Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, declared that the electoral body was set to conduct the Edo State governorship election scheduled for September 19.
He made the declaration at a meeting of members of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), held in Benin City, Edo State capital.
”In terms of readiness, we are ready for the election. We have come out with the policy on how to conduct elections under COVID-19. We have test-run the policy in a small election on August 8, in Nasarawa State when we had a by-election in Nasarawa Central state constituency. Now, we are ready for the big one, which is the Edo governorship election.
“We have been receiving reports of the security situation in Edo State, which is part of what we are going to discuss with members of the committee. The environment has to be secure for the commission to conduct elections. We are going to take every step to ensure that the environment is conducive for us to conduct elections. We will also pay a courtesy visit to the Oba of Benin.
“I hope and I trust that the security agencies are also fully prepared to deal with potential troublemakers. We will make the system open and transparent,” the INEC boss assured.
He said the election was the first major election that the Commission would be conducting in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding, “So, there is an additional pressure on all of us to ensure that we not only conduct free, fair, credible, transparent, acceptable, peaceful, but also, safe election for everyone.
“I am here essentially to do two things – meet with members of the ICCES and also meet with INEC staff. Tomorrow, I am going to speak with all the electoral officers from all the 18 LGAs of the state. I will also visit some of our local government offices.
“The whole purpose is for us to supervise and see firsthand, the level of preparation so far. We have been receiving reports at the headquarters that it will be important to come down to Benin and see for ourselves what is truly on the ground.
“From the point of view of the headquarters and of planning, where are we? On February 6 this year, the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections. We gave seven months’ notice for the Edo election, and eight months for Ondo election, and we itemised 14 activities under the timetable and schedule of activities to be carried out on specific dates, beginning with the publication of notice for the election and ending with Election Day proper.
“I am happy to say that so far, we have successfully carried out 10 out of the 14 activities. None of the activities has been rescheduled,” Yakubu said.
However, the Edo State Commissioner of Police, Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, said his Command was prepared to address election security on land, air and water.
“Every training arrangement has been made. We have made adequate security arrangements. The IGP, Mohammed Adamu, has also contacted other security chiefs at the national level for synergy.
“I wish to assure INEC chairman and other stakeholders that we will do all within our powers to provide a conducive environment to conduct free, fair and credible governorship election in Edo State on September 19, 2020.”
On his part, the Edo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Johnson Alalibo, said it is for the Committee to take a close watch on the campaigns and discuss any issue or incident, especially threats of violence.
The Commission, he said, has commenced a series of training, preparing staff and other stakeholders for the election, adding, “With the support of some of our donor partners, some security agents have also been trained on their operations of providing security within the context of COVID-19.
“We have received most of our non-sensitive materials for the election. We have equally distributed the ones we have received to the electoral officers in the 18 LGAs.
“With 24 days to the election, I want to say that we are moving closer to the most critical and challenging part of the job. We must endeavour as a committee to work assiduously to prevent election violence, and ensure free, fair and credible election.”
Dr. Alalibo also gave the number of registration area as 192; number of polling units to be 2,627; number of registered voters as at 2019 as 2,210,534; number of PVCs collected as 1,735,910; number of undistributed PVCs as 483,868 and total number of voting points as 4,519.