Femi Makinde, Osogbo
The Independent National Electoral Commission has said voters will not be allowed to go inside polling booths with their telephones, cameras and any other device that can take pictures.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said this on Monday in Osogbo at the stakeholders’ forum organised ahead of Saturday election.
The INEC chairman said this would help to curb the issue of vote-buying and vote-selling which he described as a new strategy adopted by politicians to rig elections.
He said voters would not be barred from using their devices at the polling units but would not be allowed to hold their cameras and telephones from the moment they were issued with ballot papers until they cast their marked ballots inside the ballot boxes.
He said the decision was reached because of the alarm raised by stakeholders that politicians had adopted ‘see and buy’ as a new rigging method.
He, however, said this would be prevented from happening during the governorship poll in Osun State.
Yakubu said, “I wish to now turn to the worrisome issue of vote-buying. Over the years, the Commission has taken several steps to improve our electoral process. Today, malpractices such as ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, diversion of election materials, hijacking of election personnel, falsification of results and sundry violations of the electoral law have been considerably addressed.
“Votes now count and for this reason, the voter has become the new target of those who are determined to continue to subvert the electoral process. The menace of vote-buying and selling on election day is the latest challenge to our electoral democracy. We wish to assure Nigerians that the commission will rise to this challenge as well.
“Our immediate response is to review the administration of our polling units to make it difficult for voters to expose their marked ballot papers between the voting cubicles where they vote in secret and the ballot box where they cast their votes.
“We are working with the law enforcement agencies for a solution to this brazen violation of several provisions of the Electoral Act. We have also consulted widely with stakeholders on how best to address this issue. It was during one of such consultative meetings here in Osun State that they drew the commission’s attention to the use of smartphones by some voters to take pictures of their marked ballot papers in the voting cubicles and later present it to vote buyers as an evidence for payment.
“This is particularly a difficult challenge to handle for the simple reason that the commission has consistently encouraged citizens to report violations on election day to our situation room for which they may require their phones.
“For this reason, we have introduced a number of platforms through which we can be reached real-time, including a toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre, telephone lines in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Therefore, it is counterproductive for the commission to introduce a blank ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices at polling units on election day.
“What we have done is to exclude the use of such devices by accredited voters from the time they collect their ballot papers, mark them in the voting cubicles and drop in the ballot box. In making this clarification, we wish to appeal to voters to bear these short inconveniences for the overall credibility of our elections.”
He said the commission had no interest in any of the 48 governorship candidates going into the poll, stressing that the INEC would not do anything to put any of the parties in an advantageous position against others.
“Our ultimate objective is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next governor of Osun State is entirely in the hands of the voters. Votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Osun State and nothing else will determine the outcome of the election.
He also promised that election materials and officials would arrive at various polling units before 8 am when the election would start.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr Idris Ibrahim, warned politicians against any act that could trigger violence, saying anybody caught would be prosecuted. He specifically warned against hate speech, stockpiling of arms and provocative utterances.
The IGP said, “Arrangements have been concluded to deploy over 18,426 police personnel including conventional and PMF units, Intelligence and technical teams to provide security. This number excludes the support services to be provided by other security personnel from the armed forces, the Immigration Service, the prisons, the Customs and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps to complement the efforts of the police.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, also appealed to politicians against arming the youths and inciting them to violence.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Read Full Story