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As the people of Edo State prepare for the forthcoming governorship election in the state, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has warned against cases of politicians infiltrating the staff and ad hoc officials of the commission with the view to manipulate electoral process.
Yakubu, who raised the alarm, on Tuesday, at the Situation Room Dialogue with INEC and Nigeria Police on Edo State Governorship Election organised by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) with the support of British Department for International Development (DFID) in Abuja, assured that INEC is on course in its preparation for the poll despite the re-run and other bye-elections which have affected the focus on Edo,
Represented by the commission’s National Commissioner, Hajia Amina Zakari, the INEC chair expressed worry over the extent politicians go towards infiltrating electoral officers.
“What I will like to implore on the civil society organisations is to assist INEC to conduct more advocacy; to reach out to the people, particularly on violence, and also on another issue that nobody really wants to talk about, and it is out there; the issue of politicians infiltrating our staff, and even the ad hoc staff that will engage. They find means and ways of infiltrating and this is an issue that needs to be brought to the table so that we can trash out once and for all,” he said.
Yakubu said though INEC, the inter-agency consultative commission and security agencies are committed to credible, fair, free, violent-free election in Edo State, strong candidates, violence and impunity, among others, are factors that could be attributed to inconclusive-election syndrome in the country.
He said: “So far, we have noticed that the politics in Edo State is calm, so far so good. We have no course to believe it will be overheated but you never can tell what politicians can do, especially as the stakes are high, the competition is very strong, the parties have nominated very strong candidates. In as much as this is good for democracy, it also gives INEC concern because certainly these are majorly the reasons for our inconclusive elections that keep on recurring. If any polling unit is on the negative side, it is difficult to conclude election with the kind of candidates we have and the strength of the two parties.
“We have explained time and time again that the reasons for inconclusive elections are because of strong candidates, very tight merging. Because of the innovations in our electoral process, it is difficult now to have landslide that nobody could explain earlier. Now we know exactly that most of the votes count irrespective of what happens out there.”
He called for the support of all the stakeholders towards ensuring that every polling unit counts in the conduct of the election.
Speaking, the Edo State’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Sam Olumekun, said the biggest challenge the commission may face is security.
“INEC’s experience since the general election of 2015 is that election security may have been on the decline. I should therefore shout loudly that perhaps, the biggest challenge we face is that of security. We must try to balance the imperative of securing the electoral process with the need to allow voters unfettered opportunity to come out and cast their votes without any fear as a result of the presence of security personnel,” he said.
Olumekun, who assured that INEC is set for the election, hinted that though the total number of registered voters in the state before the 2016 CVR exercise is 1, 791, 165, the commission registered less than 140, 000 voters during the exercise.
“Data of these new registrants will now go through the electronic test of Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) before the PVCs of the eligible voters among them are printed for collection,” he added.
The Executive Director of PLAC, Clement Nwankwo, said the essence of the gathering was to ensure a free, fair and credible poll in the incoming election in Edo State.