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87.2 million Nigerians expected to vote on Saturday – INEC

INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu

A total of 87.2 million Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) have been collected by Nigerians, out of the 93.4 million registered voters ahead of the general election, starting from this Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said.

The number of collected PVCs which is already becoming a matter of concern is contained in a document released by the INEC in Abuja on Thursday.

According to the document, a total of 6.2 million PVCs were uncollected at the end of the collection exercise which ended earlier this month.

INEC also released the detailed breakdown of the PVCs by Polling Units which will be uploaded to the commission’s website latest Friday.

Briefing journalists before the release of the documents, Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman said in the last few months, the commission made 13.6 million PVCs available for collection for new voters and applicants for transfer and replacement of lost/damaged cards.

Yakubu said while INEC is pleased that the rate of collection is higher than in previous years, there were still many (6.2 million) cards that were not collected.

He said with 93.4 million records with names, addresses, passport photographs and biometrics (fingerprint and facial), the voter register is the largest date base of citizens in Africa and one of the largest in the world.

“However, like all databases, it may not be perfect but the core of the register is solid. Going forward, the Commission will continue to clean it using technology and citizens’ involvement as provided by law.

“Through the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), millions of ineligible registrants have been removed from the register. In addition, citizens have helped to clean up the register further during the display of the hardcopy for claims and objections in the 8,809 Registration Areas/Wards and 774 Local Government Areas nationwide for a period of two weeks (12th – 25th November 2022) as provided by law.

“Nigerians should therefore continue to have confidence in the register as a national treasure and work with the Commission to continuously improve on it as provided by law,” the chairman said.

He also said that vote buying remains a major threat to our democracy but INEC has worked closely with enforcement agencies to ensure that this is eliminated from our electoral process.

“We are convinced that our joint operations before and on election day will vastly reduce the prospect of voter inducement, which is not only illegal but immoral. The ban on the use of mobile phones and photographic devices at the voting cubicles, is still in place.

“Some voters have used these devices in previous elections to snap their marked ballot papers for vote transaction. However, citizens are permitted to come to the Polling Units with these devices, as long as they do not take them to the voting cubicles.

“Our arrangement of placing the ballot box near the voting cubicle and away from party agents remains. Our staff have been trained in the administration of the Polling Units and their attention should be drawn to any deviation from that training,” Yakubu said.

Giving updates on the preparations for the elections, the INEC chairman said, the umpire had commenced the delivery of non-sensitive materials over two months ago and they have been batched down to Registration Area/Ward and Pulling Unit levels.

“Sensitive materials have been delivered to the States and are presently being delivered to our Local Government Area offices. As such, these materials are only between one and two levels away from the Polling Units. We have achieved this by learning from our recent difficult experience with logistics.

“We have completed arrangements with the transport unions for the final leg of the movement of personnel and materials to the Polling Units. They have assured us of their readiness to provide all the vehicular needs of the Commission for the election.

“Staff to be deployed for the elections have been trained, the last being Collation and Returning Officers, who will complete their training shortly. An essential part of this training has been the emphasis on the neutrality of staff and the need for them to be committed and dedicated throughout the duration of their assignments.

“We have completed all the testing of our technologies to be deployed for the election, particularly the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV),” Yakubu said.

He reiterated that the procedure for voting as provided in the Electoral Act 2022, clearly made the use of the BVAS and PVCs mandatory, saying: “the NO PVC, NO VOTING rule subsists.”

The professor of history also said in the last few weeks, INEC has been in consultation with other critical agencies and institutions in the administration of the general election.

“We met with the judiciary about arrangements for post-election adjudication. Last year, we worked with development partners and the Court of Appeal to conduct workshops for prospective Election Petition Tribunal judges. We have been assured of arrangements for timely post-election adjudication.

“We have also met severally with the security agencies, mainly under the auspices of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). They have assured us of their preparedness to adequately secure the elections. This is very important as it will assure voters of their safety during the elections, which is cardinal to voter turnout.

“In the build-up to the general election, several of our facilities were attacked by unknown assailants in various parts of the country. I am pleased that we have fully recovered from those attacks, and we have been further assured that our facilities, staff, voters, observers, and citizens will be safe during the election,” he said.

Yakubu further said as a result of recent developments in the economy, INEC had to consult with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) on the fuel situation.

“As you all know, we require Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) to power vehicles and boast for land and marine transportation as well as our generators during the election. We are pleased that the NNPC Limited assured us that it will ensure availability of the products for the polls.

“Likewise, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured us that it will provide us with the small amount of cash we require from our budget to cash payment to some critical service providers for the election. I must reiterate that the bulk of payment for works goods and services are still paid for by electronic transfer,” he said.

Yakubu disclosed that the commission has accredited 229 groups deploying 146,913 observers; 457 national and international media organisations deploying 8,882 journalists.

He also said the commission has printed and delivered 1,642,385 identification cards to its state offices for collection by state chairmen of political parties for their poll agents and the softcopy of the summary of the list has already been uploaded to INEC website and social media platforms.

Yakubu assured Nigerians that is adequately prepared for this election and remain fully committed to a free, fair and credible process.

“I want to once again declare that our allegiance is only to Nigerians. Our commitment is to ensure that in this election we put everything in place for free choice, fair contest and credible outcome,” he added.

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