2023 General Elections: We are ready for elections, INEC, security agents declare

Amid widespread apprehension and crises occasioned by the new Naira redesign policy, and insinuations that it is a ploy to prevent vote-buying, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, declared that it had concluded plans to conduct the general elections beginning next Saturday.

• Yakubu, Team Visit Collation Centre, Inspect Training Of Adhoc Staff
• To Meet Security Agencies Over Naira Crunch Protests
• Presidential Candidates To Sign Final Peace Accord On Wednesday
• FRSC Deploys 21,783 Personnel, 769 Patrol Vehicles, 139 Ambulances, 33 Tow Trucks
• Cash Crunch Could Lead To Mass Protest, Breakdown Of Order

Amid widespread apprehension and crises occasioned by the new Naira redesign policy, and insinuations that it is a ploy to prevent vote-buying, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, declared that it had concluded plans to conduct the general elections beginning next Saturday.

In a similar vein, the Nigeria Police, military high commands, other security agencies and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) all reassured Nigerians of their readiness to supervise and ensure a peaceful 2023 elections.

During the week, protests erupted across the country over new Naira scarcity, heightening tension in the polity and apprehension that the protests could affect the impending polls negatively. Some politicians even alleged that agents of the Federal Government were planning to use the cash swap policy to incite crises for military take over.

But INEC, seemingly unperturbed by the insinuations, has gone ahead to put final touches to its preparation for the elections.

Yesterday in Abuja, Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, as part of activities to put perfect the Commission’s preparation for Saturday’s poll, visited the training centre for Presiding and Assistant Presiding Officers.

Yakubu also inspected the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, venue for the final collation of the 2023 general elections results.

Addressing journalists at the ICC, Yakubu dismissed reports of any planned postponement of the general elections, declaring that the “commission is good to go.”

He said: “Basically what we have done today is to go through two activities. The first one is the training of the second batch of adhoc staff for the election. Last week, we trained Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) nationwide and, today and tomorrow, we’ll finish the training of the Presiding Officers (POs), Assistant Presiding Officers I, II and III.

“These are the officers or the adhoc staff we are going to deploy to polling units. Majority of them are members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). After that, we visited the International Conference Centre where we will perform basically three activities. One, there is a hall that is going to serve as the media centre for both national and international observers, media organisations accredited for the elections. We’re also going to do our own briefing of observers coming up on Tuesday, next week at this same venue.

“The African hall will serve as collation centre for the presidential election. By the side of the Africa Hall will be our own situation room where we will deploy our platforms, which is INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC). Here, citizens can ask questions, respond to issues or challenges in the field and we’ll be able, in turn, to also respond speedily to give citizens a happy voting experience.

“For the media, there will be a place we have earmarked for those who wish to set up studios to be able to do so and those of you who wish to bring your Outside Broadcasting Vans. In essence, the 2023 general election is here.

“By this time next week, Nigerians will be voting in over 176,000 polling units nationwide and the outcome of that process for presidential election will be compiled here and announced.”

Asked whether the recent protests across the country over the new naira scarcity might lead to the postponement of the election, Yakubu shrugged it off, saying that the role of providing election security is the sole responsibility of security agencies.

He, however, disclosed that the commission would meet with heads of security agencies to discuss more on safeguarding the environment for a peaceful election.

“We’re working together and the security agencies have assured and reassured us that they will secure the environment for elections to go on peacefully nationwide,” he said.

Giving an update on his recent visit to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, over the cash crunch, the INEC chairman expressed optimism that the commission’s demand would be met with a positive response.

“We visited the CBN last week on the issue of cash for payment of some of the services that we are going to engage on election day. The bulk of payment for goods, works and services is made by the commission through electronic transfer.

“But there are certain critical services that we have to remunerate by cash and that’s why we went to the CBN. Though it is a small percentage of the budget, the central bank has assured us that we will not suffer any encumbrances in that regard. So, there are no issues with respect to that,” he added.

Yakubu further disclosed that candidates who are contesting for the presidential election will on Wednesday, February 22, at 3:00pm, sign the final peace accord pledging to ensure a violence-free poll. The event holds at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

Speaking to the NYSC members who will serve as adhoc staff earlier,
Yakubu told them that they would swear to an oath of neutrality, in line with section (26) of the Electoral Act 2022.

