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Kogi/Bayelsa Guber: 11th Hour Judgement won’t affect Polls — INEC

APC, electoral reform
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)

.Awaits brief from lawyers on Bayelsa
.Carry arms, get killed, IGP warns thugs

By Omeiza Ajayi

The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has expressed commitment to the conduct of Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa states, assuring stakeholders that in spite of several postelection court cases in both states, no last-minute judicial pronouncement could alter the elections.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu announced this Tuesday in Lokoja, the Kogi state capital during a stakeholder meeting ahead of the election.

“I would like to assure the people of Kogi State that our preparations will not be affected by the judgement delivered five days ago in which a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered the Commission to include a political party on the ballot. Although the judgement is at variance with the decision of another Federal High Court in Abuja delivered ten days earlier which affirmed the propriety of the Commission’s action in a similar case by another political party, INEC has a consistent record of obeying court orders.

Also read: [Just in] Kogi 2019: I was attacked by Yahaya Bello’s men, Police watched, did nothing, Natasha cries out

However, we will consider legitimate steps to address the conflicting judgements by courts of coordinate jurisdiction in the interest of our electoral jurisprudence.

Furthermore, with four days to the Governorship elections, two more cases challenging the decision of the Commission on the validity of candidates’ nominations have been reserved for judgement in Bayelsa and Kogi States. In addition, there are 12 cases of intra-party disputes filed by aspirants from different political parties challenging the conduct of their own primaries and nomination of candidates, some of which have been reserved for judgement in the next few days. I must admit that the plethora of court cases and conflicting judgements delivered on the eve of elections in Nigeria are stressful to the Commission and costly to the nation.

However, I wish to reassure the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States that learning from experience, the Commission has taken steps to ensure that the elections on Saturday in the two States are not affected by any eleventh-hour judgement”, Yakubu said.

Earlier, INEC’s Director in charge of Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society Liaison, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzi said the Commission had seen social media reports regarding the disqualification of the Deputy Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress APC in Bayelsa state, Bishop Degi but would await briefs from its lawyers.

On election security, the INEC Chairman expressed concerns at the reported attacks on facilities and campaign materials in some parts of the state, adding that there will be adequate security for the election.

He said; “Recent reports of attacks on facilities and campaign materials in some parts of Kogi State reinforce rather than assuage our concern about violence during the election. I urge all stakeholders to continue to maintain peaceful conduct during the electioneering campaign.

Political parties and candidates have the right under the law to freely canvass the support of the electorate. After all, the choice ultimately belongs to the people of Kogi State. No voter should be compelled or induced. Similarly, no candidate should be encumbered in canvassing the support of the electorate.

“Let me also add that 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. It is also our responsibility to extend the same protection and allow freedom of movement and unimpeded access to polling and collation areas for accredited observers and the media during the election. At the same time, I would like to appeal to accredited observers to be neutral and the media to accurately, dispassionately and professionally report the election.

“At this meeting, parties and candidates will be required to sign the Peace Accord to pledge, affirm and commit to non-violence before, during and after the election. Let me quickly add that while the Commission is committed to a free, fair and credible process, we need the commitment of especially the political parties and candidates to realise these goals. There can be no free and fair elections in an atmosphere of violence, acrimony and bitterness. Let us focus on issues during the campaign and convince rather than coerce the electorates to our points of view.

“We have received assurances from the Nigeria Police that there will be adequate security for the election. We have been similarly assured of the neutrality and professionalism of the security personnel. It is in furtherance of these goals that the Commission, in partnership with the Nigeria Police, has produced a 44-page pocket booklet on the operational guidelines to govern the conduct of police personnel on election duty. Interested stakeholders may download a copy of the document already uploaded on the INEC (www.inecnigeria.org) and police websites”, Yakubu added.

Awaits briefing on Bayelsa

While efforts to get the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu was not immediately possible, a top source within the party said the APC would only take a decision when it receives “a proper briefing” from its legal team. He, however, expressed optimism about the possibility of the APC being on the ballot.

“We are at the Stakeholders Meeting in Kogi. We have also seen the report of the Court decision on social media but awaiting a brief and a report from our lawyers. Pardon us. We will await this before we can comment please”, he said earlier.

Take out armed thugs

On his part, the Inspector General of Police IGP Mohammed Adamu warned political thugs about the risk of carrying arms, saying if they are lucky, they would be arrested first or get killed by security operatives.

“Security agents are ready for this election. We pledge to be professional, we pledge to provide a level playing field to all participating parties. Every polling unit, INEC officials and materials, NYSC members and all that will be playing one role or the other shall be secured.

“While doing that, we will not tolerate people coming to buy or sell votes. Anyone caught will be arrested, kept out of circulation and be prosecuted. The collation centres will be protected so there will be no disruption.

“If you are armed, please report it to the police and surrender the arm now before it is too late. If you are intending to use arms, be warned, if you are lucky, you will be arrested when you are sighted attempting to use it. If you are unlucky, you will be taken out before you succeed in using it”, the IGP warned.

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