•No ban around voting areas, says electoral body
•Makes N918m from presidential, gov aspirants
Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Tuesday rejected the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to bar voters from using smart phones and cameras in polling booths during elections.
But the electoral body clarified yesterday that its directive barred the use of the devices only in the polling booth and not around the polling area.
The PDP, which raked in N918million from the sale of expression of interest and nomination forms to its presidential and governorship aspirants, spoke through its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, claiming that the ban was part of INEC’s grand plan to help the All Progressives Congress (APC) to win the 2019 general elections.
Secondus, during a meeting with stakeholders from Bayelsa East senatorial district in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State yesterday, said that it was puzzling that the commission would attempt to prevent the use of phones, which he said is the easiest means of communication in the society during elections.
According to him, the ban on the use of cameras and recording devices was the strategy of INEC and the APC-led government to rig the 2019 elections.
He argued that the commission by that singular act had sent the country to the dark, primitive era.
He said, “We have all heard what the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, said about the decision to ban the use of smart phones in the polling units. All over the world, a smart phone is the easiest way of communication.
“What they have said clearly shows that the commission, in connivance with the APC, has perfected a rigging strategy for the next election.
“In fact, INEC has sent Nigeria back to the primitive days. Our position is that INEC is wrong; there is nowhere in the constitution or in the electoral act, where smart phones are banned.
“INEC, if you throw this country to crisis, you will be held responsible.”
A statement by the Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson on Media, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, also quoted the PDP chairman as restating his opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 in a bid to avoid the use of card readers.
“The same plan to rig the 2019 election is responsible for the refusal of the president to sign the amended Electoral Act because the card reader must be used,” he added.
He insisted that Nigeria was under siege as the federal government had introduced an obnoxious suspension of the people’s right to freedom in the country, raising the alarm that more people had been killed in the country in the past one year than those killed in the Nigerian civil war from 1967 to 1970.
He lamented that the APC had introduced dictatorial tendencies that were worse than the repression witnessed under the military.
Secondus also accused the federal government of borrowing N11 trillion in three years in spite of the huge amount of money budgeted yearly to run the government.
He said that the nation’s debt profile had hit the highest of all time under the APC-led federal government.
Secondus added: “We have borrowed N11 trillion and you don’t feel the impact of the budget except in Daura.
“Nigeria has witnessed nepotism that had never been felt this way in this country.
“The international community is worried about Nigeria. The country is broke, our debt profile has risen to highest level.
“Nigeria is under siege. Freedom and rights have been denied our people. The country is going through very difficult and trying moments.”
In his remarks, Dickson urged the people of the Niger Delta to give the expected support to Secondus in his efforts to lead the PDP to electoral victory in 2019.
He also described the PDP as the party of the Niger Delta people.
INEC: No Ban on Use of Smartphone around Polling Units
The INEC has, however, clarified that it had not ban the use of Smartphone around the polling unit areas, but the moment a prospective voter entered voting cubicle to cast his or her vote.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, made the clarification in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria yesterday in Abuja.
Oyekanmi said that Nigerians were fully aware of the challenge of vote-buying and selling that reared its ugly head in recent elections.
He said that had prompted many stakeholders to call on INEC to devise innovative ways to tackle the problem.
He said, “In consultation with other stakeholders, the commission came up with new measures to solve the problem, one of which is to disallow the use of smartphone and other electronic devices in the voting cubicles on Election Day.
“In other words, INEC is not banning phones around the polling unit area, but the ban takes effect from the moment a prospective voter collects his or her ballot paper and enters into the voting cubicle to thumbprint and thereafter drops the folded ballot paper into the ballot box.
“After that, the voter can have access to his or her phone.”
Oyekanmi urged Nigerians to disregard any attempt by any individual or group to politicise what was purely a preventive measure.
PDP BoT Meets with 13 Presidential Aspirants
The PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) will today meet with all the 13 presidential aspirants ahead of October 6 scheduled by the leadership of the party to hold its national convention where the presidential candidate would be picked to fly the party’s flag.
The BoT had two weeks ago set up a 12-member committee to discuss with the party’s 13 presidential aspirants, with a view to picking one of them as consensus candidate.
The aspirants in the race for the presidential ticket of the PDP are, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal; Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo; Senate President Bukola Saraki; former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido; former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi; and former Minister Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Mr. Tanimu Turaki.
Others are; former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark; a former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; former Plateau State Governor, Senator Jonah Jang; Mr. Stanley Osifo and Dr. Baba Datti Ahmed.
The Chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibrin, had revealed to journalists in a text message that the committee would impress it on the aspirants the dangers inherent in having such a large number of them in the race.
Makes N918m from Presidential, Gov Aspirants
Meanwhile, the party is smiling to the bank, as the 2019 general election is already proving to be a good harvest for the main opposition party. So far, it has raked into its coffers N918 million from the sale of presidential and governorship nomination forms.
The party, which began its sale of expression of interests and nomination forms for its members, seeking to contest in the 2019 general election, closed the purchase of forms on Monday, while submission of forms was closed yesterday.
As at last count, 13 presidential aspirants picked expression of interest and nomination forms, while 127 aspirants, according to THISDAY findings, have picked forms for governorships across the six geopolitical zones.
The party had pegged the cost of presidential expression of interest and nomination forms at N12 million, while that of governorship form was pegged at N6 million.
With the presidential form that stood at N12 million, the total cost for the 13 presidential aspirants is N156 million, while at the cost of N6 million for governorship forms, the total for the 127 aspirants is N762 million.
The North-west has the highest number of presidential aspirants with five coming from the zone.
According to findings, gubernatorial aspirants for North-east include, Taraba, one; Bauchi, four; Gombe, 11; Adamawa, seven; Borno, three and Yobe, two.
In South-east, however, Ebonyi has one; Imo, seven; Enugu, one; and Abia, one. Anambra State is not under contention as the tenure of the present governor is yet to be over.
In South-west; Ogun has one aspirant; Oyo has two; Lagos, two; Ondo, Ekiti and Osun States are not part of 2019 election.
In South-south, Cross River has four aspirants; Delta has one; Akwa Ibom has one; and Rivers, one. Edo and Bayelsa are not part of the 2019 election.
However, the North-central zone has the highest number of aspirants for governorship, followed by North-west, North-east, South-east, South-south and South-west respectively.
Plateau State has the highest number with 13 aspirants; Kwara and Gombe, 11 aspirants; Kaduna, 10; Katsina, 8; Benue, Adamawa and Imo have seven each.
Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Taraba states have one aspirant each.
According to findings, zone by zone breakdown of the number of aspirants, showed that in North-central, Nasarawa has five; Kwara, 11; Plateau, 13; Benue, seven; and Niger, five. The tenure of Kogi State governor has not yet expired.
The number of aspirants in North-west, are, Kano, five; Kaduna, 10; Katsina, eight; Jigawa, five; Kebbi, 4; Sokoto, two; and Zamfara, two.