With 86 days to the February 25 presidential general election, the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC), on Wednesday, declared that there would be no voting by anybody without his or her Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC).
Also, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, has vowed to arrest and prosecute touts obstructing campaigns by opposition political parties as well as politicians indulging in vote buying during the 2023 poll.
Similarly, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, has revealed that a discreet operation undertaken by the commission to tame vote buying ahead of the 2015 election, revealed that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, paid out about $115 million to politicians to compromise the election.
At the same time, the Ebonyi State Police Command, has clarified that no sensitive materials were lost to the fire that gutted the INEC office located in Iboko community, Izzi Local Government Area of the state.
This, nonetheless, the House of Representatives, Wednesday, condemned all forms of attack on the facilities and buildings of the federal government in the country, particularly, attacks on the facilities and infrastructure of INEC.
Speaking at a retreat for newly appointed Resident Electoral Commission (RECs), INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed the no PVC, no voting riot act, noted that, in the last few months, INEC facilities had been set ablaze in no fewer than five local governments across the country.
“Let me seize this opportunity and comment on two issues. First, is the misleading statement shared online that voters can vote on election day without the voter’s card.
“This is absolutely incorrect. For any person to vote in any election organised by the Commission, he or she must be a registered voter issued with a PVC. The Commission has consistently maintained the policy of ‘no PVC, no voting’. Nothing has changed.
“It is a legal requirement and doing otherwise will be a violation of the law. I appeal to Nigerians to ignore any suggestion to the contrary. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 47(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that ‘a person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a Presiding Officer for accreditation at the Polling Unit in the constituency in which his name is registered.
“Therefore, the position of the law is clear. The PVC remains a mandatory requirement for voting during elections,” he said.
Addressing the attacks on INEC offices, Yakubu stated that, “I wish to once again touch on the troubling issue of attacks on our facilities and the destruction of critical electoral assets in the country.
“In the last four months, five local government area offices of the commission were attacked by yet unknown persons. Buildings have been destroyed and materials lost in Udenu and Igboeze North Local Areas of Enugu State, Abeokuta South Local Government of Ogun State, Ede South Local Government Area of Osun State and, most recently, in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.”
According to the INEC chairman, “In these mindless attacks, a total of 1,993 ballot boxes, 399 voting cubicles, 22 electric power generators and thousand of uncollected PVCs were, among other materials, destroyed. These attacks must stop and the perpetrators apprehended and prosecuted.”
While reassuring Nigerians that INEC would recover from the attacks, he said the lost materials would be replaced but that there was a limit to its ability to keep replacing wantonly destroyed materials with just 86 days to the general election.
Yakubu, however, appealed to security agencies, traditional and community leaders and all well-meaning Nigerians to continue to support the commission to stop the attacks, adding that, the ultimate solution was to arrest and prosecute the vandals so they would not feel that their bad behaviour was an acceptable conduct in the country.
The INEC chairman said yesterday’s retreat was significant for many reasons, including that it came on the eve of the 2023 general election, which was just 86 days away and that also, among the 19 RECs sworn in four weeks ago, on 3rd November 2022, 14 were new appointees, holding office for the first time.
For him, therefore, it was imperative to familiarise with the commission and its processes and procedures as a matter of utmost urgency.
“As you familiarise yourselves with the processes and procedures, you will also be implementing activities simultaneously. Already, some sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been delivered to your states ahead of the general election.
“This retreat, therefore, is deliberately structured to introduce you to the electoral legal framework as well as the processes and procedures for election administration that is increasingly driven by technology from voter registration, voter accreditation and uploading of polling unit level results on Election Day.
“Similarly, accreditation of observers, the media and polling agents are all done online through dedicated portals,” he said, explaining that the retreat would dwell on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for collection of Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), guidelines for voter distribution to Polling Units, the framework for electoral logistics and Code of Conduct for Commission members, officials
“Our success, ultimately, depends on our integrity. We should remain independent and impartial. As I said on many occasions, the commission is not a political party. It has no candidates in the forthcoming election.
“All political parties have equal standing before the commission. The choice belongs to Nigerian citizens i.e. the electorate. Our responsibility is to uphold the sanctity of the ballot. Nothing more, nothing less,” he stressed.
Vote Buyers, Thugs Won’t Go Scot-free, IGP Warns
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, has vowed to arrest and prosecute anyone obstructing campaigns by the opposition political parties as well as politicians indulging in vote buying during the 2023 poll.
Baba, who was represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Operations, Dandaura Mustapha, at the 2022 political parties’ summit organised by the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), yesterday, in Abuja, noted that all commissioners of police must provide security for political parties embarking on electioneering in all the nook and cranny of any state.
He stated that any commissioner, who failed to carry out his responsibility within the ambit of the law and decided to dance to the tunes of the governors would be removed.
“On the issue of election violence, the campaign has started. We have been receiving a lot of complains from political parties. It is unfortunate of what is happening this period.
“All the political parties are complaining. It is not only APC or PDP or Labour Party or APGA. Unfortunately, some of our governors as stated by the IG during a meeting with the political parties that they are not helping matters. They have not laid a solid foundation, give other political parties access to campaign programmes. Some try to manipulate the campaign.
“Some even sponsor touts to pursue the opposition, remove their billboards and posters and destroy their offices. Based on this, the Inspector General of Police, has categorically directed all the commissioners of police that on no account should any serving or sitting governor stop other political parties from conducting their campaigns in all the nook and cranny of the state.
