By Eguonor Ighure
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged religious leaders in Delta to advise their followers to shun violence and other irregularities during the 2019 general election in the state.
The Administrative Secretary of INEC in Delta, Mr Felix Enabor, made the call in Asaba on Tuesday, during an interactive session between the commission and religious leaders in the state.
Enabor who said that the religious leaders had a lot of followers that believed what they preached enjoined them to let their congregations realise the importance of peace during the election.
He remarked that the state had been regarded as a flashpoint in electoral violence but said that the commission had taken some steps to change the narrative.
He said: “We know people listen to you and things you say matter a lot. Please tell your followers that we want peace in Delta State during this election.
“Also tell those of them that have not collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to go to their Registration Areas as Jan. 16 to collect them. The exercise will last till Jan. 21.”
The administrative secretary said that the commission had taken adequate measures to ensure free and fair election across the state, especially in the riverine areas.
The INEC National Commissioner, in charge of Edo and Delta, Dr Mustapha Lecky, also urged them to impress on their followers yet to collect their PVCs, to do so now in their wards.
Lecky, represented by Mrs Angela Ebodaghe, Head of Department Legal Services, INEC, Delta, assured the religious leaders that the exercise would not be compromised in the state.
“INEC has specifically arranged for those who have yet to collect their cards to do so from January 16 to 21, 2019 at the designated centres in their wards.
“We will work with the security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws, including those who may try to compromise our staff responsible for making the PVCs available for collection,” he said
The national commissioner said that smart card readers would be used to confirm, verify and authenticate the voters as well as ensure that the cards were issued by INEC.
He said: “Cloned cards that do not match the codes for a particular polling unit in which the voter is registered will be rejected by the card reader.
“Similarly the claim that the card reader has been enhanced to recapture voter’s fingerprints at polling units and automatically overwrite the biometric record in our database is untrue and should be disregarded.”
Lecky disclosed that some politicians had devised a new method of vote buying but gave the assurance that the commission would forestall it.
The national commissioner said that INEC was aware that some partisan actors were now going round buying up PVCs and inducing voters financially to collect the Voter Identification Numbers VIN) in the PVCs.
“In some instances, telephone numbers and bank account details of voters have been collected
“By collecting the PVCs their intention may be to deprive the voters of voting since no one can vote without PVCs.
“By collecting their phone numbers and bank details, the intention is to induce voters by electronic transfers of funds to their accounts since it will be difficult to buy votes at polling units.
“By collecting the VINs they may be acting on the mistaken notion that our system can be hacked into and the card readers somehow preloaded ahead election, will be compromised.” he stated.
Members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Muslim Council in the state who attended the event promised to support INEC.
They urged the commission to ensure that its staff lived above board during the conduct of the election, stressing the importance of training of the staff.
The Chief Imam, Federal College of Education (Technical) Asaba, Alhaji Adekola Yinusa, promised INEC that the Muslim clergies would take the message down to their followers.
“God had already commissioned us to do that; it is a duty to God and a duty to the nation,” he said.