FCT Elections: INEC Chairman decries low voter distribution to polling units

By Chimezie Godfrey

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Yakubu Mahmood has decried low voter distribution across polling units in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

Mahmood made the assertion at the first quarterly meeting with political parties for the year 2022 held on Tuesday in Abuja,

This startling revelation came twenty five days to the FCT Area Council Elections.

The INEC Boss blamed this on voters who have failed to take advantage of the expansion of access to transfer to these new Polling Units.

He said,”It is now 25 days to the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory. Major activities have already been carried out, including the conduct of primaries and nomination of candidates by political parties.

“Only last week, the Commission presented the register of voters to political parties while the PVCs for new registrants, requests for transfers and replacement of cards have been printed and delivered several weeks ago to our FCT office for collection by voters.

“In the next few weeks, the Commission will intensify stakeholder engagements, the monitoring of campaigns by political parties and preparations for Election Day activities.

“On this note, I want to draw your attention to the distribution of voters to Polling Units in the FCT, particularly the fact that 593 out of 2,822 or 21% of the total, do not have voters.

“This is because voters failed to take advantage of the expansion of access to transfer to these new Polling Units. The detailed distribution of voters to Polling Units in the FCT is among the documents in your folders for this meeting.”

Mahmood maintained that the the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be deployed in the FCT elections which is the second major election after the Anambra Governorship election.

He stressed that thesame technology will be deployed in subsequent elections across the country.

“For emphasis, the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be deployed in the FCT elections which is the second major election after the Anambra Governorship election held in November last year.

“The 68 constituencies in the FCT (six Chairmen and 62 Councillors) covering extensive urban and rural locations sharing border with five States in the North Central and North Western parts of the country is another opportunity to pilot the efficacy of the BVAS in a different geographical, geo-political and electoral context.

“The same technology will be deployed in all forthcoming bye-elections across the country. For all elections going forward, Polling Unit results will be uploaded in real-time to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal,” he stressed.

He called on the National Assembly to accord priority attention to resolving issues surrounding the delay of presidential assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before it.

“On the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly, the Commission is encouraged by the Senate President’s assurance to give priority attention to the Bill when the National Assembly reconvenes from its recess today, and the commitment by the President to assent to the Bill as soon as the issue of mode of primaries by political parties is resolved.

“We look forward to a speedy passage of the Bill, which is crucial to our preparations for future elections. As soon as it is signed into law, the Commission will quickly release the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election based on the new law.

“As we commence our first regular quarterly consultative meeting for 2022, let me seize the opportunity to congratulate those who may be attending the meeting for the first time after your party’s elective conventions,” he said.

Earlier, the INEC Boss congratulated the Chairman of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Engineer Yabagi Sani, on his election as Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC).

He similarly congratulated other members of the executive committee of IPAC. The Commission has worked closely with the immediate past leadership of IPAC chaired by Dr Leonard Nzenwa.

He reassured IPAC of the Commission’s continued cooperation and support for the umbrella body of political parties in Nigeria.

“I congratulate him and his team on their successful leadership of IPAC. As I welcome the new leadership under Engineer Sani, I wish to reassure IPAC of the Commission’s continued cooperation and support for the umbrella body of political parties in Nigeria.

“We look forward to working together with IPAC in line with the guiding principles enshrined in its Code of Conduct,” he said.

Mahmood noted that the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) which commenced in June last year has entered the third quarter.

According to him, as at yesterday Monday 17th January 2022, a total of 8,260,076 eligible Nigerians commenced the online pre-registration, completed the registration physically or applied for transfer to new voting locations, replacement of their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) or updated their voter information records as required by law.

“The Commission has been publishing weekly progress reports of the exercise.

“We are aware that Nigerians want to know when their PVCs will be available for collection. At the moment, the Commission is undertaking the most comprehensive cleaning up of the data to ensure that only eligible citizens are added to the voters’ register for the 2023 General Election and will share our findings with Nigerians and the actual dates for the collection of the PVCs nationwide will be announced very soon.

“I want to request that you continue to encourage eligible voters who have not registered to do so, bearing in mind that those who had registered at any time previously need not register again. Also, encourage voters who wish to transfer from their present Polling Units to new ones created as part of the Commission’s expansion of voter access polling units to do so immediately,” Mahmood said.

He recalled that the recently the Commission released the Timetable for six bye-elections in four States of the Federation.

According to him, these elections are scheduled to hold on Saturday 26th February 2022., adding that the detailed Timetable is already uploaded to their website and social media platforms.

Mahmood meanwhile, revealed that the Commission has also decided that the suspended Ekiti East I State Constituency bye-election will be combined with the State Governorship election holding on 18th June 2022.

He said the date for the Shinkafi State Constituency bye-election in Zamfara State will be announced after a thorough review of the security situation in the area, while the Commission awaits the declaration of vacancy by the Kaduna State House of Assembly in respect of Giwa West State Constituency.

According to him, turning to the major end-of-tenure and off-cycle elections, party primaries for the Ekiti State Governorship election are scheduled for 4th – 29th January 2022.

He added that for the Osun State Governorship election, primaries will hold from 16th February to 12th March 2022. In the case of Ekiti State, all the 18 political parties have served the mandatory notices for the primaries.

INEC Boss drew the attention of parties to the necessity for transparent and rancour-free primaries.

He adviced that parties should also respect their chosen dates for the primaries based on the Commission’s Timetable and Schedule of Activities.

“Already, many parties have rescheduled their primaries several times. While the Commission has earmarked a period of three weeks and 4 days (i.e. 25 days) for the conduct of the Ekiti State Governorship primaries, virtually all political parties have decided to hold their primaries in the last 4 days i.e. 26th – 29th January 2022. In fact, seven political parties have chosen the last day for their primaries.

“Similarly, no party has so far submitted its list of aspirants, the composition of its electoral panel, or the register of members or list of delegates depending on the chosen mode for electing its candidates. As at yesterday, only one party has indicated the venue for its primaries.

“I urge you all to do so immediately to enable us to work out the detailed plans for monitoring the primaries. All primaries for electing candidates must take place in the constituency where election will hold as required by law.

“In the cases of Ekiti and Osun State Governorship elections, any primaries conducted outside the two States will not be monitored by the Commission and their outcomes will not be accepted. This also applies to primaries for bye-elections conducted outside the constituencies,” he stressed.