We are fully set for Saturday’s FCT Area Council Election – INEC Chairman

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*Photo: Prof Yakubu *

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof . Mahmood Yakubu has said all necessary things have been put in place to ensure a successful of Saturday’s Area Council Election of the Federal Capital Territories.

Prof. Yakubu gave the assurance on Tuesday in Abuja at a stakeholders meeting on the election.

During  the meeting held at the Nigerian Air Force Conference Centre, Abuja, the INEC Chairman said “ With only four days to the election, most of the major activities have been carried out. Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) was conducted over a period of six months. Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) have been printed and made available for collection. There are enough ad hoc staff engaged and trained for the election. Non-sensitive materials have been deployed to the various Area Councils. Non-pharmaceutical materials have been procured to protect voters and personnel from COVID-19 in line with the Commission’s policy based on the protocols prescribed by health authorities.

“Voter education and publicity have been carried out. Transport arrangements have been made, including motorcycles for remote locations and boats for riverine areas. We shall deploy assistive devices such as Braille ballot guide and magnifying glasses for the physically challenged voters. We had several meetings with the security agencies in the area councils, the FCT and the national level on how to address potential threats to the election and secure the election. All non-sensitive materials have already been delivered to the Area Councils.

“On Thursday 10th February 2022 i.e. in the next two days, sensitive materials will be delivered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to our FCT Office in Garki. As usual, party agents, observers and the media will be invited to inspect the materials before they are moved to the   Area Councils on the same day. Security personnel will provide escort to the Area Councils and protection of the materials until they reach the polling units on Election Day.”

Read the full speech below:

REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE STAKEHOLDERS’ MEETING ON THE 2022 FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY (FCT) AREA COUNCIL ELECTION HELD AT THE NIGERIAN AIR FORCE CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, ON TUESDAY 8TH FEBRUARY 2022

The Honourable Minister, Federal Capital Territory, Muhammad Musa Bello

The Representative of the Inspector-General of Police

Members of the National Assembly

Chairmen and Leaders of Political Parties

Candidates for the 2022 FCT Area Council Elections

National Commissioners of INEC

The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Federal Capital Territory

The Commissioner of Police, Federal Capital Territory

Heads of other Security Agencies

Your Royal Highnesses

Religious leaders

Civil Society Organisations

Representatives of Media Organisations

All other Invited Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1.​  I would like to join the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to welcome you all to this meeting and to thank you for responding to our invitation.

2.​   In the next four days, voters in the FCT will go to the polls to elect Chairmen for the six Area Councils as well as Councillors for the 62 Wards. The main purpose of this meeting is to brief stakeholders about the Commission’s preparations for the election and to hear from you the stakeholders. This meeting is the culmination of many stakeholder engagements with our FCT office under the leadership of the REC and at the Area Council level with our Electoral Officers (EOs). Only last week, I had the honour to address traditional rulers, religious leaders, security agencies and other important stakeholders in the FCT on the kind invitation of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA). I am glad to note that some of the personalities present at that meeting are also attending this expanded engagement which includes party leaders, candidates and stakeholders representing different groups.

3.​   As I have said repeatedly, the FCT is the only part of the country where INEC is required by law to conduct Local Government elections. Elections are therefore conducted regularly and consistently every three years, including bye-elections as the need arises. The Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the forthcoming election was released by the Commission about a year ago in March 2021. We have steadily implemented all the activities on schedule, leaving only the last day of campaign by political parties on Thursday 10th February 2022 and Election Day which is Saturday 12th February 2022.

4.​  After the period for substitution and withdrawal of candidates as provided by law, the Commission has published the final list of 473 candidates sponsored by 14 political parties for the elections. In all, 110 candidates (Chair and Vice Chair) are vying for the leadership of the six Area Councils while 363 candidates are competing for 62 councillorship positions. Detailed analysis of the candidates by Area Councils, political parties, gender, age and educational qualifications has already been uploaded to our website for public information.

5.​  With only four days to the election, most of the major activities have been carried out. Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) was conducted over a period of six months. Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) have been printed and made available for collection. There are enough ad hoc staff engaged and trained for the election. Non-sensitive materials have been deployed to the various Area Councils. Non-pharmaceutical materials have been procured to protect voters and personnel from COVID-19 in line with the Commission’s policy based on the protocols prescribed by health authorities. Voter education and publicity have been carried out. Transport arrangements have been made, including motorcycles for remote locations and boats for riverine areas. We shall deploy assistive devices such as Braille ballot guide and magnifying glasses for the physically challenged voters. We had several meetings with the security agencies in the area councils, the FCT and the national level on how to address potential threats to the election and secure the election. All non-sensitive materials have already been delivered to the Area Councils. On Thursday 10th February 2022 i.e. in the next two days, sensitive materials will be delivered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to our FCT Office in Garki. As usual, party agents, observers and the media will be invited to inspect the materials before they are moved to the   Area Councils on the same day. Security personnel will provide escort to the Area Councils and protection of the materials until they reach the polling units on Election Day.

