Nigeria is to hold the governorship and state assembly elections and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued a warning.
The INEC stated that it would no longer tolerate any attempt by politicians to hold officials hostage and force them to declare winners of elections under duress.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu gave the warning at the meeting of Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) ahead of Saturday elections, held at the commission’s headquarters on Thursday, 7 March 2019, in Abuja.
He said that where such abduction occurs, the commission would not issue Certificates of Return.
Yakubu said that the commission was worried over the rate of attacks on its personnel and the loss of lives and election materials recorded during the 23 February 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections
He said that the Commission was concerned that many of its materials, including ballot boxes, voting cubicles, voters’ registers and Smart Card Readers were lost to acts of hooliganism and thuggery in the elections held two weeks ago.
Most worrisome, he said, was the attack on electoral officials, with some abducted and taken hostage in an attempt to disrupt elections or influence the outcome.
“In fact, some of the supplementary elections I referred to earlier were caused by such acts of thuggery.
“I am confident that working together with the security agencies, we will consolidate on the largely peaceful conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections while also taking decisive steps to deal with the minority of violators who intent on disrupting the conduct of peaceful elections.”
Yakubu expressed the Commission’s appreciation to the security agencies for securing the environment during the national elections. He noted that in the course of securing the elections, the security agencies, electoral officials and innocent Nigerians suffered needless attacks resulting in casualties, including deaths and loss of personal and official properties.
“On behalf of the Commission, I extend our deepest condolence to the families of those who lost their lives, including personnel of the security agencies. We are glad that the police have made several arrests and investigation is ongoing.
“I wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will work closely with the Police to ensure the diligent prosecution of all violators of our electoral laws.
“Citizens are asking for effective but non-intrusive protection before, during and immediately after the elections in which their rights are respected and their choices safeguarded,’’ he said.
Yakubu expressed optimism that the Saturday’s, 9 March 2019, election would open by 8:00, going by arrangements already put in place by the commission.
“On Saturday March 9, Nigerians are once again going to the polls to elect Governors in 29 States, 991 members of Houses of Assembly in all the States of the Federation, 6 Chairmen as well as 62 Councillors for the Area Councils in the FCT.
“A total of 1,082 candidates will be elected by citizens across the country. Learning from the experience of the Presidential and National Assembly elections held two weeks ago, the Commission has effectively tackled the challenge of logistics,’’ he said.