The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said on Monday that it has discovered that political parties have planted food vendors at polling units in order to use them as “payment points” for vote buying.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman said this in Abuja when he received in audience the European Union Chief Observer, Mrs Maria Arena.
In what however appeared a subtle response to attacks by some partisans on the commitment of the commission to the conduct of a free, fair and credible election, Yakubu said he was too focused on preparing for the polls to engage in a fatuous debate.
The commission said: “With 25 days to the 2019 general elections, the Commission’s attention is firmly focused on the conduct of credible elections. We will not be distracted into a fatuous debate”.
“Following recent consultations with stakeholders across the six geo-political zones in Nigeria, the attention of the Commission was drawn to a new plan by some political actors to use food vendors around polling units with large voter populations as collection points for cash-for-votes as well as other forms of material inducement to voters on election day. We are aware of this trick. It will not work”, Yakubu said.
According to him, the Smart Card Readers will be deployed on election day for voter verification, confirmation and authentication. “We have enhanced them and improved their functionality.
Clause 10 of the Regulations and Guidelines recently released by the Commission makes the use of Card Readers mandatory. It is an offence to accredit a voter by any other means. INEC not outsourcing ad hoc staff recruitment
“The bulk of ad hoc staff for election duty will be drawn from the pool of young Nigerians serving in the National Youth Service scheme. The Commission has established clear criteria for drawing from students of tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfalls.
“This has been the practice over several electoral cycles. Similarly, Collation and Returning Officers are drawn from senior academic staff of Federal Universities led by the Vice Chancellors. We have already commenced the process following our meeting with the Vice Chancellors last week.
“In addition, there is a clearly established system of vetting all election duty staff before they are engaged. Therefore, the claim that the Commission has outsourced the recruitment of election duty staff to partisan actors is the usual allegation on the eve of elections and should be disregarded. With 25 days to the 2019 general elections, the Commission’s attention is firmly focused on the conduct of credible elections. We will not be distracted into a fatuous debate.
“There is no doubt that our electoral processes are getting better and votes count. We will continue to progressively improve our elections and protect the sanctity of the vote. This calls for the support of all citizens and all stakeholders. In our determination to do so, we have taken bold steps to address the disturbing trend of vote-buying by some political actors. For this reason, we have modified the administration of our polling units in order to make it difficult for voters to expose their marked ballot papers on election day. We have also introduced the partial ban on the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices by voters while in the voting cubicles. We are also introducing the rolling and flattening of ballot papers by voters on election day. We are training our election duty staff, in addition to voter education and sensitization, on this new innovation. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring the sanctity of the ballot.
“I wish to assure the EU that our preparation for the 2019 General Election is on course. We have had a series of very assuring meetings with the security agencies in order to ensure that processes are protected, the right of voters to vote freely safeguarded, access for observers and the media guaranteed, the election transparent and the outcome a true reflection of the will of the Nigerian people”, Yakubu added.