•Zakari explains why inconclusive polls may be inevitable
•Bayelsa, Kogi elections’ll be highly monetised, says Soyebi
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Independent National Electoral Commission’s national commissioner for Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa States, May Agbumuche-Mbu, has lamented the degree of violence often associated with elections in Nigeria, saying it is akin only to a war situation.
Agbamuche-Mbu, who narrated as an example, what happened in Rivers State during the recent 2019 general election at a two-day seminar at the Electoral Institute in Abuja, however, sued for caution ahead of the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
In similar spirit, another INEC national commissioner, Amina Zakari, explained why inconclusive elections might be inevitable in certain instances, noting that where it was established that genuine voters had been disenfranchised by any means possible, it behooves the commission to capture the votes of such demographics.
On his part, a fellow national commissioner and chairman of the two-day seminar, which held preparatory to the Bayelsa and Kogi elections, Solomon Adedeji Soyebi, already foresaw a heavily monetised exercise in Bayelsa and Kogi, saying there would be intense vote-buying.
But Agbamuche-Mba, whose focus was on security during elections, noted that, “Elections in Nigeria is just like going to war. In Port Harcourt during the last elections, I saw it all. I was there. INEC staff and sensitive electoral materials were being transported in armoured vehicles yet people threw dynamites at the moving armoured vehicles. Is this not war? What can better be described as war than this?”
Therefore, in readiness for the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, she said, “We are looking unto the political parties that they will be kind to the people of Bayelsa by doing what they are expected to do.
“We are going to use smart card readers and where it fails, which I believe it won’t, we will come back again, because we are ready for this election and I pray that the political class will allow us do our work”.
She however warned that INEC would record zero votes for parties in areas, where there are violence or ballot box snatching during the elections.
“There will be no hijacking of ballot boxes, because if they are hijacked, the area is going to get zero votes,” Agbamuche-Mbu said, reiterating that the commission would work to ensure that the poll did not result in inconclusive election.
But Zakari said that where it was evidently established that the people were disenfranchised, the election might be declared inconclusive, because there would be another election.
According to her, “INEC doesn’t deliberately go out to declare an election as inconclusive, but where the people are disenfranchised and it is clearly so, the commission will have no reason than to postpone the election and conduct it the next day. So, you can see why inconclusive elections are inevitable?”
However, preparing the minds of the people for certain possibilities, Soyebi said one of the challenges that would mar the conduct of the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States was the possibility of vote buying by the political parties.
He said, “No doubt about it. In the Kogi State governorship election, money will flow like rivers but INEC would be equal to the task. Relevant security agencies will fish them out. We have a strategy to do this. The cat will not be let out of the bag now.”
He pledged that there would be punctuality of personnel and materials as well as adequacy of electoral materials, including the smart card readers, vehicles and all that would be required for the election to run smooth.
Pastor Monday Tom, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Bayelsa, hinted earlier that the number of smart card readers for the state was 2,337, out of which 86 were faulty and 2251 functional.
He also told the gathering the total number of registered voters in the state was 923,182, while the number of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) collected was 889,308.
For the Kogi analysis, INEC stated that the state had registered 1,646,350 voters, but that the PVCs collected were 1,485,828 across all the 21 local government areas of the state.
INEC further stated that there would be 2,548 polling units, 2,548 presiding officers, 3,508 voting points and 12,804 Assistant Presiding Officers.
According to the commission, there would a total of 12,132 ad-hoc staff, including 255 Senior Presiding Officers, 26 Collection Officers and 240 Registration Supervisors.