By Chimezie Godfrey
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared its readiness to conduct the forthcoming 2022 Area Council election in the FCT.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja on Thursday, said major activities in preparation for the said election have been concluded.
The Stakeholders meeting had in attendance,
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Musa Bello, Members of the National Assembly,
the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory Chairmen and Councillors of the Area Councils, National Commissioners of INEC
the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Federal Capital Territory, the Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory, Heads of other Security Agencies, His Royal Highnesses the Chairman and Members of the FCT Council of Traditional Rulers, among other invited guests.
Yakubu who thanked the FCT Minister for convening meeting and for the kind invitation to address the stakeholders ahead of the Area Council election holding on Saturday 12th September 2022, assured voters that they would intensify their engagement with stakeholders ahead of the election.
He also thanked the Chairman of the FCT Council of Traditional Rulers, the Ona of Abaji His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr) Adamu Baba Yunusa MFR and all other Royal Highnesses for their presence and untiring commitment to peace in the FCT, as he equally appreciated the assurances of support by all other groups for peaceful elections on Saturday next week.
The INEC therefore assured that the Commission has made adequate preparation towards the conduct of the Area Councils Elections.
He said,”After the period for substitution and withdrawal of candidates as provided by law, the Commission has listed 473 candidates sponsored by 14 political parties for the forthcoming elections. In all, 110 candidates (Chair and Vice Chair) are vying for the leadership of the six Area Councils while 363 candidates are competing for 62 councillorship positions. Detailed analysis of the candidates by Area Councils, political parties, gender, age and educational qualifications has already been uploaded to our website for public information.
“With only nine days to the election, major activities have been concluded. Right now, the Commission is only putting the finishing touches to our preparations. Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) was conducted over a period of six months. Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) have been printed and made available for collection. There are enough ad hoc staff engaged and trained for the election. Non-sensitive materials have been deployed to the various Area Councils.
“Non-pharmaceutical materials have been procured to protect voters and personnel from COVID-19 in line with the Commission’s policy based on the protocols prescribed by health authorities.
“Voter education and publicity are ongoing. Transport arrangements have been made, including motorcycles for remote locations and boats for riverine areas.
“We have had several meetings with the security agencies in the area councils, the FCT and the national level on how to address potential threats to the election and secure the process. They have also been trained on the code of conduct for security personnel on election duty to ensure their neutrality and professionalism.”
He further gave the assurance that the Commission has reviewed the performance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the recent Anambra State Governorship election, and that proper planning has been made made for the Area Council Elections.
“With regard to election technology for voter accreditation, the Commission has reviewed the performance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the recent Anambra State Governorship election. Lessons learnt from that election have been considered in planning for the Area Council elections.
“The BVAS have been configured and ready to deploy for the election. We have also made adequate arrangements for technical support and transportation to speedily respond in the unlikely event of glitches on Election Day.
“Similarly, election results will be uploaded to the INEC Result Viewing portal (IReV) in real-time when voting ends and votes are counted at polling units on Election Day,” he said.
He said the Commission is happy with the behaviour of parties and candidates in the FCT, adding that so far, there are no adverse reports of clashes between supporters of different parties and not many incidents of hate or inciting speeches as they canvass for votes.
He commended the stakeholders for their advocacy for peaceful elections, and appealed to political parties and candidates to continue to show maturity and decorum as campaigns come to a close and Election Day draws nearer.
Yakubu revealed that the 2022 FCT Area Council Election is not without its fair share of litigations, adding that right now, there are eight cases in court challenging the nomination or educational qualification of candidates.
According to him, some of the cases are already before the Supreme Court. However, contrary to the Commission’s experience in previous elections around the country, there are no conflicting judgments or orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction anywhere on the forthcoming FCT elections.
Yakubu called for the support of all stakeholders in the FCT to ensure the success of election.
“At this juncture, I wish to draw your attention to a few areas where the Commission needs the support of all stakeholders in the FCT. You may recall that early last year, INEC succeeded in expanding voter access to polling units for the first time in 25 years in spite of the apparent expansion of the voter population and emergence of new settlements.
“From just 562 polling units, the Commission established additional 2,260 units and relocated some of them from congested locations to proximate but underserved areas. We gave voters the opportunity to transfer to some of the new polling units. Unfortunately, voters did not take advantage of this opportunity as we had expected in all cases.
“Consequently, there are 593 polling units in the FCT without registered voters, 1,328 polling units with between 0-50 voters and 546 polling units with over 1,000 registered voters. We have already informed political parties, civil society organisations, the media and security agencies at the national level about this development.
“The Commission has decided that no election will take place at the polling units without registered voters. No materials have been produced for these units and no personnel will be deployed to them.
“However, voting will take place in all the other polling units. For congested polling units, the Commission will deploy more than one BVAS to facilitate a speedy accreditation of voters.
“We will also deploy additional staff to these locations. We also agreed with the security agencies to deploy more personnel to ensure peace and order.
“For transparency, the Commission is making the hard copies of the detailed locations of these polling units to all stakeholders at this meeting. In addition, soft copies have also been uploaded to our website. By doing so, we want to achieve two objectives. First is to ensure that voters in the FCT and indeed all Nigerians are aware of these polling units and the arrangements made for them on Election Day.
“Secondly, to seek the support of all stakeholders to ensure that these polling units are populated ahead of the 2023 General Election. We need the support of especially the traditional, community and religious leaders in this regard,” he said.
Yakubu who reiterated the importance of peace to the successful conduct of the Area Council elections, assured that the Commission on its part will protect the integrity of the process.