INEC: Electoral offenders’ll be punished according to the law

Onyekachi Eze ABUJA


lYakubu: We’ve achieved 98% configuration of Card Readers

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has stated that electoral offenders in the forthcoming elections would be punished according to the extant law.

This is a departure from the position of President Muhammadu Buhari who had ordered the military and police to deal ruthlessly with anybody caught snatching ballot boxes.

Buhari had, at the caucus meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Monday, said he had directed security agencies to  ensure ballot box snatchers pay with their lives.

But INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday, said violators of electoral law should be punished according the provisions of the law.

“The position of the commission is that all violators of the Electoral Act should be punished according to the provisions of the law,” Yakubu said.

Yakubu, who said that INEC would continue to protect its independence, assured that there would be no shift of the elections.
He denied that a National Commissioner with the commission has been arrested.

“No commissioner has been picked up, no house of a commissioner was raided by security agents. The National Commissioner they are talking about is in his office now,” he stated.
Section 128 of the Electoral Act specifically states that anyone who destroys, or snatches election material is liable to imprisonment for 24 months.

Yakubu disclosed that the commission has achieved 95 per cent reconfiguration of the 180,000 smart card reader (SMR) machines to be used for the election, adding that the remaining two per cent would be completed today.

“By 4p.m. yesterday, all issues relating to the delivery of the materials were identified and virtually addressed. Ballot papers, result sheets and a host of non-sensitive materials are now in location across the 37 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT),” the INEC Chairman said.

He denied that materials to be used for this Saturday’s elections were still lying at the airport, adding that any material at the airport were for March 9 governorship and state legislative elections.
“Our state offices commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to examine the retrieved materials deployed last week and to witness the batching of materials according to Local Government Areas (LGAs). This is on-going at the moment and is expected to be completed today (Tuesday) 19th February 2019.
“The movement of materials to LGAs for batching according to wards and polling units shall take place on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21th February 2019.

“All Registration Area Centres (RACs) are to be activated by 9 a.m. on Friday 22nd February 2019,” he said.
Yakubu further stated that the card readers that have been configured for the election would only open for use at 8 a.m. on election day, and automatically shut down by 10 p.m.
“This is designed to forestall any illegal use of the SCRs before the appointed time of elections.

“There are roughly 180,000 SCRs to be deployed for the elections and the ICT team said that they would require five to six days to complete the configuration.

“I am glad to say that as at today, about 98 per cent of the SCRs have been reconfigured and we are confident that by tomorrow (Wednesday) all would be ready, which is a day earlier than scheduled.

“While we fully understand the disappointment and even anger that followed that rescheduling of the elections on l6th February, I wish to appeal to stakeholders to be more dispassionate and circumspect in their comments in order not to overheat the polity.
“The commission is focusing on the elections to be held on 23rd February and 9th March 2019 to ensure that they are free, fair and credible.

“We urge all Nigerians to participate fully in the elections, notwithstanding the disappointment caused by the rescheduling of dates,” Yakubu appealed.
He assured that no third party was involved in reconfiguration of the card readers, saying the management and configuration was being done by the commission’s ICT Department.