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INEC to Political Parties: See March 18 Elections as Contest, Not War
•Pledges to set up legal team to handle cases of electoral offences expeditiously
•Permits PDP, APC legal teams to inspect presidential election materials
•Call your lieutenants to order, NSA tells political gladiators
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
With exactly three days to Saturday’s governorship and Houses of Assembly elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has advised political parties and their supporters not to see the polls as war, but as a contest. INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this yesterday, at a meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security ahead of the elections.
The commission revealed that duly certified copies of Forms EC8D and EC8D (A) had been made available to the legal teams of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). It said the teams were yesterday allowed to also inspect the original copies.
National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), told the meeting that Saturday’s elections, billed to take place in over 1,000 constituencies, would be more complicated than the February 25 polls. Monguno appealed to the political parties to call their members and supporters to order.
There were reported cases of violence, intimidation, and suppression of voters during the elections held last month.
Yakubu stressed that the governorship and state assembly elections this weekend would involve more constituencies than the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections.
He noted that unlike the last elections, which involved 470 constituencies – one presidential, 109 senatorial districts, and 360 House of Representatives seats – the state elections would involve 1,021 constituencies – 28 governorship and 993 state assembly candidates.
Yakubu stressed that there would also be more candidates involved and more collation centres to protect, saying they are local elections involving keen contests.
He stated, “It is, therefore, important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war. They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media and service providers.”
The INEC chairman recalled that exactly three weeks ago, the committee had met to review security arrangements for the presidential and National Assembly elections. He said yesterday’s meeting was to review preparations for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections holding on Saturday.
Yakubu pointed out that the governorship elections in eight – Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo, and Osun states – were held off-cycle.
However, the INEC chairman stressed that elections would be conducted for all the 993 state constituencies nationwide. He assured that the commission would immediately set up a legal team to handle cases of electoral offences expeditiously.
The assurance by the electoral umpire followed a directive to Police State Commands by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, to handle all cases of electoral offences expeditiously.
Yakubu said the commission was encouraged by the directive to state commands by the IGP.
“We look forward to receiving the case files. We will immediately set up a legal team to handle such cases in earnest,” he added.
Yakubu explained that INEC state offices had made available to the Nigeria Police, being the lead agency in election security, the delimitation details for both the governorship and state assembly elections, including locations of polling units and collation centres. He said on that basis, the commission was expecting a coordinated deployment plan in synergy with other security, intelligence, law enforcement, and safety agencies.
The chairman revealed that INEC held a virtual meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) on Monday to review preparations for the coming elections. He said in addition to election technology, logistics and a host of other issues, security was also discussed, adding, “We will present some of the issues at this meeting for further discussion and, most importantly, appropriate action.”
Speaking at the meeting, the NSA said Saturday’s elections were going to be much more complicated, adding that contextually they are going to be different.
According to Monguno, “First of all, we are going to have 1,021 constituencies. Meaning, we are going to have more people interested, more people voting, more collation centres and obviously the dynamics will be much more different than the elections that we have just concluded.”
Monguno commended the political parties and individuals that participated in the February 25 elections, especially those that called for peace and calm. He urged political gladiators and individuals at the state level to demonstrate the same level of maturity and discipline by calling their supporters to conduct themselves in a manner in sync with the expectations of the larger Nigerian society.
Monguno stated, “For the security agencies, I know a lot has been done. I have been talking with the Chief of Defence Staff and the IGP, who is the head of the lead agency in the process of election.
“So far so good, we do not envisage anything that is going to be terrible or apocalyptic in terms of the next few days. But that does not mean that we should all do away with our state of readiness.
“We must comply with the rules; we must also allow everyone to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of this country. What we do not want happening is for anybody to take the law into his or her own hands.
“I want to be very clear in this, we are going to give maximum support to all entities involved in this process and we are also calling on the political bigwigs to call their lieutenants to order. Anybody who is hitching to undermine this process should, please, think again. It is not in his own interest; it is not in the interest of the nation as well.”
The NSA assured that the security agencies would continue to work round the clock, saying all the crisis centres, as well as the communication systems are open. He said he would be communicating with the chairman of INEC if there was anything needed to be done or added, stressing that his office is open and readily available to give necessary support.