By Andrew Onyejuruuwa
Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the governorship elections across 29 states in the country said it will not issue Certificates of Return to candidates in places where INEC officials are held hostage or forced to declare winners under duress. Recall that Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State held INEC officials, hostage in Owerri and even threatened to kill if the result did not go his way on February 23.
The commission also threatened to record zero vote and cancel the results of polling units where its personnel deliberately failed to deploy the Smart Card Readers. The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security held at the commission’s Conference Room in Abuja.
Yakubu said, “The commission is concerned that many of our materials, including ballot boxes, voting cubicles, voter registers and Smart Card Readers were lost to acts of hooliganism and thuggery in the elections held two weeks ago. Most worrisome is the attack on electoral officials. Some of our staff were abducted and taken hostage in an attempt to disrupt elections or influence the outcome. In fact, some of the supplementary elections were caused by such acts of thuggery.
“I am confident that working together with the security agencies, we will consolidate the largely peaceful conduct of the Presidential and National Assembly elections while also taking decisive steps to deal with the minority of violators’ intent on disrupting the conduct of peaceful elections. However, the commission will not tolerate the act of holding our officials, hostage and forcing them to declare winners under duress. Where such occurs, the commission will not reward bad behaviour by issuing them Certificates of Return.
“We have once again reconfigured the Smart Card Readers for the elections on Saturday. The use of the card readers is mandatory and there will be no exemption to their deployment for accreditation of voters. Under our regulations and guidelines, there are clear penalties for the deliberate failure to deploy them on the part of our members of staff. Where such happens with the connivance of communities, the result of election in the polling unit(s) will be cancelled and zero vote will be recorded.”