By Nathaniel Gana
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigerian Police, the lead agency in election security, have assured residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of their readiness to conduct free, fair, credible and inclusive elections, in a safe and secure environment during the Area Council Election scheduled for Saturday, 12th February, 2022.
Both agencies called on stakeholders to eschew violence and other acts that are capable of undermining the elections by allowing the electorate to decide who their leaders would be.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alkali Baba Usman gave the assurance, at an enlarged Stakeholders’ Forum on the Area Council Election, organised by INEC, in Abuja, today.
Prof. Yakubu while assuring of INECs commitment to free, fair, credible and inclusive polls, said “our eyes are on all our officials, be they ad hoc or regular staff, to ensure that they strictly abide by the rules”. He however, equally placed a similar burden of responsibility on all political parties. He said; “all parties, candidates and their supporters should do the same. No one will benefit from the disruption of the process or other acts of bad behaviour. Let the voters in the FCT choose their leaders in a free, fair and peaceful contest”.
Expressing the Commission’s commitment towards raising the bar and ensuring that the Area Council Election was a beacon for a peaceful and credible 2023 general election, the INEC Chairman gave a brief of the level of work put in on the part of the Commission to prepare for the Area Council election.
He said “with only four days to the election, most of the major activities have been carried out. Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) was conducted over a period of six months. Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) have been printed and made available for collection. There are enough ad hoc staff engaged and trained for the election. Non-sensitive materials have been deployed to the various Area Councils”.
“ Non-pharmaceutical materials have been procured to protect voters and personnel from COVID-19 in line with the Commission’s policy based on the protocols prescribed by health authorities. Voter education and publicity have been carried out. Transport arrangements have been made, including motorcycles for remote locations and boats for riverine areas”
Speaking on the INECs Inclusivity initiative and potential threats to the election, Professor Yakubu said; “we shall deploy assistive devices such as Braille ballot guide and magnifying glasses for the physically challenged voters. We had several meetings with the security agencies in the area councils, the FCT and the national level on how to address potential threats to the election and secure the election.
He continued; “All non-sensitive materials have already been delivered to the Area Councils. On Thursday 10th February 2022 i.e. in the next two days, sensitive materials will be delivered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to our FCT Office in Garki. As usual, party agents, observers and the media will be invited to inspect the materials before they are moved to the Area Councils on the same day”. The INEC Chairman added that Security personnel will provide escort to the Area Councils and protection of the materials until they reach the polling units on Election Day.
The INEC Chairman further disclosed that The Commission is also deploying six Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to support the REC for the FCT and three National Commissioners to supervise the conduct of the election.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the FCT, Alh. Yahaya Bello, called on eligible voters for the Area Council election to feel free to exercise their franchise. According to him, arrangements have been made to secure lives and protect everyone participating in the elections.
The REC corroborated the Chairman’s assurance that The Commission was all set for the elections, by reeling out some of the activities successfully carried out in the build up to the election.
He explained that the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in the FCT was suspended on 26th December and Permanent Voter Cards were printed and distributed at the Various Area Council offices till the 4th of February when collection was suspended for the elections.
Alh. Bello assured that the CVR exercise and the distribution of Printed PVCs will continue after the Area Council election.
Ón his part, the IGP of Police, Alkali Baba Usman, assured that “the Police as the lead agency in election security has been working in synergy with other security agencies to prepare adequately to provide the enabling environment for the peaceful conduct of this Area Council election”.
Represented by DCP Basil Idegwu, the IGP maintained that Security threats posed by insurgency, terrorism, political thurgery and other violent crimes as well as electoral offences affect the credibility of an election and that will not be allowed during the Area Council election.
Speaking further on the measures taken by the Police to secure the electoral space for peaceful election on Saturday, IGP Usman said as part of the strategies put in place, threat analysis, information gathering and intelligence sharing with sister security agencies have led to the identification of peculiar threats in all the Area Councils.
He added that the Police would deploy tactical units draw from the Mobile Police force, Special Forces, Counter Terrorism, and all the Tectical Units of the Police to secure the election. “We are poised to ensure that we deploy the best of our human and material resources during this election”, the IGP stressed.
Mr. Usman also assured that the Police will ensure the protection of INEC infrastructure in all the Area Councils, and explained that the Police will engage in convoy patrol with other security agencies, and also conduct stop and search at strategic locations, as well as other key and vulnerable points.
The IGP added: “before the elections we will continue to conduct raids on suspected criminal hideouts, and there will be deployment of additional conventional personnel from neighbouring states of kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, and Kaduna”.
“We will further ensure the deployment of additional logistics to support the FCT Command. Senior officers from the Force Headquarters will equally be deployed to supervise the conduct of the election in the area councils. It is on record that a series of consultations have been held and are still ongoing, just like the one we are holding now for the critical stakeholders on the need to eschew violence and create an enabling environment for free, fair and credible elections’.
The FCT Minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, expressed confidence in the Professor Yakubu Led INEC to deliver on its mandate. Mr. Bello commended the steady improvement witnessed in the conduct of elections which he attributed to the increasing use of technology and other reforms.
The FCT Minister Canvassed Stakeholder support for INEC, and assured that his administration will also collaborate with other stakeholders to work with the Commission to ensure the Area Council election serves as a model for the 2023 general election.
The high point of the event was the unanimous Pledge by participants in the election to an oath of peaceful conduct, before, during and after the Area Council election.