• As 87.2m Nigerians elect next President tomorrow •Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina top chart •BVAS use mandatory, says INEC.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, declared its readiness for this tomorrow’s presidential and National Assembly election, announcing that 87.2 million Nigerian electorate are eligible to participate.
INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who made the disclosure at a world press conference in Abuja, however, lamented that there were still many uncollected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs).
According to the latest breakdown, Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Rivers lead the voting strength.
While Lagos has 6.214 million voters, Kano, 5.5 million, Kaduna 4.16 million, Katsina, 3.45 million, Rivers, 3.28 million, Ekiti with 987,647, remained the state with the least voters in the register.
Further breakdown showed that North West has 21,445,000, South West, 15,536,213, North Central, 14,603,621, North East, 11,937,769, South South: 13,284,920 and South East with 10,401,484 remained that least according to Zonal statistics.
Meanwhile, battle-ready, heavily-armed security agents, in the early hours of yesterday, took over the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, venue of the National Collation Centre for the presidential election.
The security agents, dominated by police had arrived the ICC as early as 11am in several patrol vehicles and immediately took over the large complex.
Interestingly, the arrival of the security agents changed the complexity of the collation centre as they took over the entrance gate hitherto manned by private security guards.
During his media briefing, he electoral umpire boss announced that cash scarcity would not affect its logistics since the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has fulfilled the promise of requests made to it for cash support.
Declaring readiness for the poll, Yakubu said: “Staff to be deployed for the elections have been trained, the last being Collation and Returning Officers, who will complete their training shortly. An essential part of this training has been the emphasis on the neutrality of staff and the need for them to be committed and dedicated throughout the duration of their assignments.
“The commission shall carefully monitor the performance of all staff involved in the election and ensure that both recognition and sanctions are applied wherever applicable.
“We have completed all the testing of our technologies to be deployed for the election, particularly the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV). On 4th February 2023, we tested the BVAS in a mock accreditation exercise and uploaded the results to IReV.
“We are satisfied with the performance of the BVAS, which has been confirmed by several groups that observed the exercise. Lessons learnt from the exercise have helped us in the training of 10,600 Registration Area Technical Support Staff (RATECHS). They will provide the necessary support to ensure that the deployment of the BVAS is without hitches.
“Let me reiterate that the procedure for voting as provided in the Electoral Act 2022, clearly makes the use of the BVAS mandatory. So also, the use of the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC). The NO PVC, NO VOTING rule subsists. In the last few months, we made 13,676,907 PVCs available for collection for new voters and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost/damaged cards.
“While we are pleased that the rate of collection is higher than in previous years, there are still, unfortunately, many cards that were not collected,” he lamented.
The commission’s boss also reiterated the initial riot act it read against election malfeasance, stressing that “vote buying remains a major threat to our democracy. We have worked closely with enforcement agencies to ensure that this is eliminated from our electoral process.
“We are convinced that our joint operations before and on election day will vastly reduce the prospect of voter inducement, which is not only illegal but immoral. The ban on the use of mobile phones and photographic devices at the voting cubicles, is still in place.
“Some voters have used these devices in previous elections to snap their marked ballot papers for vote transaction. However, citizens are permitted to come to the Polling Units with these devices, as long as they do not take them to the voting cubicles.
“Our arrangement of placing the ballot box near the voting cubicle and away from party agents remains. Our staff have been trained in the administration of the Polling Units and their attention should be drawn to any deviation from that training.”
He equally assured that it has recovered fully from the attacks on its offices and facilities, emphasising that the security agencies have assured of adequate security to ensure peaceful election.
On the killing of Labour Party (LP), Oyibo Chukwu, senatorial candidate for Enugu East, the commission boss said the election may be postponed by two weeks.
Citing Section 34 of the Electoral Act, Yakubu, however, said that such postponement can only be activated the relevant section of the Electoral Act if the political party involved officially notified the commission.
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