By Okodili Ndidi, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has vowed to apply maximum sanctions against any official, staff or ad-hoc staff that will breach the Commission’s oath of neutrality or engage in any electoral malfeasance during the Edo State governorship election.
The Commission also said that it will remain focused on delivering a free and fair election and won’t be distracted by the flurry of propaganda perpetrated by political parties participating in the election.
National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye who was responding to allegations that the INEC National Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said that “the Commission is fully focused on delivering the Nasarawa State Constituency bye-election; the Edo and Ondo States end of tenure Governorship elections and all other bye-elections that are still pending”.
He stressed further that, “these elections are taking place at a very difficult and uncertain period and the Commission is charting a new path for electoral integrity and the conduct of elections in difficult circumstances”.
According to him, “in the last few days, Political Parties have been engaging in propaganda relating to the Edo Governorship election. One of the propagandists claimed that the Chief of Staff to the President called the Chairman of the Commission and directed him to rig the Edo Governorship election in return for second term.
“An online source said that the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, called the Chairman and asked for the same thing. Another source has also claimed that the former Senate President Olusola Saraki through a 3rd party is putting pressure on the Chairman to rig Edo Governorship election on behalf of his Party in exchange for a second term in office.
“The Commission is fully focused on delivering the Nasarawa State Constituency bye-election; the Edo and Ondo States end of tenure Governorship elections and all other bye-elections that are still pending. These elections are taking place at a very difficult and uncertain period and the Commission is charting a new path for electoral integrity and the conduct of elections in difficult circumstances”.
He added that, “the Chairman and National Commissioners are policy makers in the electoral process and the election in Edo State will be conducted and managed by the Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Electoral Officers at the various Local Governments.
“The Chairman and National Commissioners will not participate in or engage in futuristic projections, speculation, innuendoes and conspiracy theories on electoral malfeasance. Our task is to conduct credible elections and those at the frontline will be young men and women that will serve as Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers and Supervisory Presiding Officers.
“Senior Lecturers and Professors in Federal Tertiary Institutions will collate the results and make returns. Every Political Party participating in the election has the discretion to nominate and have poll or party agents at each polling unit in the State.
“It is gratuitous, mischievous, unfounded and presumptive to assume that a single individual can, in a digital age manipulate an election and return an individual as duly elected”.
Okoye stressed further that, “elections are conducted at the polling units. The Chairman and National Commissioners will not be in the 2, 627 polling and 192 Registration Areas in Edo State where results will be collated.
“The Commission will remain focused and will not be distracted. The registered voters in Edo State will decide the outcome of the election and nobody else. The Commission remains irrevocably committed to the conduct of credible elections and will on no account condone any attempt to compromise the integrity of any election”.