INEC Reads Riot Act on Bayelsa, Kogi Polls

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•Warns staff, parties against misconduct

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

Less than three weeks to the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday read the Riot Act to its staff and officials of political parties participating at the polls against misconduct.

To guarantee the conduct of all its staff and ad-hoc staff deployed in the elections, the commission has directed that they should be placed under official oaths.

Besides, the commission is to liaise with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Related Commission (ICPC) whose agents would be deployed in polling stations to arrest vote buyers.
INEC also reiterated its earlier order prohibiting the use of mobile phones at voting cubicles.

Speaking at a quarterly meeting with registered political parties, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said all the political parties would sign peace accords in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on November 7 and in Lokoja on November 11 ahead of the two elections on November 16.
Aside from this, the INEC chairman said all INEC staff and ad-hoc staff to be deployed in the two states would take oath of neutrality.

“You all know the implications of disobedience to official oath,” he said.
According to Yakubu, the ICPC and the EFCC would play an active role during the elections to try to dissuade and prevent vote buying.

He said: “As electioneering has already commenced, the commission wishes to appeal to political parties to speak with their candidates and supporters to advise them against hate speeches and inciting statements, physical attacks of opponents, destruction of each other’s campaign materials and other sundry violations of the electoral act.

“Of course, voters’ harassment and vote buying at polling units constitute violations of the electoral law; hate speech, inciting statement constitute violations of the electoral law while the prohibition of the use of mobile phones at voting cubicle is still in force.”

Yakubu said the commission would partner with all security agencies to ensure that both men and sensitive materials for the election as well as the electoral process are secured.
He stated that ordinarily, the Kogi West senatorial election would have cost the commission over N300 million but because it is being merged with the governorship election in the state, INEC would be saving N20 million.

He said INEC, working in conjunction with security agencies, is equal to the task of ensuring transparent elections in the two states.
On the signing of peace accords in Kogi and Bayelsa States, he said he would be accompanied at the two occasions by the Inspector General of Police and the heads of other security agencies.

He gave a breakdown of gubernatorial candidates in Kogi State to consist of 23 political parties made up of 21 males and two females, while in Bayelsa State, 45 parties, comprising 42 males and three females, are contesting for the governorship election.
The INEC chairman urged the political parties not to run afoul of the election guidelines by ensuring that they stopped campaigns by November 14.

Earlier, the chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Peter Ameh, had asked INEC to caution the Senate for advocating the deregistration of non-performing political parties.
He said the Senate as a legal entity and institution created to make law, should not be seen as advocating a deregistration of an institution created by law.