The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has allayed the fears of Akwa Ibom residents ahead of Saturday’s elections after the office of the Commission in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of the state was gutted by fire.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Mike Igini, told Channels Television on Friday that although a good portion of the building was gutted by the fire, the ballot papers for the elections were intact.
He, however, noted that some other important equipment like card readers were destroyed by the fire.
Igini said, “I have been to the place and we found that part of the office was gutted by fire and some very important equipment were burnt down like the card readers.
“But the good news is that the ballot papers are all intact.
“In fact, I must commend the first responders for the good job because that would have been an issue, but I can confirm to Nigerians and Akwa Ibomites that all the ballot papers are intact.
“Where we have issues is that a number of card readers were burnt but another good news is that we have some reserve here and from the neighbouring state and even Abuja.
“Abuja has called in case we need more and of course we are doing a quick round assessment of that and if there is need for that, Abuja will also send out … otherwise, two of our neighbouring states here, Cross River and Rivers State will be able to assist us”.
The fire is said to have started at about 2:00 am on Friday but the cause is yet to be ascertained.
The Police in Taraba State have impounded a vehicle loaded with election materials from Gombe State.
This was confirmed by the Commissioner of Police in Taraba, Alkasim Sanusi, on Wednesday while he was addressing journalists at the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Jalingo, the state capital.
According to him, the vehicle was intercepted by his men who were on stop and search operations at about 7:00 pm on Tuesday along the Jalingo/Gombe road.
He also stated that the driver of the vehicle is now in their custody and after due interrogation, he (the driver) explained that he was instructed to carry the election materials from Gombe to the INEC headquarters in Jalingo.
The police has arrested four persons for allegedly stealing the voting materials meant for the Imo State ward and Local government Congress of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The force public relations officer, Jimoh Moshood disclosed this in a statement on Saturday. He added that the suspects were arrested in a hotel in Wuse II, Abuja with the sensitive materials.
“At about 1400hrs of today being May 12, 2018, operatives of the IGP special tactical squad on a tip-off trailed and arrested the suspects in a hotel at Wuse II, Abuja while in the act in hideout in the hotel, manipulating and entering data into result sheets of the Imo State APC ward election result sheets,” the statement read in part.
The suspects are being charged for criminal conspiracy, stealing, forgery, theft and unlawful possession of APC wards and local government electoral materials meant for the aborted APC ward congress election of May, 5, 2018.
Items recovered from the suspects include 68 APC ward congress result sheets, six APC LG result sheet, six LG APC ward officers and delegates list for the aborted May 5, 2018 APC ward congress elections.
Also recovered from the suspect was 130 APC delegates nomination forms.
Moshood warned politicians to desist from any act that is capable of disrupting the electoral process as the police is prepared to ensure that the 2019 general election is conducted under a peaceful atmosphere.
“The Nigeria Police Force is determined to ensure violence free and credible elections across the country in the forthcoming 2019 general election. The force has therefore, put in adequate security arrangement to guarantee free and fair elections from primary elections of all political parties to period of nomination and campaigns and the election proper throughout the thirty six states and the FCT,” Moshood added.
The statement added that the suspects admitted and confessed to the various crime adding an investigation is in progress and effort is being intensified to arrest one other suspects still at large.
All suspects will all be arraigned in court on completion of investigation.
The Bayelsa State election tribunal sitting in Abuja has granted leave to the All Progressives Congress, APC and its candidate in the governorship election, Mr Timipre Sylva to inspect and make copies of 30 election materials used for the poll.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Kazeem Alogba, however removed seven other items from the list because the petitioner had not shown how not having those items would affect its case.
The items removed include the final and interim report on the Kogi governorship election, summary of the total voters register, security report relating to the election and election observers report.
Others are video and audio recordings relating to the Bayelsa governorship election and duplicate of receipts issued by INEC for the certification of documents.
The tribunal ordered INEC to allow them access to the approved election materials within 14 days.
The APC and its governorship candidate had filed an application seeking to have access to and also inspect 37 materials relating to elections.
Mr Timipre Sylva said that these materials would help him further maintain his case, which is challenging the election of Mr Seriake Dickson as Governor of Bayelsa State.
Counsel to Mr Timipre Sylva, Sebastian Hon, had moved the motion hinged on seven grounds.
