts, 18 local government areas, 192 wards, and 2,627 polling units across the state have been appropriately mapped out and adequate deployment will be made to provide security.
IN his remark, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaib Ibrahim appealed to stakeholders to ensure the safety and security of corps members deployed for the election.
Ibrahim, who was represented by the South-South Supervisor of NYSC, Benjamin Ayodele, thanked INEC for the confidence reposed in corps members.
“ I want to appeal to all stakeholders to protect our corps members during the election,” Ibrahim said.
Representative of the Benin monarch, Chief Osato Bazuaye, advocated peaceful exercise and called on INEC and the IGP to ensure the election was free, fair, and peaceful.
“We want you to write your names in gold; ensure this election is one of the best. It is a test for INEC, the police and all of us,” he said.