Barring unforeseen circumstances, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to conduct the governorship election in Bayelsa and Kogi states on Saturday.
Thus, signing of the peace accord last week by the various political parties cleared for the elections portends a good omen. The peace accord is necessary because one of the criteria for the conduct of a free, fair, credible and acceptable election is the violence-free disposition of the political parties and their candidates.
By signing the peace accord, INEC said that “parties and their contestants have resolved, pledged, affirmed and committed to non-violence before, during and after the election.”
Chairman of the Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, gave this hint in Yenagoa, the Bayels state capital, during a meeting with stakeholders earlier. He urged all stakeholders to continue to eschew violence and maintain peaceful conduct during the election.
“At this meeting, parties and candidates will be required to sign the Peace Accord resolving, pledging, affirming and committing all to non-violence before, during and after the election.”
The signing of the peace accord was witnessed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Director General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), as well as senior officials of INEC led by Prof Yakubu.
A similar peace accord was signed by candidates for the Kogi governorship elections on Monday at another stakeholders meeting in Lokoja. Yakubu reiterated the preparedness of the commission towards the conduct of a free, fair and credible election. He said that the commission has already implemented 12 out of its 14-point plan for the election as required by law.
He said, “I want to reassure you that INEC is ready. We have so far successfully implemented twelve (12) out of our 14-point plan for the election as required by law. Only five (5) days ago, we published the Notice of Poll and drew the attention of political parties fielding candidates in the election to the imperative of submitting names of their polling agents to our Electoral Officers (EOs) in each of the eight (8) Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Bayelsa state fourteen (14) days to the election as required by law.
“The commission has also delivered all non-sensitive materials to our office here in Yenagoa long ago. They have all been sorted out, categorised and batched, ready to be delivered to the LGAs, wards and polling units.
“The sensitive materials are also ready and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is delivering them to Bayelsa state this weekend. The normal process of inspection and distribution within the state will be done in the presence of party agents, security agencies, observers and the media.”
“The Smart Card Readers (SCRs) have been configured and will be added to other sensitive materials and delivered together. Once again, let me reiterate that it is mandatory to use the SCRs for voter accreditation and authentication.
“Let me also reiterate that voter inducement in all forms, including vote-buying at polling units is a violation of the law. The ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices in the voting cubicles is still in force and will be strictly enforced and monitored.
“I urge all stakeholders to continue to eschew violence and maintain peaceful conduct during the election. It is our collective responsibility to safeguard the process and to protect all election duty staff including the youth corps members who serve at the polling units which is the basic level of the voting process.”
Also speaking, National Commissioner in Charge of Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers states, May Agbamuche, pledged that “no eligible voter will be disenfranchised” . She added that “the aged, people living with disabilities, with albinism, persons with hearing impairment and those with visual impediment, all will be given preference and special treatment on the day of election.
According to Agbamuche, braille, hearing guides and magnifying glasses for the blind, deaf and those living with albinism, respectively, would be deployed. She said election violence in Bayelsa state has become a recurring decimal, urging the stakeholders, to work diligently towards mitigating violence.
She stated that the commission would conduct the youth road walk against violence in elections with over 150 registered participants drawn from the National Youth Council, youth focused civil society organisations and the NYSC, among a host of others.
Indeed, INEC has promised that the two elections would correct the mistakes in the 2019 general election and set a new standard for upcoming elections. Chairman of the Board of INEC’s Electoral Institute, Prince Solomon Soyebi, said, “The election will provide the commission with yet another opportunity to test-run its policies, processes and new initiatives.’
“We can’t wait for the elections to be hitch-free, with early deployment of election materials, personnel and logistics. These aforementioned issues will be sorted out ahead of elections, especially in difficult terrain like the riverine areas and creeks where the assistance of helicopters would help greatly.
While we commend the political parties and their candidates” commitment to peace, we hasten to draw attention to Section 91 (3) of the Electoral Act which pegs the ceiling of campaign finance expenditure of governorship candidate at N200 million. We, therefore, advise the candidates not to contravene this provision as it might attract punitive measures. We also urge INEC to walk its talk on the Bayelsa and Kogi polls.