INEC set for hitch-free polls in Imo, notwithstanding security breaches – Official

INEC’s voter register

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Imo has assured the electorate that the upcoming General Elections will be violence free and substantially successful.

Also, the state chapter of the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) says it is confident that the exercise will be hitch free, credible and with little or no glitches.

The commission’s Spokesperson in the state, Dr Chineye Bekee, said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Owerri that the commission had taken delivery of all the non-sensitive materials for the elections.

Bekee also said that the sensitive materials had been delivered at the Owerri branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

She said: “The Voter Register is ready, which is a major requirement for the election.

“We have also started recruitment of ad hoc staff.

“We already did the online recruitment, which ended in December.”
Bekee explained that the online recruitment did not produce the required number of staff, hence the plan to conduct the exercise manually from Jan. 19 to Jan. 22.

“So, yes! INEC in Imo is prepared for the elections,” Bekee said.

She further explained that the commission was already collaborating with security agencies under the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security to ensure adequate security for lives of election officials, materials and electorate.

Bekee also said that the commission had so far recorded impressive increase in PVC collection since the devolution of the exercise from local government to ward levels.

“Now, we record turnouts in hundreds and thousands in some local governments unlike when we concentrated at the local government, where the number was just between zero and 10 to 15.

“So, I can tell you that the devolution to the various wards is a welcome development,” she said.
The Imo Chairman of IPAC, Mr Uchenna Ahaneku, said the group was impressed with INEC’s level of preparedness for the polls.

Ahaneku commended the commission for particularly introducing new technologies to make the polls credible.

He said: “I happen to be part of those who went for training of uploading booth agent’s list.

“We found out that in some areas where you want to upload a name, the system will tell you that the person has already been admitted as an agent.

“Therefore, making it practically impossible for people to be nominated twice as party agents in a situation where they want to be an agent for party A and B.”

Ahaneku, however, said that the commission still had a lot of sensitisation to do to bring the electorate up to speed on what they ought to know ahead of the elections proper.

“Outside that, I will want to score INEC about 70 per cent on its preparedness.

“On the issue of vote buying, I foresee some lapses but you know INEC is not in charge of security of elections,” the IPAC boss said.

He urged the Police and other security agencies to complement the efforts of INEC by educating its personnel on the need to remain impartial during the election duties.
In Abia, the commission said that it has also taken delivery of sensitive and nonsensitive materials preparatory to the polls.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Prof. Ike Uzochukwu, told NAN in Umuahia that proactive measures and technologies had been put in place to beef up security and prevent any attacks on INEC facilities in the state.

Uzochukwu said that the commission was not unconscious of possible attacks, adding that it had the capacity to deal with such security situations.

He said that the commission was in partnership with key security agencies to ensure that logistics and materials for the exercise were readily available and secured.

He said that the commission was working hard to ensure that all the registered and prospective voters collected their PVCs before the January 29 INEC deadline.

Uzochukwu said that available statistics showed that Abia had 77 per cent voter apathy.
He, however, disclosed that the commission was making frantic efforts to reduce the rate to 10 per cent in this year’s polls.

The South-East Coordinator of the Civil Society Action Coalition on Education For All, Mrs Eunice Egbuna, also said that INEC still had a lot of ground to cover in terms of voter education.

“This awareness should centre on PVC collection, vote selling and buying, staying safe in the event of electoral violence and reporting malpractice to ensure the elections are credible,” Egbuna said.

He called for the training of security operatives on the technicalities of their election duties.
Also in the commercial city of Aba, some political stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the state of INEC’s preparedness for the polls.

Mr Nnamdi Elekwachi, the Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Youth and Students Advocate for Development Initiative, described INEC’s preparedness for the polls as commendable.
Elekwachi said that INEC had recorded 22 technological innovations to improve the elections.
He opined that with proper management, the innovations would make the elections a watershed in Nigeria’s 100 years election history.
He said: “The commission said it needed about N305 billion for the governorship elections in 28 states as well as state and National Assemblies and Presidential polls.
“INEC also said it will deploy 100,000 vehicles to access remote areas and 4,200 boats to be accompanied by naval gunboats to access riverine areas.
“The commission has halted the use of university lecturers for elections but will now use their staff to ensure greater accountability and checks.

“That tells you that they are much prepared for the elections,” Elekwachi said.

The Chairman, Aba chapter of the Civil Liberties Organisation, Dr Charles Chinekezi, thanked INEC for printing the PVCs of all the registrants.

Chinekezie, however, regretted that the poor distribution arrangement would likely disenfranchise many prospective voters.

He, therefore, urged the commission to ensure that every registered voter got their PVCs before the election date.

“The essence is to make the election successful and representative of the people’s wish.

“Nigerians are much more ready to vote now than ever before and that is the reason INEC, the government and other stakeholders, who should do the right thing, ensured they did so.

“This election is very essential and existential for Nigerians and to make it free, fair and successful is to make Nigeria stand strong.

“But any attempt to disrupt its progress or subvert the people’s expectations will be to cause problems so we must avoid such mistakes at all cost,” the activist said.

Chinekezi and Elekwachi also spoke on security issues and appealed to operatives to discharge their election duties “in a most patriotic manner”.

They urged security personnel to apply intelligence and maturity in their conduct to avoid any frictions with the youths, “whose support the country required for peaceful polls”.

Elekwachi urged President Muhammed Buhari to give express order to the security agencies to rout out bandits, terrorists and armed separatist groups to ensure that elections held in all the occupied territories in the North and South-East.

The respondents urged INEC not to disappoint Nigerians who, he said, have demonstrated their poise and determination to vote and ensure that their votes count to bring positive change and transformation in the country. (NAN)