He urged the Tribunal to grant the request, since INEC, which conducted the election and in possession of the items sought to be inspected, is not opposing the application.
According to him, in law, the facts deposed to in an affidavit and not challenged by way of counter affidavit are deemed admitted by the force of law.
He argued that it was wrong of Governor Seriake Dickson to claim that Mr Sylva’s claim was vague when the documents sought to be inspected were well pleaded in the petition and in line with section 151 of the Electoral Act 2010.
Opposing the application, lawyer to Governor Dickson, Tayo Oyetibo, urged the Tribunal to reject the application on the ground that it lacked merit.
Oyetibo insisted that the request of the petitioner was vague because it failed to name the maker of the items sought to be inspected
He also argued that the petitioner failed to give reasons he wanted to inspect the election materials, adding that the motion violates Section 104 of the Evidence Act because the mandatory fee for certification of the materials has not been paid by the petitioner.
Among the materials sought to be inspected are the ballot papers, Form C4 and duplicate copy of the Certificate of Return issued to Governor Seriake Dickson.
The re-run election into four State House of Assembly seats in Akwa Ibom State has been adjudged peaceful and without any major hitch.
Election observers said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recorded success with its experiment of conducting accreditation and voting simultaneously in the Saturday election.
Election materials arrived voting units early in areas visited by Channels Television.
High turnout was recorded at most areas in Ibesikpo Asutan, Etinan, Obot Akara and Ikot Ekpene Local Government Areas while a few units had less than the registered number.
Voting was concluded by 2:00pm local time at most units across the affected local government areas.
The card readers in polling units visited walked perfectly, with minor complaint at a few units.
Some of the voters said that the procedures from the INEC to the RAC centres were commendable, as materials got to polling units early.
Some said the election was free and fair.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress for Oron/Udung Uko constituency in the election, Mr Victor Okon, had announced his withdrawal from the election, leaving his Poeples Democratic Party opponent as the only contestant for that constituency.
With a few weeks left before the closure of the Rivers State election Tribunal, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are making last minute efforts to meet the deadline for the inspection and collection of certified copies of materials used for the disputed April 2015 governorship polls.
Channels Television visited the Rivers State headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Port Harcourt, the state capital, to assess the process of inspection and examination of the materials.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) expressed dissatisfaction with the process while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed that the cry of the APC was a false alarm.
Though officials of the electoral body in the state declined speaking on the issues raised by the APC, the River State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Gesila Khan, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the election.
As the inspection and collection of electoral materials continue, both parties are expected to gather all relevant materials to pursue their cases in court.
The Resident Electoral commissioner (REC) in Akwa Ibom State, Barr. Austin Okojie, at a media briefing in his office on Saturday evening, shed more light on happenings during the day’s governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.
Barr Okojie confirmed that there were instances of violence in some Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the state.
Part of the incidents include, Mkpat Enin in Eket Senatorial District where two Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adhoc staff were injured.
Election materials were snatched in Eket and Ibesikpo Asutan districts where they were later recovered by the Police.
About 10 corps members were found in the residence of a former Director of NYSC, Major General Edet Akpan, thumbprinting on ballot papers in Nsit Atai LGA
The Akwa Ibom REC said that the corps members were arrested alongside the Army Chief, and are currently in detention.
Mr Okojie also said that shooting also occurred in Nsit Ubium LGA.
On the performance of the card reader, the REC said that the machine worked perfectly, except in few areas where failure was experienced and replacement was effected.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega on Monday said that the commission has investigated and prosecuted over 200 persons who allegedly breached the electoral laws. Mr Jega, who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, accused Nigerian politicians of always seeking to ‘jump the gun’ during elections. He said INEC has done its best in checking this trend.
“I want to say categorically, we have done or best. We have prosecuted over 200 people successfully,” he said.
He said some of the electoral offenders, including members of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and INEC staff have been fined or jailed. “Before our commission was inaugurated, there was no record of a single successful prosecution of electoral offences,” Mr Jega said.
He said though the number represents a drop in the ocean, the commission had reasons to prosecute about one million people over multiple registrations.
“On registration alone, we do have evidence to prosecute close to a million people for clear cases of multiple registrations,” he said. He said the commission lacks the resources and personnel to prosecute all these offenders.
