By Clifford Ndujihe, Chidi Nkwopara, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Marie-Therese Nanlong
AFTER two postponements, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will conduct 15 pending bye-elections— six senatorial and nine state houses of assembly seats in 11 states—tomorrow.
The pending bye-elections include Imo North Senatorial District, Lagos East Senatorial District, Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Bayelsa West Senatorial District, Nganzai and Bayo Constituencies in Borno State.
Others are Cross River North Senatorial District, Obudu Constituency in Cross River, Kosofe II Constituency in Lagos State, Plateau South Senatorial District, Bakura Constituency in Zamfara and Ibaji Constituency in Kogi.
National Commissioner and Chairman of INEC’s Information and Voter Education Committee, Barr. Festus Okoye, declared the readiness of the electoral umpire to conduct credible polls after a meeting of Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, from the 11 affected states.
Okoye said: “All the states have received all the non-sensitive materials, trained their staff and received all the funds for the bye-elections.
“Most of the states have also had their sensitive materials delivered to the Central Bank Offices in their state headquarters and the few remaining states will receive theirs by the end of work today.
“These situation reports were corroborated by National Commissioners who are already in the states to oversee the elections.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioners also reported that they have engaged fully with stakeholders on the bye-elections and the Commission wishes to thank all the stakeholders, especially communities where elections will hold and security agencies for their support.
“The security agencies have all reassured the Commission that they will continue to provide professional support to the Commission for the upcoming bye-elections devoid of any partisan inclinations in order to reproduce the quality of elections that the nation saw in the Edo and Ondo governorship polls.”
3,700 policemen to be deployed in Imo
To ensure a peaceful exercise in Imo North, the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Isaac Akinmoyede, told newsmen in Owerri that no fewer than 3,700 policemen would be deployed for the poll.
According to him, the state Police Command will despatch 3,000 police personnel, and the Force Headquarters will augment the number with another 700.
“The police is ready for the polls. We are here in the premises of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Owerri, to oversee the distribution of election materials.
“Let me also say that the police, in collaboration with other security agencies, are working together to ensure a hitch-free bye-election,” the CP said.
Akinmoyede also used the opportunity to warn mischief-makers to “steer clear of the election venues,” adding that the security agents would not look kindly on people that would try to undermine the integrity of the bye-election.
Speaking also, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Professor Chukwuemeka Ezeonu, reassured the citizenry of the preparedness of the INEC to conduct a credible poll.
“The Commission is very determined to conduct a free, fair and credible election this weekend. We have started moving non-sensitive materials to the Registration Area Centres,” Ezeonu said.
While saying that the bye-election would be conducted in six local council areas, he appealed to political parties and the contestants to respect the rules of the contest, stressing that it should not be a do-or-die affair.
671,209 voters to decide fate 10 parties in Plateau
For the Plateau South Senatorial zone bye-election, the INEC said it has distributed sensitive materials to the Electoral Officers in the six local government areas which make up the zone.
The materials, which were handed over to the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Halilu Pai by the Controller of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Jos Branch, Yusuf Duniya at the bank’s premises in Jos, were later transported to the respective local government areas.
Addressing stakeholders, which included the State Commissioner of Police, Edward Egbuka, representatives of the 10 political parties participating in the bye-election, members of the Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, media and other stakeholders, Pai listed the materials to include, Form EC 8A (1), Form EC 8A, Form EC 8B, Form EC8C, Form EC8D, Form EC8E and Form EC60E.
He said: “We are here today in line with the policy of INEC to carry along all the stakeholders in the process of election.
“We received the sensitive materials which included ballots papers and result sheets for the six local government areas.
“They are for the 68 registration areas, 712 polling units and the 671,209 registered voters in that constituency.
“INEC will always carry the stakeholders along to show its transparency and accountability. These very sensitive materials will be shared in the presence of all stakeholders from the six local governments.
“Security will escort these materials to the local government areas. We have nothing to hide, we are transparent and we want to be accountable, that is why we are sharing the materials in the presence of everyone.”
State Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Bashir Sati, expressed satisfaction with distribution and urged INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
However, Pam Davou, the representative of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, observed that some of the cartons containing the sensitive materials were not properly sealed.
He asked that INEC should allow agents of political parties at the local government and polling units to count those materials.
Tension as APC, PDP test popularity in Lagos
In Lagos, the INEC will address the media on its readiness as the APC, and its arch-rival, PDP, slug it out Friday in the rescheduled East Senatorial District bye-election.
The leading gladiators are the APC Candidate, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru and PDP, Gbadamosi Olatere.
The Lagos East Senatorial district and Kosofe II State Constituency seats became vacant following the deaths of Senator Bayo Oshinowo and Tunde Buraimoh, who died of COVID-19 complications in June and July, respectively.
Abiru, the immediate past Managing Director of Polaris Bank Limited, on September 3, emerged as the APC candidate after much horse-trading by party bigwigs for the earlier scheduled October 31 bye-election, before it was rescheduled for December 5 due to #EndSARS protests across the country.
The Lagos East Senatorial bye-election will be held in five local councils – Kosofe, Ikorodu, Somolu, Ibeju-Lekki and Epe.