Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Mahmood Yakubu has said 98 percent of the 180,000 Smart Card Readers (SCRs) to be deployed for elections had been configured to activate at 8.00am and shutdown at 10 pm Saturday.
Yakubu, who said the SCRs would take five to six days to reconfigure after the postponement of the polls, also stated that the commission’s ICT team would get the rest of the SCRs ready today (Wednesday.)
He also said ballot snatchers and other election-related offenders would be dealt with in line with the dictates of the law.
The commission also stated that contrary to some media reports, a national commissioner of INEC, Professor Okechukwu Ibeanu was not invited by the Department of State Services or any security agency.
The INEC boss said these Tuesday at a world press conference in Abuja on the commission’s level of preparedness for Saturday polls.
He said: “You will recall in my last address to stakeholders on Saturday I mentioned that we intended to deploy card readers and we identified very clear timeline for the delivery of the card readers.
“I want to report that as of last night, we have achieved 95 per cent configuration of the 180,000 card readers and this process is going to be completed early morning on Wednesday, one day ahead of schedule.
“We also told stakeholders that in response to appeal to the commission to extend the period of campaign by political parties, the commission yesterday (Monday) also met with party leaders and extended the period for campaign to midnight of Thursday.
“Because of the extension of state elections taking place on March 9, the commission hereby extends the campaign for that election to Thursday before the election date.”
On Ibeanu, he said the national commissioner was right in his office as at the time of the press briefing.
The INEC chair stated that Ibeanu’s house in Enugu was not invaded and also said the rumour of the arrest of six directors working with the commission by security agencies was untrue.
“No commissioner of the commission was picked up by any security agencies. No house of any commissioner of INEC was raided; no commissioner of INEC has been picked up by the security agencies. The particular commissioner that you are referring to whose name was mentioned in the social media is, as we speak, is in his office in the commission. Similarly, no six directors were picked up by any security agencies.”
Commenting on President Muhammadu Buhari’s order to security agencies to deal with ballot snatchers, he said the commission’s positions remained that violators of electoral laws would be punished according to the law of the land.
“The position of the commission is that all violators of the Electoral Act should be punished according to the provisions of the law, the Electoral Act.”
On whether elections would hold in Borno in spite of recent terrorists attacks, Yakubu said: “We have identified eight local government areas where citizens reside in camps and they are all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and not only in Borno, but also in other states of the federation. And the commission, just as we did in 2015, will afford citizens to vote in the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps.
“This will follow the same procedure adopted in 2015. But if there are new security situations that have arisen for which the commission hasn’t taken consideration that is a new thing that is not what we have planned for 2019. For all we know, elections will take place in Borno state, in the substantial part of the state, just like other state of the federation.”
He further stated that by 4.00pm Monday, “delivery of materials were virtually identified and addressed.”
He said the materials which included ballot papers, result sheets and a host of other non sensitive materials were at various locations across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.
He also said Registration Area Centres (RACs) would be activated Friday.
He further said, “Our state offices commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine retrieved materials deployed last week and to witness the batching materials according to local government areas. This is ongoing at the moment and is expected to be completed today, Tuesday 19 February, 2019.
“The movement of materials to LGAs for batching according to wards and polling units shall take place on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21, February 2019.
“All Registration Area Centres (RACs) are to be activated by 9.00am on Friday 22 February 2019. Personnel and materials should be at the MC: by mid-day on Friday 22, February 2019.
“Refresher training for ad hoc personnel should take place at the RACs: on Friday 22 February 2019. Personnel and materials must arrive at the Polling Units latest 7am on Saturday 23 February 2019. Opening of polls nationwide will take place at 8.00am on Saturday 23 February 2019.”
Yakubu, Onyeama to meet diplomats
Meanwhile, the INEC chairman and foreign affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, are expected to brief heads of diplomatic missions and international organisations on the conduct of Saturday polls.
The ministry’s spokesperson, George Edokpa, said this in a statement Tuesday in Abuja.
Edokpa said the briefing would hold 10.00am. at the Rotunda Hall, Tafawa Balewa House, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.