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All is well… INEC chair reassures commission ready for rescheduled elections

MAHMOOD Yakubu, the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has again reassured Nigerians, as well as the international community that the commission is ready for the rescheduled 2019 general elections.

Yakubu gave the reassurance while briefing newsmen and election observers on Tuesday at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja.

He also used the opportunity to clear the air on several reports about the commission’s operations in the mainstream media, as well as on social media.

On the movement of sensitive voting materials to their destinations, Yakubu said that has been done, and that all sensitive materials, including ballot papers, result sheets and the likes, have all been delivered.

“By 4 pm yesterday (Monday), all issues relating to the delivery of materials were identified and virtually addressed,” he said. “Ballot papers, result sheets, and a host of non-sensitive materials are now in location across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.”

He added that INEC state offices have commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine the retrieved materials deployed last week, and to witness the batching of the materials according to local governments areas for subsequent delivery to the various wards and Registration Area Centres (RACs).

“All Registration Area Centres (RACs) are to be activated by 9 am on Friday, 22 February 2019. Personnel and materials should be at the RACs by midday on Friday, 22 February 2019. Refresher trainings for ad-hoc personnel should take place at the RACs on Friday, 22 February 2019. Personnel and materials must arrive at the polling units latest 7 am on Saturday, 23 February 2019. Opening of polls nationwide will take place at 8 am in the morning on Saturday, 23 February 2019,” he said.

Yakubu admitted that there was a tiny mix-up in the deployment of voting materials last Saturday where a parcel in the materials sent to Katsina State was observed to contain voting materials meant for the FCT. He, however, explained that it was a minor hitch that was immediately taken care of, and that there is no evidence to suggest that the mix-up was an act of sabotage on the part of INEC.

Also, Yakubu said that the commission has achieved 95 per cent reconfiguration of all the 180,000 smart card readers to be used for the elections and that the process is expected to completed by Wednesday morning.

He would later clarify that the commission has enough spare smart card readers to be deployed in polling units where a card reader fails to function properly. According to Yakubu, INEC reserves two spare card readers per registration area, so, even though some of the spare card readers were mopped up to replace the ones that were damaged in a fire incident in Anambra State, there are enough spare card readers to go round all the registration areas in the country.

Yakubu also clarified that no third party was involved in the reconfiguration of the card readers as is being alleged by some media reports.

He also said that no commissioner or state director of INEC was picked up by any security agency as was reported in the media.

The ICIR had reported that Okechukwu Ibeanu, head of INEC’s standing committee on logistics, was invited for questioning by the Department of State Services (DSS). The invitation was for 2 pm on Tuesday, according to information by sources who described themselves as Ibeanu’s friends.

Other INEC directors were also invited by the DSS alongside Ibeanu. They include  Chidi Nwafor, INEC’s Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT); Ken Ukeagu; Osaze Uzzi, the Director of Voter Education and Publicity; and Bimbo Oladunjoye, the Assistant Director of ICT.

But Yakubu said there was no such thing, adding that the commissioner that was said to have been invited by the DSS was “as we speak in his office in the commission’s headquarters”.

On whether elections will hold in Borno State where Boko Haram is posing serious security challenges for the nation, Yakubu said that election would hold the normal way in areas that are safe, just as it would across the country. He also added that the commission had arranged that elections would hold in internally displaced persons’ camps across eight local government areas in Borno.

Addressing the uproar about ballot box snatchers, the INEC Chairman reiterated that “all violators of the Electoral Act should be punished according to the provisions of the Electoral Act”.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Monday warned that anybody who snatches ballot boxes or tries to stir up violence during elections does so at the risk of his or her life. But some Nigerians interpreted him as saying that anyone who snatches ballot boxes should be killed.

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