From Timothy Agbor/OSOGBO
Ahead of the August 9 governorship election in Osun State, southwest Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday affirmed its readiness to conduct a free, fair and peaceful poll in the state.
To this end, the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega on Thursday called on politicians in the state to remove all billboards promoting individuals or political parties in the state immediately as this is against the 2010 Electoral Act as amended.
Professor Jega said such act constitutes electoral offence and will attract stiff penalty for those that refuse to remove their billboards.
The INEC Chief Umpire stated this at the stakeholders’ meeting on 2014 Governorship Election in Osun state.
But while the meeting was on, some political parties staged a walk-out at the programme demanding the removal of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Doctor Rufus Akeju by the Chairman of the Commission.
The stakeholders’ meeting which was attended by representatives of the 25 political parties in the state, civil society organizations, market women among others afforded the participants to ask series of questions from the chairman on how to ensure credible polls.
Professor Jega who assured the stakeholders of the readiness of the commission to conduct free, fair and credible polls, said the commission had improved on the integrity of the electoral process urging politicians to change their mindset about electoral umpire.
The meeting however took another dimension when some political parties protested to the chairman and advanced reasons for the removal of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr Rufus Akeju
This development made the INEC boss to state that none of his key officials alleged by political parties would be removed or redeployed unless substantial proofs were provided by those parties.
While noting that the commission had learnt lessons from the Anambra Election, Professor Jega enjoined the media, traditional rulers and other stakeholders to support the commission in ensuring free,fair and credible polls in the state.
Secretary of the Inter-party Advisory Council of Nigeria, Mr Peter Ameh, urged political parties shun destructive criticism against the INEC and other political parties.
Earlier in his address of welcome, Akeju said the commission was addressing the issue of voters apathy, and ensuring voters education, awareness and mobilization.
Some leaders of the political parties that attended the meeting expressed happiness on the programme and promised to abide by the rules of the poll.
He stressed the NEED for the stakeholders to help in mobilizing and sensitizing their people to register during the continuous voters’ registration exercise coming up between the 12th to 19th March, 2014.
The INEC boss promised that permanent voter’s cards would soon be distributed to the electorate saying temporary voters cards would not be allowed.
The gubernatorial election in Osun State is slated for the 9th August, 2014.