“You are going to swear an oath of neutrality and allegiance to the federal republic of Nigeria. You are not loyal to any political party or candidate. Our loyalty is to the voters who will come and make their choice,” he stated.

While explaining the modalities of voting on Election Day, Yakubu said there would be four staff at polling units (Pus), including the Presiding Officers (POs), Assistant Presiding Officers I, II, and III.

He said that at the polling units level, corps members would serve as presiding officers. “You are going to be the INEC chairman on Election Day at your polling unit,” he said.

He further told the election officials that the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) must only be handled by them on election day. Yakubu insisted that those not accredited by BVAS must not be allowed to vote.

He added: The BVAS is going to perform several functions. One, the BVAS will confirm that a voter is a registered voter whose name is on the voter register. Secondly, you will use the machine to authenticate the voter using the fingerprint but when it fails, you use the facial.

“Now, when you try the thumb, and it doesn’t work, try the index finger. If it doesn’t work, try other fingers because at the point of registration, we’ve captured all the 10 fingers from the voter. But when both fails, then the voter will not be allowed to vote. That is what the law says.

“After the election process is over and ballot paper have been sorted out and counted, you record the score on form EC8A and then use the device to take a picture of the EC8A and transmit to the INEC result viewing portal so that Nigerians can be watching what has happened in each polling unit.”

Meanwhile, Military and police spokesmen who responded to checks by The Guardian on their preparedness for the election said they were fully prepared to assist INEC in giving the nation the best election ever.

Police spokesman, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi said police has reassured Nigerians that it was ready for the election. “Security wise, the police is good to go. INEC will speak on its drives and technicalities,” Adejobi said.

Nigeria’s Defence headquarters also reiterated its readiness to support the police, which is the lead agency in ensure a peaceful poll.

According to Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Musa Danmadami, “Nigerians should rest assured that operations are going on to ensure peaceful election. Election was conducted in Anambra State and it was successful and a winner emerged and was sworn in. We are not the lead agency, our responsibility is to support the police and other security agencies to ensure a peaceful election.”

Spokesman of Nigeria’s Defence headquarters, Brig. Gen. Gusau said: “The Chief of Defence Staff has reassured that the military would support security agencies to ensure a peaceful election.”

However, members of intelligence community and civil society groups have urged the Federal Government to address the naira and fuel scarcity to ensure a peaceful poll.

According to former Director of DSS, Dennis Amachree, “the threats of fuel scarcity, naira crunch and other violent situations of terrorism, banditry and ethnic criminality have created a hydra-headed insecurity against the Nigerian people. This is becoming more complicated as we approach the 2023 general elections this month.

“The projections are not looking good. If the present situation continues, especially the cash crunch, it could create mass protests, vandalising public and private properties, as well as voters’ apathy. The FG needs to identify the root causes and unclog the hitches.”

For the President of Private Security Practitioners Association, Dr Wilson Esangbedo: “Our present circumstances is leading only to one direction, breakdown of law and order, not caused by insecurity but wrong government policies. Are the policies made to cause these reactions? Only the government can answer this question. The average Nigerian is fed up and frustrated and under that condition, there will be demonstrations across the country.

“lt would not lead to cancellation of the elections but a determination by the average Nigerian to vote out the ruling party. The ruling party may lose favour amongst the electorate, unless fuel and the new money is made available before the elections.”

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), through its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, blamed the President over the redesign of the naira notes, saying the scarcity of naira notes has led to the death of at least one customer who slumped and died after hours of waiting in Agbor, Delta State.

The group said millions of Nigerians have been stranded in the last few weeks, with Point of Sale operators charging as high as N2,000 when people want to withdraw just N10,000. This is scandalous and exorbitant and totally avoidable if the CBN and its governor, Godwin Emefiele had done the needful by releasing the new notes to the populace.

President Muhammadu Buhari has just scored another infamous own goal and has earned a treacherous medal as the Head of State under whose watch Nigerians were killed or died whilst struggling to pull out their savings in the deposit money banks following the ill-advised, ill-timed decision by the CBN.

