Ahead of 2019 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned political parties and their candidates who embark on illegal campaigns saying the release of timetable does not mean the commencement of campaigns.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu who gave this warning at the quarterly meeting with the media executives Tuesday reminded those campaigning around the country that INEC is still the only agency responsible for the release of timetable for campaigns and has not done so.
He stated that politicians who are currently embarking on such campaigns are doing so illegally.
The chairman said: “The release of timetable does not translate to beginning of political campaigns. I want to use this opportunity through the media to draw the attention of political parties and candidates that are going round the country campaigning that INEC is the only agency responsible for the release of timetable for campaigns and has not done so. That anything anybody does is illegal. Wait for the time table for the election.
On discipline of staff, the INEC chairman said his commission is the first that “in one full swoop disciplined 255 of its staff who were involved in electoral malpractices.
He said under INEC’s terms and condition of service, erring staffers were interdicted and placed on half salary until their innocence or so is established”.
He further said: “Only last week, I learnt they have started prosecuting them. I wouldn’t mind getting rid of everybody and recruiting afresh. We are committed to doing so.
He however said that among the commission’s staff there are some dedicated personnel saying that he is “very, very proud of them.”
He noted that the commission has instituted a reprobation and reward system whereby dedicated staffers are rewarded.
“Among staff of the commission, there are dedicated staff of INEC, Imagine the amount of money that exchanged hands, only few hundreds were involved. That is why we have instituted some form of reward and reprobation to reward dedicated staff.
The INEC boss stated that report of those prosecuted will be made available as soon as the commission concludes with the rest of the 21 states.
Meanwhile in another development, the INEC chairman disclosed that out of the 6,200 Smart Card Readers (SCR) that will be deployed for the Anambra governorship election, 5200 have already been tested while the remaining would be tested at a later date. He gave assurance that the commission is adequately prepared for the Anambra governorship election.
“We need to deploy 6,200 smart card readers in the Anambra governorship election to each of the polling units and voting points and then we have some spares in case of malfunction or failure. So far as at last week we have tested the functionality of 5,200. We are satisfied that the machines are good to be deployed. The remaining 1000 will be done later.
According to Yakubu, in spite of the several challenges facing the commission, it would conduct the Anambra state gubernatorial elections at the first ballot, promising that the election would be free and fair and the electorate produce their own governor.
“I want to report that we’re ready for Anambra. The commission is really ready big time for Anambra governorship election. We had a meeting with the Resident Electoral commissioners (RECs) last week and the Anambra state resident electoral commissioner was asked to stay behind and he joined us in the meeting of the strategic and consultative committee on election security.
“And he briefed the committee on the preparations for the Anambra election. Then the commissioner of police was also available and he briefed us on preparations for the elections.
“Elections in Anambra will be free and fair; the people of Anambra will determine who their governor will be. Our commitment is to conclude the election on first ballot.”
Yakubu stated that preparations for the forthcoming election in Anambra have been the quietest since the commission has not been served with any injunction by the actors on duplication of candidate by any of political actors.
The INEC chairman who further disclosed that so far, 77,127 people have been added to the voter register in the on-going Continued Voter Registration added that newly registered people in Anambra will receive their PVCs in October before the election.
Prof Yakubu who also told the journalists that his commission had conducted a number of bye elections recently expressed worry that since 2015 elections in Lagos had recorded low turnout of voters saying that in a recent bye election conducted in Ifako/Ijaiye Federal Constituency, only 3 per cent had turnout.
According to the chairman, the Etiosa Federal constituency of last weekend was a slight improvement recording only 3.42 per cent.