The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has foreclosed any possibility of postponing the general election scheduled to start next week Saturday with the presidential and National Assembly contests.
The Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave this indication Thursday and assured Nigerians and the international community that no election would be postponed.
There are pending legal tussles arising from primaries organised by political parties, making people to suggest that INEC might have to postpone some elections.
But speaking at the national stakeholders’ meeting of the commission yesterday in Abuja, Yakubu said the commission would not be swayed into postponing any of the polls.
He said the commission had been dragged to court 640 times and received 540 applications for certified true copy of documents.
Yakubu promised that the commission under him would continue to obey all court orders, assuring Nigerians that it would not be deterred in the discharge of its functions.
He told the stakeholders: “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.
He stated that smart card reader would be deployed in the elections while expressing surprise that many Nigerians complained of not collecting their PVCs at the centres.
Yakubu reiterated that the commission printed 14.2 million PVCs after voters’ registration, adding that those cards were ready for collection.
He, 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 7:30 am while voting should commence at 8am.
According to the INEC chairman, priority has been given to the elderly, visibly pregnant women and the physically challenged persons to vote at the polling units or voting points.
He reiterated that while magnifying glasses and brails 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 from the nation’s tertiary institutions would be vetted to ensure that partisan members of academic staff were not included.
The INEC boss said his commission had approved 148 observer groups comprising 119 domestic and 29 foreign observer groups.
He explained that internally displaced persons in other states would only be allowed to vote in the presidential election.
Also speaking on the preparations for the elections, the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, noted that the security agency has identified flashpoints in the country.
He assured the stakeholders that the police would bring such places to order.
The IG said no VIP would be allowed to move around with police escort on election days.
“No escort of VIPs on election day, any policeman who contravenes this order would be arrested,” the IGP said
DHQ Reads Riot Act to Personnel
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) Thursday read the riot act to its personnel, warning that any soldier or officer not on essential duty, but found in uniform near any polling booth on Election Day would be arrested and prosecuted.
It also reaffirmed its neutrality in the elections, saying “the same military that was there when the opposition won the election in 2015, has not changed. Parties come and go but military remains the same.”
DHQ also said it would deal decisively with groups threatening the election even as it stated that while it was investigating threats to the election, it did not align itself with the statements credited to Kaduna State Governor, Mr. Nasir el-Rufai, to the effect that foreigners, who threatened the election would “leave Nigeria in body bags.”
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the Defence spokesman, Brigadier-General John Agim, said military personnel seen near polling booths in uniform would be arrested.
He said no military personnel is allowed to fraternise with politicians.
According to him: “Any military personnel who is not on essential duty that is found on military uniform on Election Day will be arrested and face the full wrath of military justice system.
“Let me emphatically state that the Defence Headquarters has warned that all officers, soldiers, ratings, airmen and women of the Nigerian Armed Forces must remain neutral and exhibit exceptional professionalism before, during and after the upcoming elections.
“To this end, with the exception of those on essential duties, no military personnel should be found wearing uniform on the election days.
“Furthermore, all military commanders have been tasked to ensure adequate security in their areas of responsibility. They have also been further directed to ensure the adherence to code of conduct and rules of engagement in the discharge of their duties.”
Agim said the military would remain neutral, focusing only on threats to the election and general provision of security in collaboration with other security agencies.
FRSC Deploys 20,000 Personnel Nationwide
In another development, the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, said 20,000 personnel would be deployed nationwide to compliment the security arrangement for the elections.
According to Assistant Corps Marshal (ACM), Mr. Victor Nwokolo, who represented Oyeyemi, FRSC would be involved in forward and reverse logistics for the election.
The corps would also certify all vehicles to be used for the exercise, train and retrain drivers, ensure their suitability for the exercise, oversee vehicular movement, in addition to denying or allowing access to certain routes during and after the exercise.