INEC Warns against Violence in Bayelsa, Kogi Polls

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Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States to resist the history of violence, which the states are associated with during major election cycle.

The national commissioner in charge of information and voter education, Mr. Festus Okoye, who spoke in a meeting with journalists in Bayelsa State, noted that if the narrative must change, politicians, voters, INEC and security agencies must work together to end it.

The INEC commissioner said the electoral umpire could not be bamboozled by any political party to act contrary to the constitution, stressing that the organisation would continue to be neutral in the discharge of its duties.

Okoye said: “We have elections in Kogi and in Bayelsa states. These two states have a history, so to say, of electoral violence. We do not want this history to repeat itself. We want the people of Bayelsa State and journalists practising here to assist in changing this narrative of political and electoral violence.

“Those who designed the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria envisaged that people could only come to power through the ballot. They never envisaged a situation where people come to power through any other dubious means or even through the instrumentality of the law court.

“They believed that people should come to power through the votes of the people or if there is a mistake or problem, the courts will intervene and affirm the right of the people. We want to organise election that reflects the mandate of the people.”

He noted that the commission was fully prepared for the election in Bayelsa State, adding that everything that needed to be done had been concluded.

He said the commission had trained all the categories of ad-hoc staff for the elections, adding that almost everything needed for the elections had been kept with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for safe-keeping.

“The question is whether the political parties are ready. Four years ago, they knew that this election was coming this period. On May 16, we released the timetable giving them notice that this election is taking place on 16 November,” he said.

Okoye urged politicians to go out and seek for votes, rather than engaging in dubious means to attain political power. 

According to him, “The mandate of the political parties is to go out and canvass for votes and win supporters to take over power through means stipulated by the constitution of the federation. 

“The political parties should go and campaign in an atmosphere devoid of violence, hate speech and any form of threat. On the part of journalists, as much as possible, you should be circumspect in the way you report news or use information. Some of the things out there might not be correct.”

Okoye added that additional Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) as well as national officials of the commission had been deployed in the state to ensure the smooth conduct of the election.