Adetutu Folasade-Koyi and Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that no fewer than 143 election observers have been accredited to cover both Bayelsa and Kogi states governorship elections.
Yakubu, in his remarks during the quarterly separate meeting with Civil Society Organisation and media professionals in Abuja, urged the observers comprising 135 domestic and 16 foreign, to submit their reports after the elections.
“As we approach the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, the Commission has already accredited 135 domestic observer groups for the two states (67 for Bayelsa and 68 for Kogi) and 16 foreign observer groups (eight for each State).
“We wish to remind the observer groups of the imperative of submitting their reports in line with their terms of accreditation,” he said.
“I want to reassure you that civil society organisations will continue to play an important role in our democratic process. Through your diligent observation of elections, you provide valuable assessment of the strength and weaknesses of the processes that in 2019 took place in 176,996 voting locations and 10,367 collation/declaration centres nationwide. We value your engagement with the Commission and will continue to deepen it.
“For the 2019 General Election, the Commission accredited a total of 159 observer groups out of which 120 were domestic and 39 foreign. Collectively, they proposed to deploy 73,562 observers: 71,256 domestic and 2,306 foreign.
“However, seven months after the General Election, the Commission has so far received reports from only 72 observer groups (45.2 per cent) out of 159. I wish to remind those that are yet to formally submit their reports to the Commission to do so in earnest in both hard and soft copies as required of them under their terms of accreditation,” he said.
Speaking further, the INEC boss reiterated that the Commission had directed both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the ICPC to be on the watch out for the source of the money used for vote buying during the polls.
He also warned that the ban on using phone at the polling boots is still very much in place, revealing that the Nigeria Police have handed over the case file of those involved in electoral fraud during the 2019 general election.
“We have already engaged security agencies to ensure unimpeded access to voting locations and collation centres for accredited observers and the media in addition to adequate protection for all, including election officials and the voters.
“We also agreed that the rules of engagement for security officials on election duty should be reprinted and made available to the security personnel and stakeholders.
“The Commission is similarly concerned about possible voter harassment, inducement (including vote-buying) and other sundry violations of the Electoral Act. I must re-emphasise that voters are not allowed to carry their mobile phones or any photographic devices into the voting cubicles on election day.
“We are going to deepen our collaboration with the EFCC and ICPC. The two agencies will continue to keep their eyes on the movement of cash during the electioneering campaigns and on election day with the aim of inducing voters.
“We are glad to learn that during the 2019 General Election, alleged vote buyers were arrested across the country by the EFCC. Many have already been charged to court. I understand that the EFCC has recently secured the first conviction of a vote-buyer in Gombe Statem,” he said.
On the success recorded against electoral fraud in the 2019 general election, he revealed: “About two weeks ago, the Commission received some case files from the Nigeria Police of alleged offenders during the 2019 General Election. We are studying the case files for necessary action.”