Mr Jega said INEC is currently working on how to relinquish the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders to another agency.
He said, “We are partnering with the NBA (Nigerian Bar Association), in fact, we have been discussing this partnership and now we are taking it a level higher and our hope is that before we commence the process of continuous voters’ registration, which we hope will commence by the third quarters which is July – September God willing, we also want to make example of those who have done multiple registration.
“We will do it, but it is very challenging. The best thing is to have another agency that can actually handle prosecution of electoral offenders.”
Mr Jega said managing logistics during elections is a major problem that INEC have been contending with for a long time insisting that the commission has done its best to minimise this challenge.
He said, “I want to assure you that globally, there’s no country where you can say it is 100 percent free of this challenge of late arrival of materials.”
He said since he assumed office, the commission has been partnering with the security agencies to hasten the deployment of materials to areas with troubling terrain.
“Where it is necessary to move material by aircraft or helicopter, the navy helped us during the 2011 elections. Where it was to move it in the riverine areas the navy helped us and even provided security to minimise challenges arising from the activities of militants groups,” the INEC boss said.
He said INEC devised a strategy of deploying materials to areas far from the city centre before deploying to closer areas but that this, as it happened in the recent Edo Council polls, has its own challenges.
He said the commission has reduced the incidences of late arrival of material to election venue by about 60 percent since 2011.
Mr Jega maintained that staggered elections are not the best for Nigeria, saying that the series of staggered elections in the country resulted from court judgments which affected tenures of some governors.
He said, “Certainly, some staggering helps the process. The kind of staggering we have now in terms of saying this kind of elections should take place now and then you sequence it; that kind of sequencing of major elections, I think has been helpful, it helps us to focus and it helps us to poll resources together and to deploy them appropriately.
He said, “But if you take staggering to a staggering extent, if I can put it that way, really it will also have its own challenges. It means for example if we have to every election state by state in all the 36 states and the FCT it will take us three years.
“If you are doing Presidential election for example, you have to do it nationally and in every place because the results have to be announced for a candidate to be returned.”
Mr Jega said conducting staggered election has its limitation and insisted that what is important is for INEC to have the independence of deciding when to conduct a holistic or staggered election.
“If you legalise it by saying do elections state by state or do election region by region, you will create additional problems which are not presently anticipated,” he said.
The INEC chairman said the commission at the moment does not have any legal bottleneck and is not hindered from seeking innovative methods of conducting its operation even with the use of technology.
“The only clear categorical hindrance is in electronic voting. The law says categorically that electronic voting is prohibited and until that prohibition is lifted we even have challenges in terms of experimenting and piloting or getting some machines and beginning to see which are the best that can be used for electronic voting are,” he said.
He said the commission had sent a recommendation to the National Assembly that as they review the 1999 constitution to “look at that provision and perhaps remove that prohibition. So that once it is removed we may not be able to do it in 2015 but we can begin to experiment and identify which models are suitable to Nigeria.”
Permanent Voter Card
Mr Jega said before the 2015 general elections, INEC will distribute permanent voters’ card to all registered voters in Nigeria.
The voter cards are to replace the temporary ones issued at the end of the voters’ registration in 2011. The cards are valid for 10 years.
Last year, the Federal Government approved N2.6 billion for the printing of 40 million out of the 75 million permanent voter cards in the first phase of the project.
The government has approved additional N33.5 million for the project’s second phase.
Mr Jega said “the permanent voter cards are chip-based carrying all our biometrics that was captured during the registration.
“We intend on election day to use a card reader to verify and to authenticate who is the true owner of that card. We believe that once we are able to do this successfully, then all these phenomenon of politicians purchasing voter cards and giving it to other people to come and vote with it on Election Day will be eliminated.”
The INEC chairman said all registered voters must vote at the point where they have registered.
Mr Jega disclosed this in response to a question tweeted-in by a lady who was watching the live programme on Channels Television from Abuja.
However, when a voter relocates, Mr Jega said “the electoral act clearly specifies what to do. You can change or transfer your registration status. All she needs to do in her case is to apply to the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the FCT giving all the necessary information why she has moved, what were the details of her previous registration, what was her polling unit and where is she now located.
“Once she does that application and it is verified, her details will be transferred to her new place and then we will issue her a permanent voter card in the new place.”