Chuks Okocha and James Sowole in Akure
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday read the riot acts to the management and staff of the INEC state office in Ondo State, stating that the performance of the commission in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State should be the irreducible minimum standards expected from them in the October 10 election in the state.
Prof. Yakubu gave the charge at a special meeting with the INEC Ondo State office where he met with all Heads of Departments and the Electoral Officers in the 18 local government areas of the state.
He also charged them to ensure that all ad-hoc staff were not arbitrarily changed and that all ad-hoc staff should be paid their honouriam immediately after the election.
According to the INEC chairman who read out eight rules of engagement for the INEC staff in Ondo State, charged that they must guard against reducing their integrity and ensure at all times that only the person with highest votes score should be declared the winner of the election.
He said, “We just had a good outing in Edo State, we want to do better than that in Ondo State . Don’t compromise your integrity. Work consciously and let the best candidate emerge. Ensure that your personal integrity is not bruised or compromised.”
According to the INEC chairman, “We had a good election in Edo. Our determination is that Ondo should be better. Are you committed to ensuring that Ondo is going to be better?
“For us to deliver a successful election that is better than the previous elections that we have conducted, and that is our determination there are a number of issues that we need to take into consideration.
“ If you don’t prepare hard, then you are preparing to fail, we must prepare very hard,” he stated.
He then listed eight issues that would determine the outcome of the Ondo State governorship election, saying, “Top on the list is personal integrity. This is really very, very important. Elections are ultimately conducted by human beings and what we bring is our integrity to the process. Never ever, ever think of compromising for whatever reason.
“We must work contentiously and we must determine to allow the people of Ondo State to determine who their governor, irrespective of what becomes.
That is our responsibility under the Constitution. That is what we should all be committed. personal integrity is very important”, Prof. Yakubu said.
He continued, “Then in addition to personal integrity, there are a number of other issues have identified eight issues. That I think you should take note, but later when we go into the interactive session, we’ll expand on these eight areas. There maybe be more but I’ve identified eight
“Number one is the non-sensitive materials. How many of these non-sensitive materials have you received? Have you batched them? Are you good to go? Are there some of these materials still lying at the headquarters that have not gone to the local governments? And at the local government What have you done about them?
“This afternoon, we’ll visit Akure South local government, which in terms of the number of registered voters and PVCs collected is actually the largest in Ondo State. We are going there to see the level of preparation practically, in addition to all the reports we have received from the headquarters or from the state headquarters”, the INEC explained. .
According to him, “Number two, ad hoc staff; What have we done in recruitment, staff training and posting? It is important to get all these issues Right. So that not on the night before the election INEC will be running around looking for what they have not been deployed for election duty, we should make the process seamless.
“Number three, transportation. What have you done about transportation? There are difficult areas to access. What have we done? Riverine areas, getting to the local government headquarters from the local government headquarters to the polling units.
“Number four, activation of RACs. These RACs will have to be activated well before the ad hoc staff are deployed along with the materials on Friday, before Saturday, the 10th.
“Number five, management of polling units. How do we manage the polling units particularly in view of the COVID-19 condemning?
“Learning from the experience of what happened in Edo State, we need to get the polling units properly set up and properly managed. I’m sure you have read the policy and you are familiar with the inner and outer cordon. And then we must maintain social distance. In addition to all the other requirements that no face mask no voting, but you must also wear your face masks which the Commission has made provision for.
“You will have two pairs of face masks, you officials will also make available hand gloves in addition to the hand sanitizers and the mentholated spirits and Cotton wood, to clean the smart card readers. So, management of the polling units is critical.
“Number six, the importance of teamwork. We must be able to work together This is not an election to be conducted by individual Electoral Officer (EO). Is individual EOs working as a team. Simply put, no one of you can deliver this election alone. And that is why your other staff, I’m talking about officials from the state headquarters, from the REC to the HODs and then at the local government level the EOs.
“From previous experience, some of you thought that you could do everything and there were lapses and on election day, there was nobody to hold responsible. So you must have teamwork spirit”, he charged the Electoral Officers .
According to the INEC chairman, “Number seven, reverse logistics. You must get the reverse logistics right? We are deploying quite a number of equipment in addition to the smart card readers, we are deploying, the Z pads, we have to recover them. we are deploying pilot boxes, the voting cubicles because we must recover them.
We are also deploying the handheld thermometers to be used at polling unit level, ward collation and local government collation areas at state level, we must recover those items, because we’re going through the same items in subsequent elections.
“Last night, a truck arrived from Benin with the z-pads, as well as the handheld thermometers. So if Benin has been able to recover, we believe that Ondo should be able to recover 100% so that we don’t have to keep spending money on items that we can use from one election after another
“No 8 payment of ad hoc staff. The training allowance, all the money that were supposed to give them for feeding right at RAC level. And then ultimately, the payment for their jobs.
Recall that this time around, each one of them is going to get a letter of appointment. And that letter of appointment contains the responsibilities of the ad hoc staff, the remunerations, the mode of payment, as well as the procedure for lodging complaints.
“That’s why the letter is in duplicate. the headquarters will retain a copy of the state headquarters, because the admin Secretariat is going to sign the letters. And then there is a form, which is on a third page which prescribes or provides for procedure for lodging complaints. And at the bottom of that page, given each ad hoc staff is a dedicated WhatsApp number.
“If any one of them has not been paid, they will file their complaints not only to the REC, but direct to the headquarters. So I will see who has not paid who. Fortunately, since we started this, we have considerably reduced almost eliminated, the incidence of ad hoc staff not being paid.
“Don’t change ad hoc staff at will, as EOs at LG. If you do so you’ll not have letter of appointment and then we’ll see how that ad hoc staff is paid.
If that ad hoc staff is not paid matters will arise. So don’t allow matters to arise.”, the INEC Chairman stated.
Accordingly, Prof. Yakubu said. “Let me reiterate that the commission is confident in the capacity of the EOs to deliver free and fair elections.
But I must emphasise that as in Edo, we cannot lower the bar. We can only keep raising the bar. I hope you understand me? We are on the same page? We will behave professionally? We will not lower the bar?” and the staff and electoral officers acknowledged with a resounding yes.