Abuja — Over 72 million Nigerians that collected their Permanent Voter Card (PVCs) will tomorrow determine the fate of the two leading candidates, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the presidential election expected to start at 8a.m. nationwide.
The presidential poll, which along with the National Assembly election, was postponed last Saturday, promises to be a close affair as both candidates rounded off their campaigns as required by law Thursday.
Keeping with his promise to give Nigerians daily updates in the run up to the elections, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told a press conference that the commission had distributed a total of 72,775,502 PVCs, adding that 11,228,582 representing 13.14 per cent PVCs were yet to be collected.
He stated: "At Thursday's briefing, we promised to make public detail information of collection of PVCs nationwide. The commission as a matter of policy has said that no citizen can vote without PVC issued by the commission and read by the card reader.
"Having announced the total number of registered voters and the distribution by age, gender and occupation, the citizens deserve the right to know how many PVCs have been collected across the country.
"The last day for the collection of PVCs was Monday, February 11, 2019. Out of the 84,004,084 registered voters, the total number of registered voters who have collected their PVCs stands at 72,775,502 which represent 86.83 per cent of the PVCs.'
"Out of this figure 7,817,905 PVCs were carried over from the 2014 to 2016 registration exercise, while 3,410,677 are from the last CVR held between April 2017 and August 2018. All uncollected cards have been deposited with the CBN for custody."
The breakdown of the PVCs collected as at February 11, 2019 revealed that Lagos has the highest number of collection of 5,531389, which is 84.19 per cent of collection; while Kano comes second with 4,696,747 collected PVCs which is 86 per cent. While Ekiti State has the lowest number of PVCs collected, which is 666,591 and 73.25 per cent.
However, the breakdown also revealed that three northern states ravaged by Boko Haram insurgents, Borno (2,000,228), Yobe (1,261,924) and Adamawa (1,788,708), had their PVCs collected.
The chairman also revealed that 19 states have completed deployment of electoral materials, including the non-sensitive materials to the Local Government Areas, except for Bayelsa State, where materials would be deployed directly from the state INEC office.
He stated: "There is no states that have not commenced deployment to local government areas. In fact 19 states have fully deployed. By the end of the day, all states and the FCT would have deployed, expect Bayelsa State, which is moving direct from our state office in Yenagoa to Registration Areas Centres (RACs) Saturday.
"Tomorrow (today) activities at the ward level will commence with the activation of the RACs at 9 am, while the movement of personnel and materials will commence at the mid day.
"This is the last scheduled course to the last deployment in 119,973 polling units leading to the opening of polls at 8a.m. in the morning on Saturday."
The chairman stressed that the commission was working with the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to extend the date for international observers who are on short term entry visa, as well as ease their re-entry if they want to go and return to observe states elections scheduled for March 9.
He said: "In order to make the process easier, the NIS working with the commission is granting extension of visa to all international observers that required such facility.
"Similarly, the immigration service is also granting re-entry visa to all who may wish to travel out of the country and return for the second part of the election.
"In this regard the service has requested me to convene the decision to wave the visa fees and grant such request expeditiously. The extension of stay or re-entry into the country will be granted gratis."
Yakubu said all affected international observers could approach the INEC headquarters to get their visa renewed or extended gratis.
On the welfare of the members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) participating in the election, Yakubu noted that the commission was not happy about images on social media where NYSC members were seeing sleeping on the floor.
He said that the commission would provide water, electricity and other facilities needed as well as security for the NYSC members.
Yakubu while fielding questions from journalists, said that he sees no reason whatsoever to resign as INEC chairman, saying the focus as a commission is on conducting the election.
Asked if he feels the commission is been sabotaged, Yakubu said: "I have no feeling that the commission has been sabotaged and I want to assure and reassure you that the election will hold on Saturday. Don't just rely on my assurance; look at the activities going on in the states."
He insisted that the position of the commission on Zamfara and Rivers All Progressives Congress (APC) has not changed.
The chairman also said that the Nigerian Police Force remains the lead agency in election security, and INEC would work with Nigeria police as the lead agency, but stressed that depending on the security threat, the electoral body can now call on other security agencies.
Meanwhile, ahead of tomorrow's elections, as well as March 9 governorship and Houses of Assembly polls, Nigerian youth across the six geopolitical zones have signed a peace accord in Abuja.
The youth disclosed this at an event organised by Guard Nigeria Image and Values Initiative, in conjunction with Nigeria Youth in Diaspora Engagement Forum, New York in Abuja, adding that the peace accord is a declaration that they would resist any attempt to use them for thuggery during the exercise.
Speaking at the event, the Convener and Executive Director of the group, Mr. Promise Amahah, said youths have taken a "firm stand as one indivisible family to sign the first ever Nigerian Youth Peace Accord."