“This instruction was very clear both in writing and verbal. We have told all the commissioners of police. When it happens, the commissioners of police have been directed to arrest all the hoodlums, no matter where they belong and whoever is sponsoring them; we will arrest them and charge them to court,” he said.
While assuring the people, he said, “So, please, rest assured that all political parties are free to go about your lawful businesses. You are free to go to any village conduct your campaign freely and we are going to give you enough security.
“We are encouraging all the aspirants that once you are threatened and you have no access to go round, meet the commissioner of police in charge of that state. They have been directed and warned to provide security for all the aspirants. No matter where they are going, they will attach security.”
EFCC: Diezani Paid Out $115m to Compromise 2015 Polls
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, on Wednesday, revealed that a discreet operation undertaken by the commission to tame vote buying ahead of the 2015 election, revealed that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madukwe, paid out about $115 million to politicians to compromise the election.
Bawa, who was also represented by the Chief Superintendent in the Commission, Adukwu Michael, however, noted that the EFCC had embarked on voter education and working to ensure that politicians did not spend beyond the stipulated amount.
According to him, “The commission’s focus in election management is discouraging the use of money to influence the outcome of election. Electoral spending by politicians often leads to voter inducement and vote buying.
“Parties often induce voter with money because they lack proper and realistic policies to convince the electorate to vote them into power. Whenever one is induced to sell his vote, he automatic loses moral ground to challenge corrupt tendencies of those elected.
“In the 2015 discreet investigation, the Commission was able to uncovered a ground plan to compromise the 2015 general election through massive cash payment to politicians. $115 million was paid out to politicians by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madukwe, to compromise the election.
“Some of the money was recovered while many of the culprits are being prosecuted with few conviction recorded. At the heart of EFCC strategy to curb voter inducement is inter-agency collaboration and information sharing.
“The EFCC is complementing the efforts of other stakeholders in educating the electorate on why it is important for their votes to not be traded. We are working with INEC to determine and to enforce provisions of the Electoral Act as it relates to limit of campaign spending by different categories of office seekers. This is an intelligence-driven exercise.”
Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, also said political parties and their candidates must adhere to democratic norms and “collectively intervene to achieve the kind of credible elections that would further deepen democracy.
The keynote speaker, Senator Pius Anyim, argued that political parties must adhere to the principles of social justice as a means of preventing crisis.
“The rumblings in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), are surely due to perceived social injustice in the management of the affairs of the parties. The pain of the G-5 governors in the PDP is simply the sidelining of a section of the country in the sharing of party structures,” he said, calling on IPAC to step forward in playing a role to stabilise the democratic environment by ensuring that parties take their rightful position as the bedrock of democracy in Nigeria.
Police: No Sensitive Materials Burnt in Ebonyi INEC Attack
The Ebonyi State Police Command, has clarified that no sensitive materials were burnt, when the INEC office in Iboko community, Izzi Local Government Area of the state was burnt.
In a statement issued by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Chris Anyanwu, the incident was an internal fire outbreak from the office, noting that the facility was not burnt by hoodlums as alleged.
“There was no sign of external attack or breakage into the building before the fire outbreak. The fire destroyed inflammable items such as generating sets, plastic buckets/cans, ballot boxes, cubicles, etc, kept in the building, which are capable of escalating the inferno.
“There was no electric power supply at the time of the incident to infer/suspect same as a probable cause. There were no sensitive materials in the building as confirmed by the Electoral Officer in charge the area,
“No fire-fighting tools were installed in the office/premises. Some leftover PVCs locked in the steel cabinet were destroyed by the fire. Record of the left-over PVCs engulfed in the inferno are intact with the E.O of the area.
“The value of items destroyed, thereby, is yet to be ascertained. The immediate cause of the incident is yet to be unravelled, and the same INEC office was engulfed in a similar circumstance sometime ago” he stated.
He however, called on government at all levels and Yakubu to install a solar-powered CCTV cameras and fire-fighting tools in all INEC offices to forestall such incidents ahead of the elections.
Lawmakers Condemn Attacks, Urge Politicians to Uphold Peace Accord
The House of Representatives, on Wednesday, condemned all forms of attack on the facilities and buildings of the federal government in the country, particularly, attacks on the facilities and infrastructure of INEC.
The lawmakers, however, urged politicians to uphold the peace accord, which they signed, by admonishing their supporters to refrain from attacks and violence before or during the 2023 elections.
The House also urged the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and other Security Agencies such as the Department of State Services to synergise with the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minster of Justice to identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute the perpetrators behind the attacks.
They also resolved to set up an adhoc committee to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incessant inferno on INEC offices in different parts of the country.
The resolutions followed the adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Olarewaju Ibrahim Kunle.
Moving the motion, Kunle drew attention to the frequent systemic arson and attacks on the personnel, offices and facilities of the INEC.
While noting that the premeditated attacks were targeted at crippling the commission and scuttling the 2023 elections, he expressed concerns that despite the affront to democracy and the Constitution of the Nigerian state, the Police and other security agencies have been unable to arrest perpetrators of this heinous crime.
Adopting the motion, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila announced that the 7-member adhoc committee would be chaired by Hon. Taiwo Oluga, with Hon. Mark Gbillah, Hon. Ahmed Jaha, Hon. Olarewaju Kunle and three others as members.
The members were given three weeks to carryout the investigation and report back for further legislative action.
Chuks Okocha, Udora Orizu, Juliet Akoje in Abuja and Benjamin Nworie in Abakaliki