Ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to guarantee neutrality of the entire process.
The chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the promise on Monday at a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre, Benin.
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He said the commission sent two national commissioners to ensure the neutrality of INEC staff, particularly ad hoc staff engaged for election duty.
He said the two commissioners reviewed the process of recruitment to ensure strict compliance with the guidelines in reaction to the concern being expressed in some quarters about the impartiality of INEC staff and the ad hoc staff.
He added that the ballot papers and the election results sheets would come with new undisclosed security features to safeguard the integrity of the election.
“Your votes will count. Polling unit level results will be uploaded for public view. However, this will not happen where the process is disrupted by violence or malpractices,” he said.
He added: “Our ultimate objective is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Edo State is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election.
“The commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures. Nothing more.”
The INEC boss said the new technology of Z-pad would not be deployed for the main election because of the challenges encountered at the Nasarawa Central State Constituency by-election in Nasarawa State on August 8, 2020.
He, however, added that it would be used for the uploading of the polling unit results.
According to him, “The most critical of the recent innovations introduced by the commission is the use of a tablet now popularly called the Z-pad.
“It was an innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader.”
He said the deployment of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) for voter verification and authentication would be mandatory, adding “Where it is deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the commission’s regulations.”
On his part, the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, said the palace was only interested in a peaceful, free and fair election.
The oba, who was represented by Chief Osato Bazuaye, tasked INEC, police and other security agencies to ensure that Saturday’s election was free, fair and credible.
Also speaking, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Adamu, said 31,000 personnel would be deployed to the state to ensure peaceful election.
Adamu said election security threat assessment had been undertaken and all flash points and actors planning to threaten the electoral processes had been identified, adding that plans have been perfected to deal with the situation accordingly.
On his part, the NYSC Director-General, Shaibu Ibrahim, represented by the officer in charge of South-South, Benjamin Ayodele, assured that the corps members deployed for the election would perform their assignment with utmost neutrality.
Ibrahim called on politicians to sensitise their followers on the need to protect corps members on election duty against any kind of violence.