6.​   With regard to election technology for voter accreditation, the Commission has reviewed the performance of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the recent Anambra State Governorship election. Lessons learnt from that election have been considered in planning for the Area Council elections. The BVAS have been configured and ready to deploy for the election. We have also made adequate arrangements for technical support and transportation to speedily respond in the unlikely event of glitches on Election Day. Similarly, election results will be uploaded to the INEC Result Viewing portal (IReV) in real-time when voting ends and votes are counted at polling units on Election Day.

7.​   The Commission is encouraged by the peaceful atmosphere in the FCT. So far, there are no adverse reports of clashes between supporters of different parties and not many incidents of hate or inciting speeches during the electioneering campaign. I commend the stakeholders for their advocacy for peaceful elections. I appeal to political parties and candidates to continue to show maturity and decorum in the last few days of campaign and on Election Day and beyond.

8.​  The 2022 FCT Area Council Election is not without its fair share of litigations. Right now, there are eight cases in court challenging the nomination or educational qualification of candidates. Some of the cases are already before the Supreme Court. However, contrary to the Commission’s experience in previous elections around the country, there are no conflicting judgments or orders by courts of coordinate jurisdiction anywhere on the forthcoming FCT elections. Let me seize this opportunity to appreciate the judiciary, particularly the FCT High Court, for standing firm to the shenanigans of forum shoppers and litigation-happy individuals who often waste the precious time of the Courts and INEC by litigating even the most improbable cases.

9.​   At this juncture, I wish to draw your attention to a few areas where the Commission needs the support of all stakeholders in the FCT. You may recall that early last year, INEC succeeded in expanding voter access to polling units for the first time in 25 years in spite of the apparent expansion of the voter population and emergence of new settlements nationwide. From just 562 polling units, the Commission established additional 2,260 units and relocated some of them from congested locations to proximate but underserved areas. We gave voters the opportunity to transfer to some of the new polling units. Unfortunately, voters did not take advantage of this opportunity as we had expected in all cases. Consequently, there are 593 polling units in the FCT without registered voters, 1,328 polling units with between 1-50 voters and 546 polling units with over 1,000 registered voters. We have already informed political parties, civil society organisations, the media and security agencies at the national level about this development.

10.​  The Commission has decided that no election will take place at the polling units without registered voters. No materials have been produced for these units and no personnel will be deployed to them. However, voting will take place in all the other polling units. For congested polling units, the Commission will deploy more than one BVAS to facilitate a speedy accreditation of voters. We will also deploy additional staff to these locations. We also agreed with the security agencies to deploy more personnel to ensure peace and order.

11.​  For transparency, the Commission is making the hard copies of the detailed locations of these polling units available to all stakeholders at this meeting. In addition, soft copies have also been uploaded to our website. By doing so, we want to achieve two objectives. First is to ensure that voters in the FCT and indeed all Nigerians are aware of these polling units and the arrangements made for them on Election Day. Secondly, to seek the support of all stakeholders to ensure that these polling units are populated ahead of the 2023 General Election. We need the support of especially the traditional, community and religious leaders in this regard.

12.​   I would like to assure all stakeholders that the Commission will protect the transparency and integrity of the process. In line with this commitment, we have accredited 58 observer groups (53 domestic and 5 foreign) that are deploying a total of 2,242 field observers. We have similarly accredited 45 media organisations deploying 340 journalists to cover the election. We will work with the security agencies to ensure that observers and the media are granted unimpeded access to voting and collation locations. I call upon the media and observers to operate within the context of the code of conduct for election observation and media coverage.

13.​   The Commission is also deploying six Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to support the REC for the FCT and three National Commissioners to supervise the conduct of the election. Our eyes are on all our officials, be they ad hoc or regular staff, to ensure that they strictly abide by the rules. All parties, candidates and their supporters should do the same. No one will benefit from the disruption of the process or other acts of bad behaviour. Let the voters in the FCT choose their leaders in a free, fair and peaceful contest.

14.​   I would like to reiterate that voter inducement in all forms, including vote-buying at polling units, is a violation of the law. The ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices in the voting cubicles is still in force.

15.​   Let me reassure you that the Commission is committed to free, fair and credible process. However, we need a similar commitment of especially the political parties and candidates to realise these goals. Therefore, at today’s meeting, parties and candidates will be required to resolve, pledge, affirm and commit to peaceful conduct before, during and after the election.

16.​  As we commence the interactive part of this meeting, I want to urge all stakeholders to maintain decorum while making your contributions or responding to issues raised by others. Democracy demands accommodation of divergent views. Let us focus on issues and argue in support of what will improve the electoral process and the welfare of citizens.

17.​   In terms of grassroots democracy, FCT is a leading light in Nigeria with its regular and well-conducted Area Council elections. Each political party has the chance of winning an election in the FCT.  Let the 2022 Area Council election be the beacon for a peaceful and credible 2023 General Election.

18.​  Thank you all for coming and God bless.

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