He stated: "The political peace accord signed by political leaders hasn't stopped anything. We are trying to change the narrative, we are trying to illustrate this process, we are trying to convey this message that we are no longer tool for political violence. We have chosen to only guard Nigeria."
They warned that any politician who flouts the accord and engages children and youth in carrying out election violence, would be called out and shamed.
Police Reassures of Adequate Security
The Nigerian Police Force has once again assured Nigerians and the international community of the preparedness of the police to provide adequate security for the safe and peaceful conduct of the elections Saturday.
The Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who made this known, also called on the electorate to come out en masse and vote candidate of their choice without fear of molestation and intimidation.
"In line with his avowed determination towards ensuring peaceful, credible and hitch-free presidential/National Assembly elections scheduled for Saturday, February 23, 2019, the Inspector General of Police, M.A Adamu, has assured Nigerians that adequate security measures have been put in place to ensure a safe, secure and conducive environment towards a peaceful and credible election.
"The IG, therefore, calls on the citizens to come out en-masse on the day of the election to cast their votes without any fear or apprehension," a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Frank Mba said.
According to the IGP, security personnel deployed in the elections have been adequately trained and are under strict instruction to abide by the standard operational procedures of the police and international best practices in the conduct of an election.
Adamu noted that the police would remain patriotic, steadfast, professional, neutral and civil, but firm, in their conducts and actions throughout the period of the election and beyond.
"The general public are therefore implored not to feel intimidated, but rather should be emboldened, by the presence of security personnel deployed to their areas, to go out and exercise their franchise", the statement said.
While calling on the public to cooperate with the security operatives, the IG, however, warned those who may want to undermine the electoral process by engaging in snatching of ballot boxes, hate speeches and vote trading to desist from such acts or face the full consequences of the law.
President, PDP Candidate Urge Mass Turnout
President Muhammadu Buhari and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have called on Nigerians to put the disappointment of last week's postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections behind them and troop out tomorrow to cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice.
While Buhari spoke in a nationwide broadcast to the nation this morning, Atiku appeared in a video post in his Facebook page Thursday.
The president, who is flying the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC), praised Nigerians over their patience and peaceful conduct so far as the nation goes to the polls tomorrow, saying with the presidential election holding despite initial postponement, Nigeria has survived the worst.
He said when the elections were postponed last weekend by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), many were worried and thought the worst might happen.
However, he said cynics were proved wrong through citizens' collective expression of love for the country and its democracy.
Submitting that tomorrow's elections provide another platform for Nigerians to affirm their collective faith in democracy, the president added that even though democracy is the most beneficial way of choosing leaders, it is not so easy to run.
He also said as noble as democracy might be, nurturing it requires what he described as a combination of patience, tolerance, compassion, diligence, wisdom and hope.
Buhari also said since INEC had assured the nation of the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, it only behoves on all citizens to cooperate with the electoral commission to enable it live up to its responsibilities.
According to the president, voting remains the most effective platform for citizens' expressions of their sovereign power and hence appealed to Nigerians to file out tomorrow to exercise their civic rights.
The president who advised Nigerians to freely vote for any government they want to be in place as from May 29, also encouraged them not to allow anyone to discourage them from the exercise of their rights at the polls.
Buhari also assured Nigerians of their safety during the elections, explaining that the security operatives would be available to provide security just as he said the international observers should also be assured of their security at the polls.
He thanked local observers for their roles in strengthening democracy in Nigeria.
"I ask that you embrace and hold on to the importance of the moment soon to be upon us," the president said, adding: "Honour your civic duty as voters by going to the polls tomorrow to vote for the government of your choice, for the government that will lead Nigeria toward its finest destiny."
According to Buhari, "As citizens there is no greater duty than this and no greater honour. Tomorrow, I know you will once again make Nigeria proud of its people. May God bless our democracy and forever bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria."
In his Facebook video, Atiku urged the electorate to use their Permanent Voter Card (PVCs) to remove the "incompetent" APC government led by President Buhari Saturday.
On its part, the Abia State government said yesterday that it had uncovered plans by APC in the state to shutdown the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) of the INEC during the elections in the state on February 23 and March 9, 2019.
Atiku made the call in a live broadcast on his Facebook page Friday, where he said the February 23 presidential election is another opportunity to repeat history.
He stated, "On March 28, 2015, we the people of Nigeria went to our polling units armed only with our PVCs and yet we were able to remove an incumbent president from office.
"That made me very proud to be a Nigerian and a democrat. This Saturday, we'll have the opportunity to do so again.
"My message to you is simple: Please come out to vote as this election is about your future and the future of our great nation.
"The reasons we have elections is to allow us to have our voices heard on how we have been governed for the last four years and who will govern us for the next four years.
