By Jethro Ibileke
Ahead of Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State, the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has warned that electoral offenders would face grave consequences of their actions, if caught.
Such infractions include vote-buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, among others.
Yakubu handed down the warning on Monday in Benin, during an expanded stakeholders meeting organised by the Commission.
According to him, “Edo people must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment.
“We have been assured by the security agencies that thugs and their sponsors will not have the freedom to move around freely to disrupt the election or collation of results,” he said.
The INEC boss also disclosed that the national headquarters would monitor the election throughout the state through a zoom situation room.
“This zoom situation room will allow us receive live reports from the field. Accredited observers and the media will also be invited to join at intervals.
“By doing so, the Commission will receive first-hand information as the election is going on,” he said.
Yakubu who assured Edo residents that their votes would count, added that only the choice made by the people of Edo would determine the outcome of the election.
He explained that the Commission would not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate.
According to him, “our focus is on our processes and procedures. Nothing more. Be rest assured that Saturday’s election will be credible.”
He further stated that the Commission would be deploying magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to vote unaided.
“INEC policy for the conduct of elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Code of Conduct have been translated into braille in order to ensure greater participation of all citizens in the electoral process irrespective of disability,” he added.
The Chairman also explained that a component of the z-pad which was supposed to be used for the election has been dropped.
He noted that all categories of ad-hoc staff had been vetted, adding that the integrity of the process would not be compromised.
Also speaking, The Director General of of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaib Ibrahim appealed to all stakeholders to ensure the safety and security of all corps members deployed for the election.
Ibrahim, who was represented by the South South Supervisor of NYSC, Benjamin Ayodele thanked INEC for the confidence reposed on the corps.
According to him, “I want to appeal to all stakeholders to protect our corps members during the election.”
The Representative of the Benin Monarch, Chief Osato Bazuaye called on INEC and the IG of police to ensure that the election was free, fair and peaceful.
“We want you to write your name in gold. Ensure that this election is one of the best. It is a test for INEC, the Police and all of us,” he said.