The group sought a one-year extension of the deadline by the CBN for all Nigerians, especially those in remote and unbanked areas to exchange their old notes for the new ones, citing the example of the United Kingdom which unveiled its new notes on December 20, 2022 but gave the deadline of 2024 for banks to still swap old pound sterling for the new ones.

Weighing in on the conversation, security analyst, Christopher Oji noted that there is palpable fear everywhere in Nigeria. “The killings on highways, on rail lines, our farms; and the kidnappings, herdsmen attacks and unknown gunmen attacks in the Southeast are enough reasons to postpone the general elections. Now, the FG is looking for all available means not to conduct the elections by causing artificial fuel and Naira scarcity.

“The reason for Naira redesign has been defeated. They told us that through the process, bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, and unscrupulous politicians would be arrested. How come that terrorists were seen in a viral video brandishing new notes? How many unscrupulous politicians were arrested and how many criminals have been arrested? For all the reasons, the masses should come out and vote out the APC led government. We are seriously under pressure,” he said.

ON its part, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) said it is deploying a total of 21,783 personnel, 769 vehicles, 139 Ambulances and 33 heavy, medium and light duty Tow Trucks, as part of its commitment towards ensuring
that next Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly elections are conducted in a smooth, hitch free and successful manner.

In a statement by the Assistant Corps Marshal, Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, the Corps would work alongside other security agencies to ensure orderliness and timely delivery of election materials.

Kazeem noted that the Corps Marshal in his pre-election directives to the operatives, clearly spelt out their duties and responsibilities during the period, which include but not limited to the following –enforcement of restriction of movement order by ensuring prompt blockage of roads at entry points to prevent unauthorised movement across the polling units; and ensuring round the clock monitoring of conduct of elections and other unfolding events in collaboration with sister security agencies at the Joint Operations Room domiciled at the Force Headquarters, as well as state headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force in various states. This is to ensure robust intelligence gathering and sharing for quick and necessary response and intervention.

“Others include screening and accreditation of vehicles hired by INEC from road transport unions for conveyance of sensitive and non-sensitive materials; and, ensuring orderliness at polling units and countering activities that could undermine the election.”

While charging them to carry out their duties with diligence, the Corps Marshal also directed Commanding Officers to ensure that
patrol and other operational vehicles are promptly deployed and monitored all through the duration of the exercise.

He charged the personnel to be highly professional and desist from any form of incivility, as the entire citizens expect nothing less at this critical time.

Also, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), yesterday, engaged the Nigeria Police, the Department of State Service and the Nigeria Security, Civil Defence Corps and other relevant security and emergency response stakeholders to mitigate electoral violence in the forthcoming general elections in Ekiti and Ondo states.

The Director-General of NEMA, Alhaji Mustapha Ahmed, stated this at a stakeholder’s workshop on, ‘Awareness, Preparedness and Mitigation of Electoral Violence in Nigerian elections’ organised by the agency in Ado-Ekiti.

He said that the partnership became necessary in view of past experiences of prevalence of electoral violence before, during and after elections in the country.

Ahmed, who was represented at the occasion by Operations Manager in charge of Ondo and Ekiti states, Mr Kadiri Olarewaju, said the stakeholders’ meeting was an opportunity to create a forum for a well-coordinated emergency response team to attend to emergencies that may arise before, during and after elections.

He said there was the need for all stakeholders to put all hands-on deck to mitigate the recurrence of electoral violence’s in our electoral system.

In his remarks, the General Manager, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr Jide Borode, who represented the Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Monisade Afiye, called on INEC to set rules for politicians to reduce violence during elections.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner, represented by Head of Election Monitoring, Austin Orogbu said that INEC had partnered with security agencies to identify hot spots usually prone to violence during elections.

He commended NEMA for organising such an event, saying that the early warning would support the prevention of election-related violence.

The INEC representative called on Nigerians to assist the commission to conduct a free, fair, credible and acceptable election by not selling their rights by indulging in votes buying.

Representatives from Red Cross, religious bodies, police, Department of the State Security (DSS), National Orientation Agency (NOA), and National Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), among others, assured of their preparedness towards the forthcoming general elections.

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