INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Monday said one of its personnel and a couple who were arrested by the police for being in possession of voters’ cards would be prosecuted accordingly in line with the Electoral Act.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for the Ondo State, Mr Akin Orebiyi, stated this while reacting to the arrest of an official of the commission attached to the local office of the INEC in Ondo West local government.
THISDAY gathered that a security man was last weekend arrested by the police following a tip off by vigilant members of the public, for making available about one thousand unclaimed voters’ cards to some politicians apparently to facilitate unwholesome activities during the gubernatorial election slated for October 20.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Danladi Mshebwala, who confirmed the arrest of the couple and the security man, said the identity and party to which the couple belong, has not been ascertained, adding that they would be prosecuted for being in possession of sensitive materials.
The arrest of the suspects has increased the pre-election tension in the state as opposition political parties were already accusing the state government of being the brain behind a plan to use the unclaimed cards on election day in favour of the ruling Labour Party (LP).
There were also rumours that about a 100,000 ballot papers already thumb-printed in favour of a political party were found with the suspects.
However, at an emergency press briefing held late Sunday, Orebiyi denied that ballot papers were part of the documents seized from suspects.
“There is no way anybody could get hold of the ballot papers which are very sensitive materials before the election. I don’t even know how it will look like not to talk of someone having them already thumb-printed.
“Save for the voters’ cards and some campaign materials of two of the political parties, no other electoral materials were found in the possession of the suspects. For purposes of emphasis, no ballot papers were found.
“Preliminary investigations by the commission indicate that some people did not collect their voters’ cards after the registration exercise of 2011. The unclaimed cards are in the custody of the electoral officers who are the only authorised persons to release same to the claimants of such cards, who must collect them in person. Collection by proxy is expressly prohibited and it is not part of the security man’s duties to handle, distribute or in any way deal with voters’ cards,” he said
The REC added that “INEC is determined to get to the bottom of the matter and is working closely with police authorities to unravel it. It is our intention to vigorously pursue the investigation and ensure a robust, timeous prosecution of all involved, including its staff, in consonance with its resolve to prosecute all electoral offenders, regardless of their status, party affiliation or relationship.”
Orebiyi said those who purchased voter cards were just wasting their time because there was no way those cards could be used because this is a new INEC that would ensure free and fair election.