By Omeiza Ajayi & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has assured Nigerians that uncollected Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, in its kitty would be safely quarantined to avoid any possible illegal distribution of the cards after the February 8 deadline.
This came, yesterday, as acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, again tasked police personnel to deal ruthlessly with election offenders.
With over five million PVCs yet to be collected days to the elections, presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party PDP, Atiku Abubakar, had accused the commission of issuing the cards to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as a way of giving it an edge at the polls.
However, speaking at the opening of a National Youth Summit for the general elections in Abuja, yesterday, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission would make public the number of collected and uncollected PVCs before the elections for Nigerians to know exactly the number of those that would vote out of the over 84 million total registered voters.
Elections: Police vow to deal decisively with thugs
He commended INEC youth ambassadors and Nigerian youths generally for their role in sensitising Nigerians to get registered and charged them to also mobilise the people to collect their PVCs to be able to vote in the forthcoming elections.
He said:“The next step after registration is to mobilise the youths to collect their PVCs. Without the PVCs, you simply cannot vote. We devolved the collection to ward level twice and collection of PVCs will continue until Friday, February 8, essentially eight days to the general election.
“I want to assure you and Nigerians that all uncollected PVCs will be quarantined until after the general election. And we will make public the number of all collected PVCs nationwide so that citizens will know the number of PVCs collected and the number of PVCs uncollected for the purpose of knowing exactly, out of the 84,4084 registered voters who will vote in the 2019 general elections and who will not.’’
The INEC chairman noted that the forthcoming general elections were for the youths as they constitute the highest number of registered voters while parties have fielded many youths as candidates following the enactment of the ‘Not too Young to Run’ Law and urged them to take the polls seriously.
In his remarks, Ketil Karlsen, Head of the European Union EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS promised the commitment of the EU to the sustenance of the democratization process in Nigeria and commended INEC for its preparations ahead of the elections.
Karlsen said: “The not too young to run law is reflecting the spirit of our partnership with Nigeria in the promotion of democracy.’’
Meanwhile, acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu,has again,tasked police personnel to deal ruthlessly with election offenders.
Speaking at a meeting he held with deputy commissioners of police in charge of operations yesterday in Abuja, Adamu insisted that political actors who violated electoral laws must not be spared.
He said: “To the individuals and groups engaged in these unacceptable activities, let it be known that the Force leadership shall charge the heads of operations of the Nigeria Police who are here gathered to return to their areas of jurisdiction and do just two things.
“Protect the law abiding, but identify, isolate and deal decisively with any political actor that acts in contravention of the Electoral Act or our criminal laws.
“This is our sacred mandate and this we shall perform within the dictates of the law and in the overriding national security interest.
“The Nigeria Police under my leadership recognises that the credibility of the electoral process is key to the strengthening of our democratic credentials, national security and global perception and respect.
“We are conscious of our critical roles in this process and are determined more than ever before to perform these roles within the dictates of the law and with due respect to citizens’ rights.
‘’In cognisance of this, I wish to renew our assurance to the nation and the international community of our unwavering determination to emplace strategies and initiate actions that will guarantee a peaceful, secure and level-playing field for all political actors and citizens to freely exercise their voting rights.
“We, however, remain genuinely concerned about the disposition of some ill-advised political actors who appear bent on threatening our democratic values and our national security all in their desperation to project their narrow political interests over and above national interests.
“We are also concerned about subversive actors who masquerade as politicians and are taking advantage of the freedoms that our democracy has bestowed on the citizens to encourage hate speeches and misinformation, and inflame passion in a manner that could threaten our stable political order.’’
He also expressed concern over what he described “reports of firearms build-up by some political actors.”
He stated further: “Equally worrisome are reports of firearms build-up by some political actors and threats in some other quarters to disrupt the electoral process.
‘’ also note an increasing level of political intolerance which has been occasioning pockets of inter-party violence and destruction of campaign billboards across the country. All of these constitute not only serious electoral or criminal infractions, but also major national security threats.”