INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu gave the assurance on Monday during a stakeholders’ meeting in Benin City, the state capital.
To Yakubu, it is only the choice made by the voters that will determine who the next governor of the state will be for another four years.
“I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election,” he said. “The Commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures, nothing more.”
ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION, PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE EDO GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION STAKEHOLDERS’ MEETING HELD AT THE OBA AKENZUA II CULTURAL CENTRE, BENIN CITY, MONDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2020
1. Let me join our Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Edo State to once again welcome you all to this meeting. As many of you are aware, the Governorship election in Edo State will hold this Saturday after several months of preparations since the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities on 6th February 2020. This is also the first Governorship election that the Commission will be conducting in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health emergency has necessitated a review of our policies, processes and procedures to protect the health of all those involved in elections in line with the guidelines issued by health authorities.
2. The Commission has dutifully carried out 12 out of 14 scheduled tasks contained in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election. We held many meetings with political parties and their candidates. We had several engagements with the security agencies at national and state levels. We consulted with stakeholders. We sought for and received, the blessings of Royal Fathers and religious leaders. We have recruited, trained and carefully screened all categories of ad hoc staff to be deployed to the field. We have delivered all non-sensitive materials for the election. Voter education and sensitisation are ongoing. We have made arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to all polling units on Election Day. The Commission has taken every step and made every arrangement for the election holding this weekend.
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3. Our ultimate objective is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Edo State is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election. The Commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures. Nothing more.
4. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, polling units will now open at 8.30 am (instead of 8.00 am) and close at 2.30 pm (instead of 2.00 pm). This has become necessary in order to accommodate the additional measures to protect public health necessitated by the global health emergency. However, all eligible voters who are on the queue by 2.30 pm will be allowed to vote in line with the Commission’s regulations. Other procedures for the election are clearly outlined in the Voters’ Code of Conduct (VCC) which has since been disseminated. Similarly, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge polling agents, election observers and the media to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Commission’s policy, copies of which have been widely circulated and more will be shared at this meeting.
5. As in previous elections, the Commission is deploying magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to vote unaided. Earlier, the Commission translated and published its policy of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Voters’ Code of Conduct into braille in order to ensure greater awareness and effective participation of all citizens in the electoral process irrespective of disability.
6. To underscore our commitment to a credible and transparent electoral process in Nigeria, the Commission is determined to deepen the deployment of technology in elections. It is for this reason that the Commission recently built portals for the nomination of candidates by political parties as well as the accreditation of election observers and the media. We have used the portals seamlessly in preparing for the Edo Governorship election. The same applies to the Ondo Governorship election. We will deploy the same platforms for all subsequent elections, including the forthcoming bye-elections in 15 constituencies across 11 States of the Federation scheduled for 31st October 2020. We are working to ensure that in future elections, even the accreditation of polling agents nominated by political parties will also be done online.
7. Perhaps the most critical of the recent innovations introduced by the Commission is the use of a tablet now popularly called the z-pad. It is a new innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using the facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader. Secondly, the camera on the tablet will be used to take a picture of the polling unit result (EC8A) and to upload the same on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV). This will enable all those interested in viewing the results to do so in real-time. The Commission deployed the z-pad in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election in Nasarawa State on 8th August 2020. It was a test-run intended to assess the functionality of the technology before its deployment in major elections. While the capture and upload of polling unit level result went on smoothly, the facial authentication did not. Without going into the technical details, let me say that the Commission encountered hardware and software issues which needed to be fixed.
8. Our ICT Department worked on the new device and made a presentation to the Commission which decided that the system needs to be robust enough before it can be deployed in a major election. Unlike the 44 polling units of the Nasarawa Central State Constituency, the Edo Governorship election involves 2,627 polling units. The Commission decided that since this technology is work in progress, we should carry out a further test-run in some of the smaller constituencies during the bye-elections scheduled for 31st October 2020 and thereafter engage with stakeholders before it can be deployed in major elections. The atmosphere in Edo State ahead of the election this weekend is already charged. We cannot afford to complicate it further by introducing a new technology we are not yet fully satisfied with.
9. However, the uploading of polling unit level results in the election on Saturday will proceed as planned. The z-pads have already been delivered, configured and ad hoc staff trained on its deployment on Election Day. Enough chargers have been provided to address the power problem identified during the Nasarawa test-run. We envisage that there will be high traffic of persons interested in viewing the results in real-time. Consequently, the Commission has dynamically expanded the result viewing portal to accommodate almost two million viewers at the same time without clogging. To view the uploaded results, please visit our website (www.inecelectionresults.com) to register and create an account.
10. I must quickly add that the Smart Card Readers will be used for voter verification and authentication. This is a mandatory requirement and where it is deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines.
11. The Commission is also aware of the concern expressed in some quarters about the neutrality of our staff, in particular, the ad hoc staff engaged for election duty. We have heard allegations that some ad hoc staff were recruited in such a manner as to compromise the election. In response, the Commission deployed two National Commissioners who reviewed the process for strict compliance with the guidelines for such recruitment. I want to assure you that all categories of ad hoc staff have been vetted. The integrity of the process will not be compromised and there will be no partisan infiltration.
12. As the eligible voters in Edo State go to the polls on Saturday, I wish to renew my appeal to all political parties, candidates and their supporters for peaceful conduct. Your votes will count. Polling unit-level results will be uploaded for public view. However, this will not happen where the process is disrupted by violence or malpractices. The Commission is determined that no one will benefit from impunity or rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote-buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results. The people of Edo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment. We have been assured by the security agencies that thugs and their sponsors will not have the freedom to move around freely to disrupt the election or collation of results. The Inspector-General of Police who is here personally will speak more about their plans to safeguard the process.
13. On Election Day, the national headquarters of INEC will monitor the election throughout Edo State. Our Zoom Situation Room will receive live reports from the field. Accredited observers and the media will also be invited to join at intervals. By doing so, the Commission will receive first-hand information as the election is going on. At the same time, citizens can contact us on our various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
14. On this note, let me once again welcome you all to this meeting and to assure the people of Edo State that the Commission has taken every step to ensure that the election this weekend is free, fair, credible, inclusive and safe.
15. I thank you all for your presence and God bless.