REC optimistic of peaceful polls in Anambra

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Anambra, Dr Nwanchukwu Orji has expressed optimism that the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election in the state will be hitch free in spite of current security challenges.

Orji made this known in Abuja on Friday in a dialogue with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) tagged: “ Update from Anambra, engagements with CSOs.”

“I have confidence in this election holding, because we are already on top of the security issues, together with various security agencies.

“We are assuring the people of Anambra and other Nigerians that the situation is under control.

“All hands are on deck, we have identified issues and black spots prone to violence and we have alerted security agencies and they are doing their job.

“The political parties are ready to cooperate and have issued warning to party members to shun violence.

“The parties have shown interest and readiness for Nov. 6, I doubt if they want to spend their monies in vain.

“On our part, we have put in place more efforts to ensure safety of non sensitive materials and all officials involved in the exercise and we are not running behind schedule.

“ Security agencies are still having closed door meetings and we are not expected to display or voice out all our plans.

“I am assuring you that lives and properties will be safe for this national event.

“Still on issues of violence, we have engaged residents, traditional rulers and religious leaders in a dialogue to ensure men and women, children and mostly the youth stay off negative tendencies to disrupt the elections.

“Visitors will not come to disrupt an election, neither will strangers, we have advised the communities to ensure they rather protect their votes than disrupt the event, leading to complications and deaths,” he said.

The REC assured that more would be done on voter education which was almost disrupted due to insecurity.

He said the media has been fully engaged in the campaign for a seamless, violence-free election in the state.

NAN recalls that the Federal Government had on Oct. 5, raised concern over what it described as escalating security threats in Anambra ahead of the Nov. 6 governorship election.

The government warned that it may be forced to impose State of Emergency in Anambra to ensure peaceful conduct of the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state.

Orji recalled that in May 2021, the INEC office at Awka was attacked and all the non-sensitive materials assembled for the election were destroyed.

He said that the commission’s store, collation centre and the main office building were either totally or substantially damaged, while INEC also lost several vehicles billed for the election.

“ For effectiveness, we are engaging in preparations for elections and at the same time we are rebuilding infrastructure.

“We reported the issues to the Head office in Abuja and have almost fully recovered from that attack.

“The destroyed buildings have either been completely repaired or nearing completion and we have fully replaced the materials destroyed.

“This rapid recovery has only been possible because this is an off-season election.

“We have sourced some of these materials such as the 326 electric generators and vehicles destroyed in the attack from neighboring states.

“However, for more safety some non sensitivity materials have been moved to INEC Owerri to ensure safety as issues of security were still ongoing.

“ We are also particularly concerned about the safety of voters and election duty staff, including security officials who have also became targets of the attacks.”

He said that INEC was also concerned about safety of thousands of young Nigerians from National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and university students who were to be engaged in the conduct of the election.

“At the same time, deployment for the election will involve the movement of huge consignments of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the 21 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state, 326 wards or Registration Areas and 5,720 Polling Units.

“That means over 6,000 locations to be protected.

“If we add that to about 26,000 officials that will be deployed for the election, you will know we are not handling issues of security with security agencies with kid gloves,” he said.

The REC assured that security situation in the state will improve and that the federal government will not see need to declare a state of emergency.

“ We will do the needful with the security and cooperation of the people in the state in terms of ensuring that the election holds in the state.

Orji also said that INEC had published names of candidate of each party and only the death of any of them would call for a step down or change.

He further said that to avoid too much movements, the recruitment of adhoc staff  and registration of observers, media and party agents were done online.

The REC also noted that printing of manual register had commenced, while issues of logistics such as transportation of officials and materials were in top gear.

Orji announced that for the 2021 elections INEC has confirmed the registration of over 2.5 million voters against 2.4 million in 2019, an increase of 740,935 voters.

The REC said new polling units were created to accommodate the new voters.

He appealed to the state government to work with INEC to ensure the success of arrangements being made.

“As planned by INEC, there may be plans to close down some schools on Oct. 19 and Oct. 21 for over 26,000 various ad-hoc staff to be trained.”

Earlier, Executive Director ActionAid Nigeria, the Convenor of the dialogue, urged INEC and federal government to ensure safety of lives and properties during the election.

She expressed sadness over what she described as attempted breech of law by some Nigerians in the forthcoming election in Anambra.

Obi appealed for peace and unity as it was better for development and democracy.

The convenor also urged the INEC and National Assembly to look into issues of violence surrounding elections and find a better option for conducting polls. (NAN)