The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has uncovered a new plan by some politicians to use food vendors around polling units with large voter populations as meeting and collection points for cash-for-votes as well as other forms of inducement of voters on the Election Day.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this on Monday in Abuja while hosting a delegation of the European Union (EU) Election Observer, led by the Chief Observer, Ms. Marie Arena, and ECOWAS observers’ mission at the headquarters of the commission.
According to him, there was no doubt that the country’s electoral processes are getting better and votes count, saying the commission would continue to progressively improve on elections and protect the sanctity of the votes.
“However, following recent consultations with stakeholders across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, the attention of the Commission was drawn to a new plan by some political actors to use food vendors around polling units with large voter populations as collection points for cash-for-votes as well as other forms of material inducement to voters on Election Day. We are aware of this trick. It will not work,” Yakubu said
He said that the bulk of ad hoc staff for election duty would be drawn from the pool of young Nigerians serving in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, and that the commission has established clear criteria for drawing from students of tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfalls.
“This has been the practice over several electoral cycles. Similarly, Collation and Returning Officers are drawn from senior academic staff of Federal Universities led by the Vice Chancellors.
“We have already commenced the process following our meeting with the Vice Chancellors last week. In addition, there is a clearly established system of vetting all election duty staff before they are engaged.
“Therefore, the claim that the Commission has outsourced the recruitment of election duty staff to partisan actors is the usual allegation on the eve of elections and should be disregarded.
“With 25 days to the 2019 general elections, the Commission’s attention is firmly focused on the conduct of credible elections. We will not be distracted into a fatuous debate,” he said.
He, however assured the EU that preparations for the election is on course, and that the commission has had a series of assuring meetings with the security agencies in order to ensure that the processes are protected, the right of voters to vote freely safeguarded, access for observers and the media guaranteed, the election is transparent and the outcome a true reflection of the will of Nigerians.
Speaking earlier, the leader of the delegation, Ms. Marie, said that the EU would be deploying 40 observers during the elections in all states of the federation.
“We really appreciate this work that we have to do together here in your country for democracy, for the Nigerian people. Because without democracy there is no development, there is no freedom, there is no economy,” Arena said.
She said that the EU would also have its parliamentary observation mission on ground during the elections.
“We will issue two preliminary reports after the election. We will work strongly with all the stakeholders of this country. We will also have the final reports two months after the election with recommendations. We really appreciate the work that INEC has done with the previous recommendations after the 2015 elections,” she said.
Also, the leader of ECOWAS observers’ mission and the former Chairperson of Electoral Commission, Ghana, Ms. Charlotte Osei, said the mission of the delegation was to let INEC know that ECOWAS would be deploying both long term and short term observer mission.
She said that during the elections, the mission would be focusing on legal, media, operations, gender and disabilities.