SMARTING from the technical glitches recorded in the last presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos yesterday assured of improved readiness for the governorship and state House of Assembly elections coming up this Saturday.
The body, at a stakeholders’ forum, said she had re-strategised to ensure that Card Readers work at every polling unit, timely distribution of materials and conduct of election in all units without exception.
Meanwhile, the body has insisted that it remains illegal to cite polling units in front of a house, palace and religious centres.
Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Akin Orebiyi, at a meeting with candidates, party agents and concerned stakeholders in Lagos, said the body had reviewed logistic issues encountered fortnight ago, to ensure that the coming election is satisfactory.
Orebiyi said, while there is no going back on the issue of Card Readers, special provision had made to ensure all Card Readers deployed for the exercise are in good condition, adding that each wards now have three extra Card Readers as back up.
The REC regretted instances of late arrival of electoral materials in some centres and situation where election didn’t hold in some.
According to him, “We regret what happened and we have investigated this. Our Electoral Officers (EOs) have been placed under strict instruction that it should not happen again.
“It was partly due to us and partly due to the party agents who were insisting on no sharing of materials in the night, but in the morning. And in the morning, with the buses available, we had to push the Electoral Officials out that the materials will come later. But that will not happen this time, as long as the party agents cooperate with us.”
Continuing, he said: “We will do the sharing (of election materials) overnight, so that by 5am or 5:30, when we are leaving for the centres, all the polling officials will have all the materials. Perhaps, the party agents will also help us to crosscheck all the materials before we leave for the centres. This they must do in very orderly manner,” he said.
In as much as he appealed with the party agents to cooperate with polling officials, Orebiyi added that series of enlightenment meetings were on to prepare the officials for a seamless exercise.
Reacting to concerns raised by the running mate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) guber candidate, Dr. Idiat Adebule that elections didn’t hold in some places in Ojo, Agege among others, the Lagos REC, said it was due to conflicting figures sent by Electoral Officers (EOs) on the actual number of affected polling units as at March 28.
He said while they were busy preparing that election hold in 90 polling units on Sunday, EOs were still coming up with additional polling units. “The response I gave them was that the INEC Chairman had only approved for the original 90 polling units and we have to hold elections there. In fact, the Chairman was not comfortable with Lagos because voting took place nationwide on Sunday in 350 polling units and Lagos alone had 90; over one-quarter.
“The chairman said it was alarming and said no addition; that was about 1:30am on Sunday morning. So, when EOs started coming with more in the morning, we said no and that is what happened in Ojo, Lagos Mainland and in some other places including Oshodi-Isolo.
“But all of these will not repeat themselves. We are hoping that this election will be faster and peaceful that it was the last time. INEC will be fair and just; that I can assure you,” he said.
Orebiyi said further that it was incumbent on parties to educate the public on the proper way to cast their vote to prevent void votes, of which Lagos alone recorded 52,000 void votes — the highest in the country.
Captain Tunji Shelle of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) raised concern that some polling units were still located close to residential apartments in Lagos, contrary to the directive of INEC.
Responding, the REC said on no condition should polling booths be cited in residential apartments, urging the public to inform INEC wherever such is noticed.
He said logistics funds are due to be given to EOs to ensure that canopies, chairs and tables are provided for polling units that are in open spaces.
On party agents, Orebiyi stressed, “We still do not allow party agents to roam or move about. Accredited party agents are mandated to remain in their polling units. If he is for collation ward, it is only for that ward that the agent must remain. If it for local government or constituency, that is where the party agent must work. We don’t allow monitoring or supervising agents who go around sharing money or food to INEC officials,” he said.