Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, has raised security concerns about both Bayelsa and Kogi states ahead of the governorship elections, describing the two states as “politically volatile”.
Addressing the Senate committee on INEC, Mr Yakubu said that the Commission will work with security agencies to deploy Marine Police, Navy, Army and gun-boats to escort vessels carrying personnel and materials for the election in Bayelsa State.
He also informed the committee that no fewer than 26,000 ad hoc staff will be needed to conduct the governorship elections in both states, explaining that while 9,945 will be required in Bayelsa, 15,868 will handle the election in Kogi.
“Both Kogi and Bayelsa are politically volatile,” he stated. “And we have seen the kind of situation that arose during the conduct of primaries by political parties and one or two incidents in Kogi with the commencement of campaigns by political parties.
He went on to brief the committee on the Commission’s plans for the closely watched state elections.
“We have the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) which I co-chair with the National Security Adviser (NSA). The Police is the lead agency but all other security agencies are also involved.
“Recently, we had a consultative meeting with the Inspector General of Police and we are working on the deployment jointly with the security agencies for the security personnel needed for the two elections.
“We conducted our own risk assessment for the two States, and we share what we do with the security agencies that also conduct their own risk assessment on the basis of which the security agencies will be guided in their deployment.
“We’ll soon finalise on the deployment plan jointly with the security agencies, including the escort of personnel and materials as well as the protection of the processes throughout the period of the elections.
“In a place like Bayelsa, we not only hire boats, we also work with the security agencies – the Marine Police, the Navy and the Army to have gun-boats – to escort the boats carrying personnel and materials for the election and we are working with the security agencies in that respect,” he noted.
On the numerical strength of the ad hoc staff the Commission’s deployment plans, the INEC chairman said:
“With the security volatility of the areas, we will require lot of ad hoc staff to conduct the elections in the two states.
“In Bayelsa, we will require 9,945 ad hoc staff. In Kogi, we will require 15,868 ad hoc staff. In all, for the two states, the Commission will require about 26,000 ad hoc staff to conduct the elections,” he stated.
On logistical arrangements, Mr Yakubu explained that “the Commission is aware that the two states are difficult in terms of terrain. Arrangements are being concluded with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) for land transport based on the existing Memorandum of Understanding between the Commission and the NURTW.
“In Bayelsa, because five out of the eight local governments are riverine, we have also made arrangements with boat owners. All non-sensitive materials for the elections for the two states have been delivered and they (our staff) are batching the materials by local governments, by RAs (Registration Areas) and ultimately down to the level of Polling Units.
“As always, the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) will be deployed for the election for the purpose of voter accreditation, and we have made arrangements for the configuration and deployment of the SCRs. The Manual Register will be printed.
“One will be pasted at the Polling Units, the other one will be held by the Presiding Officer and that is the one that will be ticked off on election day. We are well on course also on the production of the register.
“I said earlier that we require about 26,000 ad hoc staff. It is not just about recruiting the ad hoc staff but also training them. We have commenced the process of recruitment of ad hoc staff and training them – those that are going to perform the tasks at the polling units, mainly drawn from the NYSC.
“Already, we have concluded the master training, the train-the-trainer programme for security personnel and we have also conducted the refresher training for electoral officers and assistant electoral officers for the two states,” he said.
Mr Yakubu also spoke specifically on electoral data for both States, stating that “while Bayelsa has 105 electoral wards, Kogi has 239. For the Polling Units, including the Voting Points, Bayelsa has 2,244 polling units and voting points, while Kogi has 3508.
“In terms of the registered voters, Bayelsa has 923,182 registered voters, whereas Kogi has 1,646,350 registered voters. Since 2015, it has been the practice that where citizens have no Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) they can’t vote. So, for the rate of collection of PVCs in the two states, Bayelsa has 889,308 collected PVCs, representing 96.3 percent of the total number of registered voters.
“In Kogi, 1,485,828 PVCs have been collected representing 90.2 percent. The uncollected PVCs in Bayelsa is 33,874, representing 3.7 percent of the total number of registered voters, whereas in Kogi it is 160,522, representing 9.8 percent of the total number of registered voters,” he disclosed.
On the nomination of candidates by the political parties and disqualified candidates, the INEC boss explained that “out of the 101 parties, only 46 in Bayelsa and 41 in Kogi, making a total of 87 made valid nominations. In other words, the nominations complied with the constitutional requirements for qualification for election into the office of Governor.
“These requirements are one: The candidate has to be a Nigerian citizen by birth; two: He or she has to be 35 years of age minimal; three: He or she must be sponsored by a political party, we have no independent candidacy; and then four: The candidate must be educated to school certificate level.
“They completed the Form 001 and prima facie, on the documents that they submitted on oath that some of them did not meet the constitutional requirements for contesting for election into the office of governor. Some were 30 years, 31, 34 and in one exceptional case, even a 27-year-old was nominated by one of the political parties.
“So, we said that the nominations were invalid. Here, I think it is important to make the clarification. The Commission did not reject or disqualify (any candidate) because there is nothing to reject or disqualify.
“In our opinion, once the constitutional requirement is not met, we can’t see an individual who has not met the constitutional requirement for age contesting.
“For this category of invalid nominations, six parties were involved in Bayelsa, and eight in Kogi, making a total of 14 parties. Out 101 parties, 87 have made valid nominations. We have no problem with them. But 14 parties submitted invalid nominations and we informed them accordingly.
“But out of the 87 parties that made valid nominations, one party in Bayelsa withdrew from the election during the period for withdrawal and substitution of candidates and in Kogi, 18 political parties withdrew, making a total of 19 for the two states.
“After all the expenditure and monitoring of the party primaries and based on the provisions of the law, they then decided to withdraw from the elections. It’s entirely legitimate for them to withdraw.
“And they gave quite a number of reasons, ranging from lack of financial capacity to prosecute the election. Some said family advice on the fear of violence; one said ill-health, another said travel arrangements and another said there is a slim chance that his party will win the election.
“In all, we have 45 parties contesting in Bayelsa and 23 in Kogi, making a total of 68. But three of the 14 parties that made invalid nominations have dragged the Commission to court. I can’t comment on the merit of these cases in court,” he explained.