• Releases Complaints Phone Lines
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it had perfected plans with the security agencies to decisively deal with anyone engaging in any illicit act, particularly the notorious act of “see and buy,” as it is called in local parlance, in today’s governorship election in Osun State.
Consequently, the electoral umpire has released phone numbers for complaints of any kind by the electorate, media and the public, while assuring the people of the state of its readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible election that would be acceptable to them.
The state Resident Electoral Commission (REC) of INEC, Olusegun Agbaje, while addressing journalists yesterday at the state headquarters of the commission on Gbongan Road, Osogbo, disclosed that the electoral body had distributed sensitive and non-sensitive materials to all the 30 councils in the state from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and gave the numbers to lodge complaints as 08168963080, 07057789656 and 07086575910.
According to Agbaje, the situation room of the commission would be receiving complaints through these phone lines, adding that accreditation and voting would go on simultaneously between 8:00am and 2:00pm and “only those on the queue at 2:00pm would be allowed to vote,” while both staff and ad-hoc staff of the Commission that would participate in the conduct of the election have been made to “swear oath of neutrality.”
The electoral body also disclosed that it has concluded plans to make today’s election free and fair and model for subsequent elections.
Forty-eight political parties fielded candidates for the election.
Agbaje said the commission could not close its eyes to any act that would compromise the credibility of the election, warning: “For the avoidance of doubt, Section 124 of the Electoral Act (as amended) states that a person who gives voters money to vote for or refrain from voting for a candidate is liable on conviction to a fine of N500, 000 or 12 months in prison.
Agbaje also denied allegations that INEC has banned the use of phones and other camera devices at the polling units, saying: “What INEC said is that voters should not carry their phones or any other camera devices into the voting cubicles where the voter will mark ballot, to safeguard the secrecy of the ballot.”
He assured the 48 political parties that fielded candidates for the election of a level-playing field, pleading that they should join hands with the Commission to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
He disclosed three security personnel would be attached to each polling unit, while all the buffer zones would have heavy presence of security agents.
Agbaje urged the people to dismiss allegations by some politicians that the commission has released uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to certain political parties and also compromised the card reader.
He warned politicians to desist from misleading the public, saying the commission has kept all uncollected PVCs in its strong room.
Agbaje assured that smart card readers have been enhanced for optimal performance and 996 have been reserved to serve as backups.
“Out of 1,246,915 registered voters, a total of 435,015 PVCs, that is 25.86 per cent, are yet to be collected by their owners and are being kept in the INEC strong room at the state office here in Osogbo.
“The commission has no plans whatsoever to give the uncollected PVCs to any political party. The commission’s Smart Card Readers are not also designed to favour any political party.
“I, therefore, strongly advice all stakeholders in the Osun State governorship election, especially the political parties’ leaders and contestants, to desist from making unguarded utterances and unfounded allegations.”
He, however, appealed to journalists to cooperate with the commission to ensure that the final result is announced by the INEC before circulating it to the public.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police has disclosed that 18,000 of its men and officers had been deployed to ensure hitch-free election.
Also, all commercial banks in the state closed for operation by 12:00 pm yesterday, leaving their ATM to dispense money to their customers.