•Not deterred by allegations
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has assured that the Commission is ready to conduct this Saturday’s election re-run in Rivers State, South-South Nigeria.
Yakubu gave this assurance on Wednesday, while fielding questions from State House correspondents at the swearing-in of six National Resident Electoral Commissioners(REC) at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
He said no amount of allegations will deter and distract the umpire from carrying out free, fair and credible elections in the troubled Niger Delta state.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had accused INEC of colluding with the Nigeria Police as well as members of All Progressive Congress (APC) to rig the elections.
He had also alleged that INEC had already handed down the result sheets of the re-run elections to former governor of Rivers and Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi.
But the INEC chairman has dismissed these allegations, saying Rivers elections was not different from others conducted and further assured that votes must count at the end of the day.
He vowed that the Commission would not waiver in its responsibilities for credible elections and consolidate on their recent successes in Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo, and Ondo states.
He said: “INEC is poised to consolidate on the achievements of the 2016 elections. We wouldn’t be distracted by the allegations, we would do what we have always done to the best of our ability bearing in mind that we have a responsibility to the Nigerian nation. We would go to Rivers, conduct free, fair and credible elections, declare winners and leave the next level to the judiciary.
“However, there is nothing new that we are going to do in rivers beyond what we’ve always done. Votes must count because ultimately it is the people of Rivers that will determine who will become their senators, members of the house of Representatives and the members of the state assembly.”
“We want to pledge to Nigerians that we will never shirk in that responsibilities. We’ll continue to discharge our responsibilities according to the law and the constitution of this country,” he added.
Yakubu also debunked the allegations of releasing names of known APC members as INEC returning officers for the Rivers elections
He noted: “We have heard this allegations before. Election after election there are allegations that we compromise the recruitment of adhoc staff for the elections and in the recruitment of National Returning Officers, there is nothing like that.
“The standard practice is to recruit adhoc staff from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and where there is a shortfall we recruit from federal tertiary institutions. And from Rivers there was a list from the University of Port Harcourt to make up for the shortfall in adhoc staff. We would continue to discharge our responsibilities, we won’t be distracted and INEC will never join issues with partisan politicians.”
The INEC chairman also expressed confidence that the new commissioners will help the agency achieve its mandate, saying:
”In a very important way. Now we have a full complement of commissioners. Six additional commoners are coming on board. It’s not just the number that is important to us but what they are bringing. We have a lawyer, we have an engineer, we have a seasoned media practitioner, we have a retired Air Vice Marshal, we have former Resident Electoral Commissioner, we have an expert in planning and in relationship with international development partners.
“They are coming at a time when we are putting all the re-run and bye-elections behind us. Next, we would then face the challenges of taking the commission forward. There are a number of things that we need to do. We need to revisit the dilimitation of constituencies, we need to review additional polling units in this country, we need to look at the issue of separate constituencies and we also need to have a conversation in this country about the cost of election. These are the issues going forward and there are many more.”
On the security situation, Yakubu said that the Commission as been assured that the staffs and materials would be protected as well as the process to ensure peaceful, free, fair and credible elections.
According to him, INEC has played its part and “have been assured and reassured by those who are supposed to help us secure the environment for us to deploy personnel and material for the election.”
“So far we have been assured and so far we are satisfied with the security arrangement,” he said.
On alleged thumb-printing of sensitive electoral materials ahead of the elections, he said, “I learnt about it that somebody was printing sensitive electoral materials in Rivers. First, we have no proof of printing sensitive material in the state where elections is conducted.
“At the time the allegation was made we had not even awarded the contract for the printing of the sensitive materials. So, it came as a huge surprise to us. But we have gone ahead to invite the police and the State Security Service (SSS) to investigate the matter because we are also interested in getting to the bottom of it. But is really strange to say that INEC will print fake material for elections. Is like accusing the Central Bank of printing fake Naira notes. Who has the original?”