By Francis Sardauna in Katsina

The Katsina State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state of what it described as ‘frequent’ involvement of government officials and security agents in ballot box snatching and other election irregularities.

The party said the act, if not checked, would truncate the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free and fair elections in the state.

The chairman of the party in the state, Alhaji Salisu Yusuf Majigiri, who stated this during the INEC stakeholders meeting ahead of the by-election into the Katsina North Senatorial district on Thursday, said the Dutsi/Mashi by-election last year was marred by irregularities.

He said: “The Dutsi/Mashi by-election held last year witnessed the snatching of ballot boxes in 25 polling units by government officials in synergy with security agencies.

“We wrote to the INEC in Abuja and that led to the cancellation of 15 out of 25 polling units and a re-run was conducted.”

According to him, “If the government of the day and security agents who are supposed to ensure that the elections are conducted free and fair are involved in ballot box snatching, how secure are the electorate to exercise their franchise?.

“If this by-election (Katsina North Senatorial district) will succeed, these things must be taken into consideration.”

But the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in charge of Katsina, Jibrin Ibrahim Zarewa, said the commission is ready to conduct free and fair polls in the state.

The INEC commissioner explained that the timetable for the by-election would be released Friday, July 20, pointing out that the commission has from now till August 12th to conduct the elections.

While soliciting for cooperation from stakeholders, Zarewa said a total of 7,727 ad hoc staff, including corps members, students and staff of federal ministries, would be engaged to assist the commission to conduct the free and fair by-election in the senatorial zone.

“The election will be held in 12 council areas in 1,577 polling units of the zone, with more than 800,000 people expected to cast their votes. I am calling on political parties in the state to get ready for campaigns and other related activities,” Zarewa said.

The senator representing Katsina North Senatorial district, Senator Mustapha Bukar, had died on April 4 after a brief illness, hence the by-election.