As INEC confirms shootings, talks tough on materials’ hijack in Egor
Frowns at vote trading, violation of Covid-19 safety protocol
Replaces faulty Smart Card Readers
By Omeiza Ajayi – Abuja
Security personnel, electoral officials, and voters ran for dear lives on Saturday in Urhonigbe, Orhionmwon local government area following an escalation in electoral violence which tended to cast a blight on the Edo state governorship election which had earlier in the day began peacefully.
As of the time of this report, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the electoral officials were currently in protective custody at the police station in the area.
Confirming the incident, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC in Benin who did not want his name in print as he was not authorised to speak to the media said the process was disrupted in about six units in Urhonigbe, Orhionmwon local government area.
He said the INEC ad hoc staff in the area are currently at the Urhonigbe Police Station.
“Units 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 in Registration Area RA 08 Urhonigbe South, Orhionmwon LGA have been disrupted. Sporadic gunshots everywhere. Ad-hoc staff, Security personnel, and voters are on the run. Some of the staff are now at Urhonigbe Police Station”, he said.
INEC has however officially confirmed the shooting incident in Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state, saying it was working with the police and other security agencies to ensure the peaceful conduct of the ongoing governorship election.
INEC also said it was in receipt of images showing the alleged hijack of electoral materials in Ward 9, Unit 15 of Egor local government area, saying while it was working to salvage the situation, it may be forced to take decisive action against results generated from the affected unit.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu stated this Saturday morning in Abuja in his preliminary address at the “Edo Governorship Election Virtual Situation Control Room” which is holding through Zoom.
Yakubu who condemned reports of vote-buying and selling also frowned at the violation of Covid-19 safety protocols especially with regards to the social distancing rule.
The commission added that in places where some Smart Card Readers malfunctioned, it has had to activate its backup system and has replaced all faulty card readers.
It added that the few ad hoc staff who could not get their stipends the previous day have now been settled and are at their work stations, conducting the elections.
Speaking on the several issues raised during the session by observers on the field, Yakubu said; “On the shooting in Orhionmwon, we have gotten in touch with our officials and the Police. If they feel that there is any need to escalate it, we would definitely get in touch with the Deputy Inspector General DIG of Olive leading the electoral operations and also to the IGP at the Force Headquarters”.
On the observation that some voters were seen with their Temporary Voter Cards TVCs, the INEC boss said; “About voting with TVC, it is clearly in violation of our guidelines but I am happy you said you saw them holding it and not that you saw them voting with it.i am sure our officials would politely turn them away. In any case, our smart card readers do not read TVCs.
“I haven’t heard reports of people being allowed to vote without facemasks. However, we will pay particular attention to situations where some people give out facemasks with particular colours apparently to achieve a partisan end”.
On the issue of unrestrained and unchecked vote-buying especially in Oredo and some other places, Prof. Yakubu said; “I will escalate this matter to the DIG and also to our Situation Room in Benin so that they can pay more attention to it.
“I have also read a report online that some voters were willingly offering their Permanent Voter Cards PVCs for sale – a case of willing seller and the willing buyer or ‘perfect market’ – but we are in touch with the security agencies on that.
“We have gotten reports about Ward 9, Unit 15 in Egor LGA where it was alleged that electoral materials were hijacked and taken to a hotel called ‘Playhouse’. I have gotten in touch with the Pop CE to salvage the situation so that even though it is called ‘Playhouse’, that they do not play with our materials”.
He added that the Commission may have to take decisive action on results from the unit if it is established that the materials were tampered with.
INEC National Commissioner in charge of the South-South states of Edo, Bayelsa, and Rivers, Barr. May Agbamuche-Mbu who spoke from the Collation Centre in Benin said all the faulty Smart card readers and been replaced.