With just six days to Edo governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared anyone without Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) will not be allowed to vote.
This is contrary to reports that the electoral umpire might have resolved to use the incidence forms for voters, whose PVC malfunctions during the Saturday, September 19, governorship election. The commission has said there was no such intentions and that those without their PVCs stood no chance of voting at all.
Also, the commission has debunked allegation that the reappointment of some of INEC’s national commissioners whose tenures are expected to elapse in November has been tied to the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Edo election.
As a result, the National Peace Committee led by a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, is likely to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari soon with a view to soliciting for the neutrality of all security agencies and the INEC during the Edo governorship election.
This is as the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) accused each other of underhand tactics to rig next Saturday’s election.
But some Edo community leaders in the state, led by their chairman, Dickson Omoregie, Friday called for peace in the elections, by asking for a critical review of security deployment and zero interference of other agencies of government, who have roles to play in the management of the election.
In the same breath, the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinnma, yesterday stormed Benin City, the Edo State Capital, where was being honoured and seized the opportunity of the occasion to mobilise the Igbo community in support of the APC and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY on the procedure for the election should the PVC malfunction, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education, Information and Publicity, Festus Okoye, said there would be no voting without the voter’s card readers.
“The Commission will continue to improve on its technological solutions. The Smart Card Reader remains a veritable tool for verification and authentication in the accreditation process. Our resolve is to make it more robust, more efficient and smarter
“We will continue to improve on the Smart Card Reader Technology. The Commission has not commissioned and has not carried out a study that indicates that authentication using the Smart Card Reader has reduced from 80% to about 30%.
“The Smart Card Reader has brought credibility to the electoral process and the Commission will continue to deploy it. We have made it smarter and more robust and we will continue to improve on it. Only persons with the Permanent Voters Cards whose name appear on the voters’ register will move towards the verification and authentication ladder.
“Those that are not in possession of the Permanent Voters’ Card and whose names are not on the voters’ register will not be allowed to vote. The Smart Card Reader will continue to be used for verification and authentication,” he explained.
On why INEC would the Z-pad technology in the Edo governorship election instead of the former Iris scam technology, Okoye said, “The Commission will continue to control its technological solutions and will never allow technology to drive the process. The Commission has been test running a couple of technological solutions and the facial recognition software for secondary accreditation is one of them.
“The Commission deployed the solution to the Nasarawa Central bye-election and noticed challenges with its performance. We are back on the drawing board perfecting it, aligning it and making it more robust as a secondary accreditation solution.
“The Commission will continue to use the Z-pad to upload polling unit results to the Result Viewing Portal. The Commission will only deploy technological solutions it has tested with small bye-elections and is confident of their performance in bigger elections. A responsible Commission will not gamble with a big end of tenure election conducted in the shadow of a pandemic,” he said.
However, addressing the allegations that the INEC national commissioners, whose tenures are due to end in November would be rewarded with a reappointment if they traded off Edo state governorship election in favour of the APC, he dismissed it as untrue.
“Every national commissioner knows his entry and exit date. All the national commissioners are accomplished professionals and some of them are looking forward to returning to their normal lives. More fundamentally, national commissioners are focused on delivering the two-end of tenure elections taking place under the shadow of a pandemic.
“The two elections are crucial to the democratic process and most national commissioners are fine-tuning the programmes of the departments they supervise. It is counterproductive to engage in speculative assumptions and make deductions that are not backed up with verifiable and cogent facts.”
Okoye, therefore, challenged the PDP to produce evidence that one of national commissioners is working in cahoots with the APC to swap and compromise the list of Supervisory Presiding Officers.
“Those with proof of tampering or doctoring or compromised list of Supervisory Presiding Officers should come forward with the evidence. The long-standing policy of the Commission, which is in the public domain, is to recruit Supervisory Presiding Officers from Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government.
“These categories of officers apply for recruitment through INEC dedicated portal with their photographs, identity cards and attestation. The applicants are further vetted before they are issued with letters of appointment. The activities of the Commission are carried out transparently. All the political parties contesting the election will be at the Central Bank for the distribution of the materials.
“All the political parties were availed of their statutory right to nominate polling agents. The Commission is constitutionally mandated to organise, undertake and supervise elections. Plotting and conspiracy do not form part of the mandate of the Commission. Our responsibility is to organise a good and acceptable election in Edo and Ondo States,” Okoye explained.
Thus, ahead of Tuesday’s peace accord signing amongst all the political parties contesting the Edo State governorship election, indications are rife that the chairman of the committee, General Abubakar has been scheduled to meet privately with President Buhari on the need for a free and credible election in the state.
The committee headed by Abubakar met Friday to perfect how to ensure peace during the September 19 governorship election at a popularly hotel in Abuja last Friday, where it was resolved that the former military head of state should meet President Buhari.
A source at the meeting, who hinted at the development, said the idea of meeting the president was to ensure that all security agencies and INEC remain neutral in the election.
“We cannot keep quiet as the drumbeats of war in the election is becoming too load. We cannot keep quite and bloods are shed in the name of election. Election should be seen as service and not violence,” the source said.
However, accusing each other of underhand tactics to rig the election, while the PDP cried over alleged suspicious movement of persons from Lagos and other parts of the country into the state, the APC has asked the federal government and the people of the state to rein in Governor Godwin Obaseki and the PDP whom it alleged of fostering insecurity in the state.