February 9, 2023

Polls: We’ve found solutions to petrol, cash scarcity — INEC

...Briefs FEC on commission’s preparedness

…Insists elections’ll hold as scheduled

...To brief Council of State tomorrow

...Says BVAS’ll be deactivated when snatched

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, said, yesterday, it has found solutions to some of the perceived obstacles capable of derailing the general elections expected to start with the presidential polls on February 25.

The commission for the umpteenth time, also assured Nigerians that the general elections will hold as planned, coming barely 24 hours after the National Security Adviser, Major General Mohammed Monguno (retd), also assured that the polls would hold as planned.

Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who gave the assurance while speaking to State House correspondents, after briefing the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in Abuja, said the commission would tomorrow brief the Council of State on its preparedness towards conducting a transparent election.

Yakubu maintained that the commission had already sorted out the initial challenges posed by the scarcity of cash and petrol.

It would be recalled that stakeholders had expressed concerns over the capacity of INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible election in the midst of the perennial fuel scarcity as well as the cash crunch occasioned by the redesign of naira notes by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.

But speaking to newsmen after making presentation to the federal cabinet members at the council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Yakubu explained that the briefing was statutory and that a follow-up meeting with the National Council of State, NCS, would hold tomorrow.

He reassured that the commission had already found answers to the two major concerns:– fuel and cash.

Yakubu said:  “It is a general briefing, it’s in keeping with the tradition that on the eve of major elections, general election in particular, the commission is invited to brief Council. It is also invited to brief the Council of State. 

“The briefing for the Council of State is going to take place on Friday the 10th (tomorrow). So basically, it’s about the readiness of the commission to conduct the elections. 

“So we took members of council through all the preparations we have put in place for the election and the few challenges we are facing and the steps we have taken to address those challenges. 

“I can tell you two of these challenges quickly. The first one is availability of petroleum products. We had a meeting with the National Union of Road Transport Workers and they raised that as an issue of concern. 

“Immediately after that meeting, we interfaced with the leadership of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and right now, there is a technical committee, working. 

“The idea is for them to avail us the use of their over 900 land mega stations as well as floating mega stations nationwide, for the purpose of stocking products to ensure the commission doesn’t suffer any encumbrances in movement of personnel and materials for the election. 

“The second one is the currency issue and again, we had an engagement yesterday (Tuesday) with the governor of the Central Bank and he assured us that the commission will not suffer any encumbrances on that score. 

“Fortunately for us, all our accounts, national and state, are held by the apex bank. So we raised those challenges, but we have found a solution to those challenges. So be rest assured that the election will hold as scheduled; on February 25 for national and on March 11 for the state elections.” 

BVAS’ll be deactivated when snatched

In another forum yesterday,  the commission gave an assurance that the Bimodal Voter Registration System, BVAS, could not be manipulated.

INEC Deputy Director of Information and Communications Technology, Lawrence Bayode, disclosed this while speaking on Channels Television’s special election programme, The 2023 Verdict.

In Nigeria, ballot boxes are usually snatched during elections by hoodlums or gunmen to disrupt the voting process.

But according to Bayode, the BVAS will be deactivated from the backend so that whoever snatches the device on election day will not be able to manipulate votes.

He said: “If a BVAS is snatched, we have a system in place that can deactivate that particular BVAS.”

“We deactivate it so that whoever snatches the device will not be able to do anything with the device because the device pushes the accreditation data automatically on its own even without the operator pushing a button. When it is idle, it pushes that accreditation data to the backend.”

Bayode said if hoodlums took the device to other places where they think they could manipulate the data on the device, the polling unit officer would report the incident.

“If such a thing happens, the PO reports and from the backend, that device is deactivated so that the person who took away that device will not be able to do anything with it.”