The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it has delivered all non-sensitive materials for the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
The Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the disclosure on Thursday in Lagos during the Anniversary Colloquium marking the Press Week of the Lagos State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme for the colloquium, organised to mark the second anniversary of the present executive of the state NUJ, was: ”Ensuring Credible Off-season Elections in Nigeria”.
Yakubu, represented by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that all the sensitive materials would be delivered one month before the election in November.
The INEC Chairman added that the commission had made available for collection all uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), pointing out Sept. 30 was deadline for the exercise.
Yakubu, however, noted that some concerns of possible violence had been raised about the forthcoming Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, given the violence that led to the declaration of inconclusive elections in the two states in 2015.
“Therefore, politicians in Bayelsa and Kogi must shed off the toga of political violence associated with elections in the two states.
”The commission will continue to work with security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to provide adequate security for all our elections.
“Nigerians deserve and should always have free, fair and credible elections. INEC owes the nation and Nigerians a duty to ensure that votes count.
” The present commission has demonstrated this commitment in all the elections it has conducted, in spite of multiple challenges.
“ Ultimately, the commission’s ability to organise credible elections also depend on the cooperation of all stakeholders in the electoral process and the strict adherence to the rules of the game.
The commission will continue to ensure that votes count,” he noted.
Also speaking at the coloquom, he Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, said that the media held the potential to revolutionise how Nigeria remedy the shortcoming in her electoral system.
Also speaking at the colloquium, the Speaker of the Houser of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila ,represented by Mr Tijani Ismail, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, said that there were widely-held views that Nigeria was gradually moving towards an era where the media will exert greater influence on the electoral process.
He commended the media for enlightening the citizens on elections, noting that due to media efforts, many citizens were now educated about the electoral process.
The speaker said Nigerian journalists had made the electoral process credible, stressing that journalists could not do it alone and called on other stakeholders to also do their best to strengthen the process.
He pointed out that since the resumption of the 8th Assembly, the House had entertained no fewer than 12 bills seeking to amend the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 and the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2015.
“The credibility of “Off-season” elections and “On Season” elections are fundamentally not different to the extent that legal, institutional and structural impediments exist.
“The reverse being the obvious case in the absence of such impediments,
”The thinning out of manpower on the part of the commission, security agencies, civil society, among other stakeholders in the course of “On Season” elections as compared with its opposite during the conduct of “Off Season” elections presents a microscopic viewing of the latter.
“However, I must be quick to point out that the success and credibility of an election goes beyond the myriad of eyes fixated on the arena but also the conduct of the stakeholders, the resolve of politicians to not see politics as a do or die affair and many other variables,” he said.
The chairman of NUJ, Lagos Council, Dr Qasim Akinreti, pointed out the role of journalists in sustaining democracy, including bringing those in authorities to accountability.
Akinreti said that in line with journalists’ constitutional role in Section 35, 1999 constitution as amended, they were to make government and institutions accountable to the people.
“We are making INEC and state governors of nine states accountable on their roles in ensuring of a credible off-season elections in Bayelsa, Kogi, Ondo, Anambra, Edo, Ekiti and Osun states.
“Thus choice of the topic of discussion was carefully chosen to underscore the preparation for the another round of off-season elections in Nigeria and proffering solutions to avalanche of criticisms that have trailed past off-season elections in Nigeria.
“Our aim is to ensure that votes in Nigeria in the aforementioned states count,” Akinreti said.
Also speaking, the governor of Osun, Mr Adegboyega Oyetola, said that something needed to be done to sanitize the political stage and ensure that democracy continued to exist in Nigeria
The governor, represented by his Chief Press Secretary, Dr Adeleke Ipaye, said that ballot snatching, under age voting had become regular feature in our elections.
He said that there was the need to make elections credible as it was the tool to achieve the country’s desired unity, while calling for punishment for electoral offenders.
Oyetola noted that power belonged to the people, urging the people vote out non performing governments, while security agents must fish out those persons among the political class that encouraged electoral fraud.
He said the media had big role to ensure credible elections, stressing that there was need to encourage internal democracy and allow the best candidates to emerged during primaries.