By Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in Plateau State has decried the inability of registered voters in the State to collect their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs saying so far, there are still over 50,000 uncollected PVCs across the 17 local government areas of the State.
The Acting Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Caroline Okpe who reiterated the Commission’s resolve to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2023, urged politicians to facilitate and ensure registered voters visit their respective local government areas to collect their PVCs as such would not be given by proxy.
Speaking in Jos on Wednesday at an interactive session organized by the State Police Command for Heads of Security Agencies, the leadership of political parties, State Resident Electoral Commissioner and other stakeholders, Okpe also reminded political parties to ensure that the Commission is aware of their activities for monitoring as stipulated in the law.
Earlier, the State Police Command Commissioner, CP Bartholomew Onyeka cautioned political parties against engaging local security outfits to provide security during political activities, stressing the State Police Command has put in place robust arrangements to ensure adequate security and safety during campaigns throughout the State.
He also admonished political parties to abide by the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and play the game by the rules, calling on party leaders and candidates to prevail on their supporters not to engage in any conduct that would incite violence.
In his remark, the CP said, “… Political activities are no doubt associated with lots of problems and challenges that are capable of threatening national security hence there is a need for collective efforts to ensure that campaigns are conducted in the peaceful, serene, conducive and secured atmosphere, devoid of rancour, mischief, misgivings and thuggery. As the lead internal security agency in the state, it is the primary duty of the Police to ensure that all electoral activities are conducted without any hitch or security threat in any part of Plateau State.
“As the countdown to the Political campaigns draws near, the Plateau State Police Command has put in place robust security arrangements and measures to ensure adequate security and safety for electioneering campaigns and rallies throughout the state. The Police Command is poised to protect and safeguard all venues of campaigns and rallies as well as other INEC-approved electioneering activities and all political parties throughout the state from now to the end of the campaign period for the 2023 general elections.
“We have also carried out discreet threat assessments and pre-campaigns evaluations and have commenced deployment of our personnel to passive flash points and vulnerable areas to prevent and nip in the bud any form of inter-party frictions, political thuggery, clashes and acts of lawlessness that can lead to the disturbance of public peace anywhere in the state. This meeting also provides a unique opportunity to dissect current law enforcement realities and engage an all-inclusive approach to re-evaluate our security policing strategies against the backdrop of the dynamics of crime on the Plateau.
“All Political parties are hereby advised to abide by the provisions of Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended) and INEC guidelines and play the game according to the rules. Party leaders and chieftains are to prevail on their flag bearers, members, supporters and fans not to engage in any act or conduct that can incite violence or constitute a breach of the peace anywhere on the Plateau, before, during and after the campaigns…”
He added, “Note and be strictly guided by the fact that all quasi-security outfits that were established by the state government and local communities and which are operating under different nomenclatures, structures, and orientations have no legal rules under the Electoral Act, 2022 and within the electoral process. Hence you are charged to ensure that they are not in any way or manner used by any political or community actor for any role during the electioneering campaigns and other electoral processes in the count down to the 2023 general elections.
“Such will amount to act in illegality and a potent threat to national security which could be inimical to our nation’s democratic interest. Furthermore, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Baba, has echoed it loudly that during the electioneering periods all local security heads groups VGN, Hunters Association, Neighbourhood Watch, Quasi State organs have no legal role to play in the electoral process and are therefore prohibited from partaking in any electoral process before, during and after the aforementioned political activities. I repeat, on no account should any of the above-mentioned groups be seen anywhere near political campaigns and rallies in any parts of Plateau State…”
In their separate remarks, the representative of the GOC, 3 Div, Brig.-Gen. Agi, the State IPAC Chairman, Abubakar Dogara, and representatives of the different political parties, gave their commitments to ensuring that the State has hitch-free campaigns even as the political parties task INEC not to be biased in their conduct and create an opportunity for violence.