…May extend PVC collection deadline
…IG bars police escorts for VIPs on election days
The the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday insisted that it has no plans to postpone the general elections scheduled for February 16 and March 2, 2019.
INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu assured Nigerians and the international community that the elections will be held as scheduled.
The INEC boss spoke on a day the United States (U.S) said it has no preferred candidate.
Its Consul-General in Nigeria, Ambassador John Bay, who was in Bayelsa State yesterday, said that the U.S. was only interested in free, fair and credible elections.
There are pending legal tussles from the primaries organised by political parties suggesting that INEC may have to postpone some elections.
But Prof Yakubu told stakeholders at a meeting organised by INEC that the commission will not be swayed into postponing any of the scheduled polls.
He noted that the commission has been dragged to court for 640 times and received 540 applications for the Certified True Copy (CTC) of documents.
Yakubu promised that the commission under his watch will continue to obey all court orders, assuring that it would not be deterred in the discharge of its functions.
He said: “Court cases arising from the conduct of congress and primaries have risen to 640. INEC has been dragged to court 640 times, we have received 540 requests for certified true copy of documents. We have received 186 petitions over the conduct of congresses and party primaries.
“It is the policy of INEC to obey court orders. People ask if the judgments from these courts are decided close to elections if INEC will postpone the elections, INEC will not postpone any elections but we will make contingency arrangements in case some of the orders come close to elections.”
The INEC chairman also assured the stakeholders that he would “never fail Nigeria and Nigerians.”
Stating that Smart Card Reader (SCR) will be deployed in the elections, Yakubu expressed surprise that many Nigerians complained of not collecting their PVCs at the centres.
The INEC chair, therefore, said the commission would meet with a view to possibly reviewing the deadline for collection.
He said: “Let me assure the nation and the stakeholders that smart card reader will be deployed in the 2019 elections. The next big issue for us is the voter register and the availability of the PVC.
“We have heard so many complaints by citizens that they have been to collection centers but we are surprised to hear that in some centres they were told to come back that the cards were not printed.
“We have 14.2 million new voters, the commission printed 14.2 million cards.the commission is going to meet today (Thursday) and where it is necessary, we will review the arrangements for the collection of PVC.”
He urged the transport companies to ensure that polling units receive the electoral materials at 7:30am while voting should commence at 8am.
According him, priority has been given to the elderly, visibly pregnant women and the physically challenged persons to vote at the polling units or voting points.
The INEC chairman reiterated that while magnifying glasses and brailles have been provided for the visually impaired to aid them to vote, form EC30 containing bold instructions on how the deaf should cast their votes are posted at every polling units as well as the voting points.
He also stated that the list of returning officers would be vetted to ensure that partisan members of academic staff were not included.
According to him, 148 observer groups comprising 119 domestic observer groups and 29 foreign observer groups have been accredited by the commission to monitor the polls.
Also speaking on the preparations for the elections, the Acting Inspector-General (IG) of Police, Mohammed Adamu, noted that the security agency has identify the flashpoints.
Also, as part of the efforts to address the issue, the IG said no VIP (Very Important Person) would be allowed to move around with police escort on election days.
He warned that any policeman who contravened the rule would be arrested.
“No escort of VIPs on election day, any policeman who contravenes this order would be arrested,” the acting IG warned.