The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday, said the enthusiasm of Nigerians to exercise their franchise is very high and the electoral umpire is fully determined to meet up with their expectations.
While restating his assurance that all sensitive and non-sensitive materials have been deployed, he said voting will begin at polling units at 8.30am across States of the Federation and will end at 2:30pm.
He said: “Generally speaking, the situation nationwide is calm as far as our preparations are concerned. There has been no incident involving the personnel or huge quantities of materials deployed by the Commission. Voter enthusiasm is high and so too is our determination to conduct credible elections.
“Tomorrow is Election Day. All campaigns, rallies, processions and media advertising by candidates for Presidential, Senatorial and Federal Constituencies for Presidential and National Assembly Elections ended at midnight yesterday.
“Voting begins at 8.30 am and ends at 2.30 pm tomorrow. However, any voter who is in the queue before 2.30 pm will be allowed to vote even if voting goes beyond the official closing time. No voter will be disenfranchised.”
He assured Nigerians that the results of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections will be declared as quickly as possible.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this at his media briefing in Abuja on Friday.
Daily Trust reports that the 2019 presidential elections result was formally declared after two days of the elections.
But Yakubu said the commission will speed up the process this year.
“I just want to say that we will ensure that it (result declaration) will be done speedily. I can’t put a finger on the number of days or number of hours it will take, but it will be done speedily. We are aware of the anxiety and the need for us to conclude the process quickly, it will be concluded quickly,” he said.
Yakubu also assured that the process will not suffer any encumbrance due to the recent cash crunch triggered by the naira re-design policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“It is not all our operations that are paid for by cash. In fact, the bulk of our procurement for both goods and services is done electronically, but we need a small amount of money to pay for the unbanked who render critical services, particularly at the local level.
“We anticipated this challenge and interacted with the Central Bank, they promised us that the little amount we need to pay for services in cash, they will make the funds available to us and they have done so.
“And these funds have already been accessed by our state offices for elections which is why the movement of personnel and materials in the last couple of days has gone on unhindered. So, I must give credit for our relationship with the Central Bank in that regard. So, the process won’t suffer any encumbrance as a result,” Yakubu said.
The INEC boss expressed satisfaction on the progress being made with the movement of materials to the various locations around the country.
Professor Yakubu however disclosed that the election into Enugu East senatorial east has been aborted because of the death of Labour party senatorial candidate, Mr. Oyibo Chukwu, who was killed by unknown gunmen.
He said INEC’s decision to suspend the election into the senatorial seat was premised on the provision of Section 34(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 which stated that an election could be aborted on the demise of a candidate. He said the election would now hold simultaneously with the governorship and National Assembly elections on 11 March.
He said: “I can confirm that we have now received a formal communication from the party informing the Commission of the death of its candidate for Enugu East Senatorial District.
“The party also conveyed its intention to participate in the election for that constituency by replacing its deceased candidate.
“This request is in line with the provision of the law. For clarity, I wish to quote verbatim the provision of Section 34(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 as follows: “If, after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner shall be satisfied with the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the Commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.
“The Labour Party has provided satisfactory evidence of the death of its candidate. Consequently, the Commission has suspended the election in the senatorial district as provided by Law. We have already communicated this decision to our Enugu State office. Therefore, there will be no senatorial election in Enugu East Senatorial District made up of six Local Government Areas, 77 Wards and 1,630 Polling Units. The election will now be combined with the Governorship and State Assembly elections held in the next two weeks on 11th March 2023. Materials already delivered for the senatorial election will remain in the custody of the Central Bank in the State until the new date for the election.”
On the decision of trained ad-hoc staff drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to decline service on Saturday based on what they called a scary security situation, the INEC. Chairman said the election in the affected five Wards in Okigwe and six in Orlu in Osun Local Government Area would proceed as scheduled.
“The Commission is aware of the situation in Imo State in the South Eastern part of the country where it was reported that some of the critical polling unit officials drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) have withdrawn their participation from some Local Government Areas as a result of the perennial insecurity.
“From the report we received from our State office, concerns have been expressed about the security situation in Osu Local Government Area, five Wards in Okigwe and six in Orlu.
“However, we have been assured that with enough mobilisation of security personnel to the area, elections can hold in these locations.”
In his presentation, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, asked Nigerians not to entertain any fear but proceed to their respective polling units to vote on Saturday.
Asked about identified flashpoints identified by the Police, the IGP refused declined disclosure as he merely responded that “we know them. They aren’t meant for your consumption.”