"On election day, we are all equal, as no single vote is more important than any other but if you do not vote, you will be accepting that the next four years will be like the last."
Atiku added that the power to get Nigeria working again is in the permanent voter card, adding that he will be voting with his tomorrow and called on Nigerians to please join him irrespective of who they will be voting for.
He warned that if Nigerians failed to come out and vote they would be accepting that the next four years would be like the last.
In a related development, Abia state government has said it has uncovered plans by the ruling APC in the state to shut down SCRs of the INEC during the elections slated.
The state government added that it had it on good authority that the APC chieftains in the state behind this plot, which was only put at bay by the postponement of the February 16 polls, are still meeting to perfect their plans.
The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. John Kalu, disclosed this Thursday while addressing a press conference in Abuja, where he placed security agencies in the country, international observers and INEC on notice about the ongoing plots and intrigues.
He stressed that PDP in the state was ready to ensure that only the will of the people, expressed through the ballot box in a transparently free, fair and credible elections would be acceptable in Abia State.
Kalu explained: "We observed that in the night of February 15, 2019, telecommunications base stations around the locations where key plotters and executors of the APC rigging plan were shut down locally and simultaneously between 8pm to 6a.m.
"We believe that the uninstall occurrence had to do with the plan to ensure that INEC card readers are unable to upload on real time basis the data on voters accreditation thereby allowing room for the already thumb-printed ballots to be stuffed into the boxes with incident forms used to account for non-accredited voters while the already financially induced ad hoc collation and returning officers deposit the already prepared result sheets as authentic election results."
The commissioner demanded that security agents investigate, retrieve and destroy all illegal electoral materials, fake military uniforms and arms in the custody of key Abia APC leaders before the conduct of the rescheduled elections.
Refuse to Be Intimidated, Secondus Tells Voters
The National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, has urged Nigerians and supporters of the party not to be intimidated ahead of tomorrow's presidential and National Assembly elections.
Secondus made the call yesterday while addressing a press conference in Abuja, to round up the party's campaign.
He stated: "We concluded this campaign last week Thursday hoping to have picked our deserved victory last Saturday but you all know what happened, the INEC failed to have the election as APC hawks that hijacked the operations of the commission failed and chose to sabotage them to arm twist the commission into having their planned staggered election.
"Having failed to achieve that, they have turned the heat on the commission. Both President Buhari and the APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, have been attacking and intimidating the commission because they did not have their way.
"As a result, the election was rescheduled to this Saturday February 23 and had to conclude our national campaign today with this press briefing. I want to urge everybody to remain steadfast and focused refusing to be intimidated.
"When the President ordered soldiers to shoot voters at sight, the motive was to scare you out of the polling booth to enable them manipulate the result but with God on your side they will fail."
Secondus insisted that when the president threatened the commission with probe after election, the intention was to frighten and cow the commission into playing along in the APC agenda.
He added, "When they harass, arrest and block bank accounts of the opposition stakeholders what they want is to win at all cost.
"When they drag military institutions into politics, the aim is obvious to destroy that institution the way it's doing to the legislature and the judiciary.
"But I urge you Nigerians to refuse to be intimidated or provoked but remain focused and fix your eyes on the ball, which is victory, which is coming on Sunday."
Also speaking Thursday, the party's Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, dismissed the endorsement of Buhari by a forum of 12 presidential candidates, describing them as political jobbers that want to swindle Buhari.
He said: "Forum of Presidential Candidates is not known to us, we are not aware of such group. They are political jobbers, who want to swindle President Muhammadu Buhari."
Ologbondiyan urged party members to come to the polling booths armed with their food packs, water bottles and sleeping mats so that they can vote and ensure their votes are counted.
Also speaking, Chairman PDP Strategy Committee for the campaign, Chief Osita Chidoka, called upon Nigerians to be patient, peaceful and tolerant, and also show Africa and the world of Nigerians' fierce commitment to democracy, to transparency and to the rule of law. The main opposition party said it has taken lessons from the "Osun Playbook," and has focused its efforts on giving the Nigerian people, the confidence that their votes, as expressed at the ballot box, would count.
Chidoka said that the party was fully prepared to resist intimidation, extra judicial procedures and partisanship on the part of security agencies by reporting acts to the PDP national hotline 097 000 551 for onward broadcast to Nigerians and the world.
According to him, "We remind security agencies that it is only an election and not a war against Nigerians. The choice of language of the government and security chiefs leaves us with the impression that the peaceful election of 2015 is not the model for 2019 election."
He called on the military, the police, and all other security agents to do their patriotic duty to the citizens of this great country, hold true to their legal mandate, display their commitment to the rule of law, act with restraint and in accordance to the law.