The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday said it was not contemplating shifting or adjustment the timelines for the forthcoming polls.
The electoral body insisted that on no account would it allow anti-democratic forces and fifth columnists confuse the Nigerian people on the plans and intentions of the Commission.
The clarification became imperative following a report by a national daily (not THISDAY) that the electoral body was contemplating postponing the presidential election by two weeks due to recent attacks suffered by the commission, especially in the south-east.
However, reacting to the report, INEC National Commission on Publicity and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, told THISDAY that the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has consistently and emphatically assured the nation that the dates fixed for the conduct of the 2023 general election were fixed and firm.
He explained: “The question of shifting, postponement or adjustment of the timelines are not on the table and are not being contemplated by the Commission.
“The purveyors of postponement cannot speak for the Commission. Their views are in the realm of imaginative speculation and not grounded on the realities on ground.”
Okoye reiterated that the Commission has implemented 12 out of the 14 items on its timetable and schedule of activities.
He noted that the entire Bi-modal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) required for the conduct of the election in the 176,846 polling units and the redundancies for the 8,809 Registration Areas have been tested and certified fit for purpose.
Okoye stressed that the Commission would use 436 out of this for mock accreditation in 12 polling units in each of the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. This is expected to take place on February 4, 2023.
He added: “Thereafter they will be purged and configured for the 2023 general election. The non-sensitive materials required for the election are in our zonal stores and in the states. They are being batched in accordance with the registration areas.
“The Commission has delivered a substantial number of the sensitive materials required for the conduct of the election to the Central Bank of Nigeria. The materials will be inspected by the Commission, the political parties, the media, and civil society groups a few days before their movement to the various Local Government Offices of the Commission.”
Okoye pointed out that the Commission has revised and firmed up its Memorandum of Understanding with the various transport and marine unions.
He reiterated that INEC would hire at least 100,000 vehicles to convey election personnel and materials to locations, stressing that the Commission would also hire boats for the same purpose.
Okoye further recalled that the Commission has met with the leadership of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, saying they have assured the commission of the availability of products during the period and the Commission was encouraged by this.
He disclosed that INEC also met with leadership of the federal courts headed by His Lordship, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, and he assured the Commission that the judiciary was ready for the elections.
Okoye added: “There is no justifiable reason for the speculation relating to the postponement or rescheduling of the election.
“We must on no account allow anti-democratic forces and fifth columnists to confuse the Nigerian people on the plans and intentions of the Commission.
“The Commission is working hard for the Nigerian people and will deliver free, fair, credible, verifiable and inclusion elections.”
Okoye said moreover, Sections 132 and 178 of the constitution have circumscribed the period for the conduct of national and state elections.
He noted that it would be in the interest of the Nigerian people and in the interest of “our democracy to hold the elections on the dates and times set out by the Commission.”
“We must continue to assure Nigerians that they will vote in a safe environment, that their votes will be safe and that their votes will count and be counted. We must not dignify fallacious speculations not grounded on facts and reality,” Okoye added.
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja