INEC Uncovers Politicians Plan to Use Food Vendors as Cash-for-votes Collection Points

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By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has uncovered a new plan by some political actors to use food vendors around polling units with large voter populations as collection points for cash-for-votes as well as other forms of material inducement to voters on election day.

The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the hint Monday while playing host to a delegation of European Union (EU) Election Observer, led by the Chief Observer, Ms. Marie Arena, and ECOWAS Observers’ Mission at the headquarters of the commission.

He said there was no doubt that the country’s electoral processes are getting better and votes count, adding that the commission would continue to progressively improve on elections and protect the sanctity of the vote.

Yakubu stated: “However, following recent consultations with stakeholders across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, the attention of the commission was drawn to a new plan by some political actors to use food vendors around polling units with large voter population as collection points for cash-for-votes as well as other forms of material inducement to voters on election day. We are aware of this trick. It will not work.”

The chairman also reiterated that the bulk of ad hoc staff for election duty would be drawn from the pool of young Nigerians serving in the National Youth Service scheme, stressing that the commission has established clear criteria for drawing from students of tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfalls.

According to him, “This has been the practice over several electoral cycles. Similarly, collation and returning officers are drawn from senior academic staff of federal universities led by the vice-chancellors. We have already commenced the process following our meeting with the vice-chancellors last week. In addition, there is a clearly established system of vetting all election duty staff before they are engaged.

“Therefore, the claim that the commission has outsourced the recruitment of election duty staff to partisan actors is the usual allegation on the eve of elections and should be disregarded. With 25 days to the 2019 general election, the commission’s attention is firmly focused on the conduct of credible elections. We will not be distracted into a fatuous debate.”

The chairman however assured the EU that preparations for the election is on course, stressing that the commission has had a series of assuring meetings with the security agencies in order to ensure that processes are protected, the right of voters to vote freely safeguarded, access for observers and the media guaranteed, the election transparent and the outcome a true reflection of the will of the Nigerian people.

Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Arena, said that EU would be deploying 40 observers during the elections in all states of the federation.

She said: “We really appreciate this work that we have to do together here in your country for democracy, for the Nigerian people. Because without democracy there is no development, there is no freedom, there is no economy.”

Arena noted that the EU would also have its parliamentary observation mission on ground during the elections.

She added: “We will issue two preliminary reports after the election. We will work strongly with all the stakeholders of this country. We will also have the final reports two months after the election with recommendations. We really appreciate the work that INEC has done with the previous recommendations after the 2015 elections”

Also, the leader of ECOWAS Observers Mission and the former Chairperson of Electoral Commission, Ghana, Ms. Charlotte Osei, said that the mission of the delegation was to let INEC know that ECOWAS would be deploying both long term and short term observer mission.

She added that during the elections, the mission would be focusing on legal, media, operations, gender and disabilities.