The electorate in Niger state will again troop to the polling stations on Saturday to elect chairmen and councillors for the 25 council areas and 274 wards in a likely two horse race involving the ruling APC and the Opposition PDP
Laleye Dipo writes that the electoral umpire NSIEC, the Police, Civil Defence and participating political parties say they are set for the polls
After some protests by stakeholders, the Niger State Independent Electoral Commission (NSIEC) is now set to conduct elections into the 25 local governments in the state.
The election would have held some four months back but the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) in the state kicked against the timetable released by the NSIEC primarily on the ground that its members were not given enough notice, a development IPAC claimed would have given undue advantage to the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) which is the party in government and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Both the electoral umpire and IPAC have since resolved their differences resulting in the election being fixed for November 30.
However, as preparation for the election commenced the PDP raised an objection to the “Administrative charge” imposed on the candidates.
Tanko Beji state chairman of the PDP described the N100,000 each for chairmanship and vice chairmanship candidate and N25,000 for each councillorship contestant “as illegal” and vowed that the party’s candidates will not pay.
However, when the NSIEC maintained its ground backing its position with the law, the PDP and other parties that initially vowed not to pay backed down setting the stage for another battle royal between the ruling APC and the main opposition party, the PDP.
On the whole, according to the Commissioner in charge of Operation of the NSIEC, Alhaji Yahaya Abara only nine political parties out of the barrage that took part in the 2019 general election a few months back will field candidates for the election.
A total of 753 candidates from the nine political parties with 83 of them vying for the 25 chairmanship seats and 670 for the 274 councillorship positions are to slug it out in the election .
The breakdown shows that both the ruling APC and the main challenger the PDP are contesting all the seats. Other parties that will be on the ballot include APGA, GPN and ANP.
The APC controlled the 25 councils in the last election though the PDP vehemently protested the outcome of that exercise.
According to Yahaya Abara not less than 19,000 adhoc staff as well as over 60 Electoral and Assistant Electoral Officers will preside over the election which will be the second to be conducted under the present APC government in the state though not with the present crop of electoral umpires.
The NSIEC is determined to make the election ” very transparent free, and fair” and has therefore put in place logistics to ensure this objective is achieved.
Apart from the training of all officials that will supervise the election, NSIEC has introduced a novel idea which is the “camping” of the staff in designated areas 24 hours before the election a policy it believes will keep them away from the prying eyes of the candidates and the participating political parties influence. The plan also include the movement of these officials and election materials to polling units “at the same time” thereby ensuring early arrival of materials and commencement of polling.
While in the camps Abara said the officials would be fed and provided adequate security.
Unlike in previous exercises results for councillorship will be announced at the ward headquarters while that of the chairmanship will be at the local government headquarters.
“We will also paste these results on the walls at the ward and local government headquarters for everyone to see, this is one of the steps we are taking to ensure transparency and acceptability of the poll,” Abara said.
In addition a journal has been produced for the documentation of information of officials, the police and the media at each polling unit, saying that “there will therefore be no way for anyone that has participated in the exercise to deny the information in the journal.”
To further ensure that the polls will not be compromised NSIEC said it has customised the ballot papers and ballot boxes to the extent that a ballot paper for a polling unit cannot be used in another unit adding that, “all the officials will also be made to take oaths that they will be neutral in the handling of the election.”
It was learnt that not less than 60 observer groups applied to monitor the election but so far only 20 of them have been cleared for the job by the police.
State chairman of the Commission Alhaji Aminu Baba Alhaji said, “We are ready for the election everything has been put in place, we are only waiting for the D- day.”
According to him polls will open at 8am and close at 4pm, “We will ensure that all that present their Permanent Voter Card vote before we close polling as long as they are on the queue.”
He added that speed boats and live jackets have been provided for officials that will work in the riverine communities.
Alhaji Aminu said the commission has been collaborating with security agencies especially the police to provide security for voters and election materials.
At a stakeholders meeting held at the Police Officers Mess Aminu Baba Alhaji dispelled the rumour that has been making the rounds that the Commission had “written and given” the candidates of a certain political party the results of the yet to be conducted election.
He asked the people to shun rumour mongering as such was capable of creating unnecessary tension during and after the election.
The police on its part has expressed readiness for the election but warned that it would not allow the crises that pervaded the party primaries to truncate its plan to have a peaceful election.
During the primary elections according to the state police commissioner Alhaji Adamu Usman not less than 61 people were arrested and prosecuted for various offences including “sponsoring, aiding / abetting political violence” The local governments mostly affected were Rafi, Katcha Paiko, Tafa and Rijau. Reports also have it that no fewer than four people lost their lives in the crises.
Adamu Usman told a stakeholders meeting ahead of the election that “this desperation displayed by aspirants and their thugs in primaries will not be tolerated on election day and after.”
The Commissioner said enough personnel have been mobilised to man polling units across the state saying those that contravene the law would be arrested and prosecuted.
On its part the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) also expressed readiness for the election as not less than 19,000 of its men have been engaged for security duties on election day.
NSIEC has also assured people in areas where insurgency has played out in recent times that they have nothing to fear because “we have mobilised enough security operatives for election duties in all these areas.”
As the count down begins political parties and their candidates have been criss crossing the length and breadth of the state to canvass for votes in peaceful and orderly manner. It is only expected that the peace will continue till election day and after.
On the whole, according to the Commissioner in charge of Operation of the NSIEC, Alhaji Yahaya Abara only nine political parties out of the barrage that took part in the 2019 general election a few months back will field candidates for the election. A total of 753 candidates from the nine political parties with 83 of them vying for the 25 chairmanship seats and 670 for the 274 councillorship positions are to slug it out in the election .