he Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday said that the commission’s worst challenge remained the desperation and do-or-die attitude of politicians.
Mr Olusegun Agbaje, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State stated this at the enlarged Stakeholders’ Forum of the commission at its headquarters in Lagos.
Agbaje urged stakeholders especially political parties to create a peaceful atmosphere for INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections on Feb. 25 and March 11.
“Political Party leaders and candidates are strongly enjoined to caution their followers to play politics by the rules and imbibe the spirit of politics without bitterness.
He said that this would go a long way in creating the enabling peaceful environment needed for the conduct of the General Election.
“The worst challenge facing the electoral process currently is the do-or-die attitude of politicians which involve the use of different unlawful means to undermine the electoral process.
“The way desperate politicians use thugs to either disrupt elections or intimidate election officials in some polling units, RACs and Collation Centres during the last General Election assumed a very worrisome dimension and must not be allowed to happen again in Lagos State.
“The consequences of not getting this election right are too great and should not even be contemplated,” he said.
Reiterating INEC’s expectations from the stakeholders during the electioneering, Agbaje said that the commission needed assistance in securing INEC assets including men and materials.
He urged stakeholders to engage in effective, positive, purposeful and sustainable participation in the democratic process.
According to him, all stakeholders must shun violence, fake news, malpractices, snatching of ballot boxes, buying and selling of voters cards, intimidation of election officials, vote buying and all other election vices.
The INEC boss urged them to continue to fervently work and pray for peaceful co-existence among the citizenry and mobilise voters to come out en mass on election days to vote candidates of their choice.
Commending stakeholders for previous support in the past elections, Agbaje urged them to continue to support the commission to conduct election everyone would be proud of in the forthcoming elections.
He said that INEC would deploy 13, 325 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to the 13, 325 polling units spread across the 245 wards in the 20 local government areas of the state.
He said that INEC was more than ever before very determined to conduct very good elections into the various offices during the 2023 General Election with adequate preparations.
”Consequently, several things have been put in place as part of preparations in this regard including among others,”.
He said that the commission had issued a total of 6,708,451 Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) out of the 7,637,402 PVCs received in the state between 2011 and 2023, saying the figure represents 88 per cent.
“It should be noted that any voter without PVC will not be allowed to vote during the general election.
“Please, note that all voters must be accredited with the use of BVAS and any Polling Unit where the total number of accredited voters is less than total vote cast i.e over-voting, the election will be cancelled and zero will be recorded for all political parties.
“This is in accordance with section 40 of INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of election 2022,” he said.
He said that as part of preparations, INEC had moved non-sensitive materials like mats, cubicles, ballot boxes, aprons, vests among others to the LGA offices as well as sourcing and screening of ad-hoc staff from NYSC, Tertiary Institutions, Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
He added that the commission had embarked on training of trainers such as security agents while currently printing register of voters, configuring BVAS and voter sensitisation and various engagements.
Agbaje added: “The Commission has migrated/moved some voters in densely populated Polling Units to low population density Polling Units within some vicinity for better control and seamless accreditation and voting on Election Day.
“In areas where there are voter population density, more BVAS would be deployed for better crowd management and ease of accreditation and voting.
“Accordingly, the register of affected voters will be pasted at the poling units involved very soon and community leaders will be appropriately sensitized to assist in getting the voters involved in checking exact polling units which are within the same vicinity.”
He urged politicians, voters and INEC personnel not to attempt to bribe or accept a bribe before or during polling, saying “It’s a crime”.
“Don’t vote more than once. It’s an electoral offence. Don’t sell your permanent voter’s card. Do not sell your right. Vote in person, voting on behalf of another person is not allowed.
“It should be noted that every Nigerian with a valid voter’s card is eligible to vote in the election.
“However, he/she must do so in accordance with the relevant rules guiding the electoral process. Whoever runs contrary to these rules is liable on conviction to be penalised,” he said.
The event had in attendance leaders of various political parties, Non Governmental Organisation, religious leaders and other stakeholders in the elections.