The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Comission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu on Monday expressed the readiness of the commision to conduct a free and fair governorship election on Saturday, October 10, 2020. “I have spent the last two days here in Ondo State evaluating our preparations and I am pleased with what I have seen”, he said.
Prof Yakubu further assured the people of Ondo State that only the choice of the people as expressed in their votes will emerge as their governor. “Our commitment is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Ondo State is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to assure all eligible voters that every vote will count and only the choice made by the people of Ondo State will determine the outcome of the election”.
The INEC chairman made this declaration at the Ondo State Governorship Election Stakeholders meeting which took place at The Dome event center, Akure.
Below is the full text of Prof Yakubu’s speech:
1. On behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), let me join the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ondo State to once again warmly welcome you all to this meeting.
2. Since the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities for the Ondo State Governorship election eight months ago on 6th February 2020, we have engaged with political parties and their candidates in several meetings. We have also interacted with the security agencies at National and State level. We consulted with, and sought for the support and blessings of, the Ondo State Council of Obas. We met with religious leaders, civil society organisations and the media. We conferred with the National Peace Committee under the leadership of our former Head of State General Abdulsalami A. Abubakar GCFR, which has invited political parties and candidates to sign a Peace Accord here in Akure tomorrow.
3. Similarly, we have recruited, trained and screened all categories of ad hoc staff for the election. We have delivered non-sensitive materials to all the 18 Local Government Areas of Ondo State. We warned our officials (ad hoc and regular staff) to be professional and non-partisan in the discharge of their assigned responsibilities. Voter education and sensitisation is ongoing. We have made arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to electoral locations in all 3,009 polling units and 203 electoral wards across the State. This afternoon, the Central Bank will deliver all sensitive materials for the election to its Akure branch. In response to the unfortunate fire incident last month in which we lost all our Smart Card Readers in Ondo State, we have moved enough replacements from Oyo State and configured them for the election on Saturday. We have made adequate arrangements with the Federal Fire Service to ensure that such incidents do not occur again. We have continued to work with security agencies under the auspices of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to ensure a hitch-free and secure election on 10th October. I wish to specifically thank all the agencies in ICCES, especially the lead agency, the Nigeria Police, for their continued support and professionalism as we prepare for the election. In short, the Commission is ready for the election. I have spent the last two days here in Ondo State evaluating our preparations and I am pleased with what I have seen.
4. Our commitment is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Ondo State is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to assure all eligible voters that every vote will count and only the choice made by the people of Ondo State will determine the outcome of the election. I want to assure political parties and candidates that we will remain focused on our processes and procedures. Let me reiterate to all stakeholders that the Commission will not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate.
5. The Commission has reviewed the last Governorship election in Edo State. We are determined to continue improving on our performance. For this reason, we identified 16 areas of improvement, including logistics, prompt response to Smart Card Reader glitches on Election Day, the menace of vote buying during elections and compliance with COVID-19 protocols. In response, we have engaged with land and maritime transport owners for forward and reverse logistics to and from land and riverine locations. We have engaged additional 104 Registration Area Technical Support (RATECHS) staff to respond rapidly to issues with Card Readers on Election Day. We had useful discussions with the security agencies and anti-corruption agencies on how to deal with vote buying during elections. Working with health authorities, we will continue to enforce safety measures at polling units, including the compulsory wearing of face masks and the provision of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as hand sanitizers and infra-red thermometers at polling locations and collation centres. On this note, I would like to appeal to all election officials, transport providers, polling agents, election observers and the media to ensure compliance with the advisory by health authorities. Voting in safety is a critical component of elections in the era of COVID-19 pandemic.
6. All eligible voters will have equal opportunity to exercise their right to vote. In order to ensure greater awareness and effective participation of all citizens in the electoral process, the Commission is deploying magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to vote unaided. For this reason, the Commission has translated and published the policy on conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Voters’ Code of Conduct into braille. We have also produced posters to guide hearing-impaired voters.
7. To further underscore our commitment to a credible and transparent electoral process in Nigeria, the Commission introduced the z-pad to upload polling unit level results on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV). This technology was first deployed in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election and, most recently, in the Edo State Governorship election. The same technology will be deployed for the Ondo State Governorship election this Saturday. Anyone interested in viewing polling unit level result in real-time can simply visit our website (www.inecelectionresults.com) to register and create an account. So far, 58,229 viewers have registered on the portal as at Thursday last week.
8. I must quickly add that the Smart Card Readers will also be deployed for voter verification and authentication. This is a mandatory requirement and where they are deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines.
9. As the eligible voters in Ondo State go to the polls on Saturday, I wish to renew my appeal to all political parties, candidates and their supporters for peaceful conduct. Votes will count. Polling unit level results will be uploaded for public view. However, this will not happen where the process is disrupted by violence or malpractices. The Commission is determined that no one will benefit from impunity or be rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote-buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results. The people of Ondo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment. We have been assured by the security agencies that thugs and their sponsors will not have the freedom to move around freely to disrupt the election or collation of results. The Inspector General of Police who is here personally will speak about the strategy to safeguard the electoral process.
10. On Election Day, the national headquarters of INEC will monitor the election throughout Ondo State. Our Zoom Situation Room will receive live reports from the field and respond to issues that may arise. Accredited observers and the media will also be invited to join at intervals. By doing so, the Commission will receive first-hand information as the election is going on. At the same time, citizens can contact us on our various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
11. Once again, I welcome you all to this meeting and look forward to clarifying any grey areas during the interaction session. I wish to reassure the people of Ondo State that the Commission has taken every step to ensure that the election on Saturday is free, fair, credible, inclusive and safe.
12. I thank you all for your presence and God bless.