19 February 2019

Nigeria: INEC Concedes to Political Parties, Allows Electioneering

Abuja — Following stiff opposition from political parties to the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ban political campaigns before next Saturday's rescheduled poll, the commission yesterday reversed itself and allowed electioneering.

The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said at a stakeholders' meeting last Saturday in Abuja, that collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and political campaign remained closed.

However, the commission in a statement yesterday, by its National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, said that media organisations are at liberty to accept, publish, broadcast and circulate campaign materials up till midnight of Thursday, February 21, 2019.

He stated: "In the meantime, after consultations with political parties, the commission has approved that campaigns by parties and candidates can resume forthwith to end by midnight of Thursday, February 21, 2019.

"Political parties and their candidates are enjoined to abide by the extant laws governing campaigns."

The electoral body also assured Nigerians that next Saturday's poll and the March 9 governorship and State House of Assembly elections, remain sacrosanct.

To this end, the commission has commenced the auditing of electoral materials to identify possible shortfall, gaps and remedial steps and action would be taken as soon as any shortfall is identified.

Okoye told THISDAY yesterday that the commission would start the deployment of sensitive materials early enough without compromising their security and confidentiality.

He revealed that the chairman of the commission has outlined six concrete steps to actualise the elections.

Okoye stated: "These steps are cogent and verifiable and are already operational. The commission is engaged in reverse logistics since some of the sensitive materials have been deployed from the central bank of the various states to the local government offices of the commission.

"The commission is auditing the materials to identify possible shortfall and gaps and remedial steps and action will be taken as soon as any shortfall is identified.

"The commission has recalled all the Smart Card Readers in all the States of the federation for reconfiguration. The commission is deploying additional Registration Area Technical Support Staff to Lagos State with over 14,000 Smart Card Readers and Kano State with over 11,000 Smart Card Readers.

"The commission had configured the Smart Card Readers to become operational on Saturday the 16th day of February 2019 at 8a.m. and to shut down at a particular time. Since the commission rescheduled the election, the Smart Card Readers must be reconfigured to capture the new date and the new time.

"The commission will start the deployment of sensitive materials early enough without compromising their security and confidentiality. We will also make sure that all the ad-hoc staff engaged for the election are paid their dues and remobilised to the various Registration Area Centres," he added.

Okoye stated categorically that the electoral body is confident that all the materials are in place and its processes are geared towards the conduct of all the strands of elections.

Ex-Senate President Warns against Venezuelan Formula

Meanwhile, Adolphus Wabara advised the electoral commission and other critical stakeholders in the polity to get their acts together and conduct credible, free and fair elections.

Wabara, who is the Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said that the stakeholders should be wary of the fact that the world has moved on beyond the pacifism of old.

"Right now the world is no longer practicing pacifism at the global stage. The world is saying if you don't get it right within the confines of your boundaries, global interests can intervene," Wabara said, adding that no one should present the international community with a Venezuelan situation in Nigeria.

He said the mismanagement of the February 16 elections, leading to its postponement by INEC was an indication that the APC has lost the general elections.

He said: "It is very glaring that APC has lost the presidential election but, if INEC brazenly declares the ruling party the winner, the world may be left with no other option than to apply the Venezuelan Formula, which eluded Chief MKO Abiola in 1993.

"The world is evolving and right now it appears that evolution has turned full circle. If we had the situation in 1993, MKO Abiola would have been president."

Wabara urged Nigerians not to be deterred by the postponement, adding that having suffered the last four years, one week of additional suffering will avert four years of unprecedented suffering and advised Nigerians to stand firm and cast their votes on Sa turday.

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