Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may bow to pressure to extend the Friday, February 8 deadline for the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), for the 2019 general elections.
Although INEC has constantly maintained that the deadline for collection of the PVCs is sacrosanct, the leading opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had on Wednesday appealed to the election commission to extend the collection date.
However, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who hinted at the possibility of extending the deadline at the National Stakeholders’ Forum on the 2019 general elections in Abuja, noted that the final decision would be taken after the meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT to review the collection.
Yakubu further assured Nigerians that the elections would not be postponed as being speculated in some quarters, emphasising that INEC had already implemented most of the programmes outlined for the 2019 polls.
“I want to assure stakeholders that INEC is prepared for the election. Let me reassure stakeholders and the nation that the Smart Card Readers will be deployed for the 2019 general elections. The next issue is voters register and the PVCs. We have a lot of complaints from citizens, however, the complaints are coming from those who have damaged their PVCs and require replacement, as well as those who applied for transfer and relocation but the cards, have not been found.
‘Some of you will ask that the last day for the correction of PVCs is Friday, February 8. The commission will meet on Thursday after this forum and the next meeting we are going to hold is with security agencies and where it is necessary we will review the arrangement for the collection of PVCs. No Nigerian is going to be disenfranchised for no fault of theirs.
“We have three categories of ad hoc staff; we have the supervisory presiding officers’ category. We have the presiding officers and assistant presiding officers 1, 2 and 3. The third category is the collation and returning officers.
“Our state offices are responsible for the recruitment and training of the first two categories. We are satisfied with the processes and we are going to do refresher training before the election,” Yakubu said.
He further announced that 148 observer groups have been approved for the election with 119 domestic and 28 foreign observer missions, making a total of 90, 000 observers that would be going around pulling units across the country on the election day.
The INEC Chairman who explained that RECs had been mandated to meet with commissioners of police in their respective states to decide on the deployment of security, said they were to meet state chapters of Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers to implement the earlier signed MoU to ensure that election staff and materials were moved to various pulling units before the arrival of voters at 8 am on the election day.
Also speaking, the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, disclosed that the six Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) would be deployed to the six geopolitical zones, 24 Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) would be deployed across the zones while 36,000 tactical personnel would also be deployed in addition to regular police to beef up security on the election day.
“In the tactical unit, over 24,000 mobile police personnel will be deployed, 4,000 counter-terrorism personnel will be deployed and about 8,000 special protection personnel will be deployed.
“I work tirelessly with the INEC, with the office of the National Security Adviser and other security agencies to make sure that 2019 election is done in a secured manner, in a professional manner, in a way that a level playing field is provided for every political party and this indicates that all the security agencies will be impartial in the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
“All the commissioners of police in the states were made to identify the flashpoints within their states to identify those that will cause what will lead to the disruption of elections and make sure that we bring them to order before the elections. That has been done.
“We have done the threat analysis in all the state commands. The state commissioners of police are also going to identify all the polling units and voting points within their commands in cooperation with the RECs to make sure that all the polling units are known before the day of the election.
“Apart from the regular police officers and other security agencies posted, we have our tactical units like the mobile police force, the counter-terrorism unit and our special protection unit are all deployed to give additional security,” he assured.
The acting IGP further noted that all the Squadron Commanders of Police Mobile Force, Special Protection and Anti Terrorism units would escort sensitive election materials to the states branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Registration Areas and accompany INEC staff and poll officials especially National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to their duty posts.
He added that there would be no police escort for VIPs to pulling units but INEC state and local government offices, collation centres, NYSC members lodges and public utilities would be protected by armed police personnel while three unarmed security personnel would man each polling unit on the day of the election.
The police boss promised that before the election day, phone numbers of all Police Public Relations Officers, AIGs, Commissioners of Police, Assistant Commissioners of Police and other officers involved in the conduct of the polls would be made available to the public, noting that security personnel would be professional and impartial to provide a level playing field for all political parties.
Earlier, ECES Project Coordinator, Rudolf Elbing, urged stakeholders in the electoral process to support the growth of Nigeria’s democratic system and work with INEC to ensure that democracy is sustained and elections conducted in the most peaceful atmosphere.
“The forum provides electoral stakeholders with the necessary tools to ensure that elections are conducted with operational and logistical efficiency. At the same time, dialogue- development and dialogue-based decision making throughout the electoral cycle have been enhanced.
“Electoral administration is not a job left to an election management body alone. There are many other important stakeholders who play vital roles in ensuring the successful delivery of the electoral process.
“It is expected that this dialogue will strengthen the long-term capacities of participants and the commission to effectively deliver the coming general elections on February 16 and March 2, through the provision of requisite information on how far the INEC has fared in its planning and implementation of the election project,” he added.