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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has vowed to ensure a transparent and credible governorship election in Osun State.

INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, stated this on Tuesday while addressing a gathering at a stakeholders’ meeting in Osogbo, the state capital.

He said the commission has listened to stakeholders across the board who emphasised transparency, inclusivity, and credibility of the election, as well as security and peaceful conduct of the exercise.

A combination photo of INEC officials and logo

“For us in INEC, let me reassure political parties, candidates, and the electorate that the choice of who becomes the next governor of Osun State is entirely in the hands of voters,” Yakubu avowed.

“As I have repeatedly said in previous engagements with stakeholders, INEC will not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on the processes and procedures as provided by law.”

According to him, the electoral umpire has successfully implemented 12 out of 14 activities contained in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election.

The INEC chief stated that the only two outstanding activities left were the last day of campaigns by political parties and Election Day activities.

He informed the meeting that the commission has taken every step and made every arrangement for the successful conduct of the election, as well as held consultative meetings with political parties and their candidates.

Stressing that they got the support of traditional rulers and religious leaders for the election, Yakubu said the commission recruited, trained and carefully screened all categories of ad-hoc staff to be deployed to the field.

Read the full text of his address at the meeting below:

First, I would like to join our Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Osun State, Professor Abdulganiy Raji, and the supervising National Commissioner, Professor Kunle Ajayi, to welcome you once again to this very important engagement with stakeholders.

In particular, I would like to welcome the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba. As the head of the lead agency in internal security, no Nigerian is in a better position to address the triple dimensions of securing the process in Osun State before, during and after the election than him.

As you are all aware, the Osun State Governorship election 2022 will hold this Saturday after several months of preparations since the Commission released the Timetable and Schedule of Activities in June last year. The election is significant in many respects, not least because it is also the last major off-cycle election before the 2023 General Election, which is just 227 days (or 7 months and 5 days) away.

Over the last few months, but especially as the election draws near, the Commission has carefully listened to stakeholders across the board. As was the case in previous elections, various stakeholders would like to be given assurances in two critical areas.

First is the transparency, inclusivity and credibility of the election; and, secondly, its security and peaceful conduct. We are taking both issues very seriously. I will speak about our preparations for a free, fair, credible, transparent and inclusive election while I leave the issue of security to the Inspector General of Police.

For us in INEC, let me reassure political parties, candidates and the electorate that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Osun State is entirely in the hands of voters. As I have repeatedly said in previous engagements with stakeholders, INEC will not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate.

Our focus is on the processes and procedures as provided by law. So far, we have successfully implemented 12 out of 14 activities contained in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the election. The only two outstanding activities are the last day of the campaign by political parties which ends at midnight on Thursday 14th July 2022 and Election Day activities on Saturday 16th July 2022.

The Commission has taken every step and made every arrangement for the successful conduct of the Governorship election this weekend. We held consultative meetings with political parties and their candidates. We had several engagements with the security agencies at the national, state and local government levels. We consulted with stakeholders. We sought for and received, the blessings of royal fathers and religious leaders. We have recruited, trained and carefully screened all categories of ad-hoc staff to be deployed to the field.

All non-sensitive materials for the election have been delivered to all our 30 Local Government Area offices across the state. Voter education and sensitisation is ongoing. We have made arrangements for the transportation of personnel and materials to ensure that polling units open on schedule on Election Day.

For more effective supervision of the process, we are deploying five national commissioners, 12 Resident Electoral Commissioners and many senior officials to support our state office here in Osun to deliver credible elections.

Voter registration was carried out all over the State, including the devolution of the exercise to the 332 Wards across the State. We have printed and delivered the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) for collection by all valid registrants in the state.

When we visited Osun last week to assess our readiness for the election, concerns were expressed about the availability of the PVCs, especially for those who applied for transfer of their registration to Osun State or to new locations within the state. I am glad to report that we have delivered the PVCs for fresh registrants, transfers, and requests for replacement of cards as a result of loss, damage or incorrect personal details such as names, dates of birth etc. as provided by law.

Furthermore, in our effort to ensure that more voters collect their PVCs before the election, the Commission took the following additional measures with effect from Thursday last week:

Devolved the collection of PVCs from our 30 Local Government offices to each of the 332 wards across the state, thereby increasing the number of collection centres and bringing the process closer to voters;

Working all days of the week, including the weekend and public holidays to serve voters;

Extending the last date for the collection of PVCs to Thursday 14th July 2022 i.e. 24 hours to the election.

I appeal to all registered voters that are yet to collect their PVCs to seize the opportunity of the additional measures to do so. Many of the PVCs have already been collected by citizens. Of the 1,955,657 registered voters in Osun State, 1,479,595 (or 76%) have collected their cards as of Sunday 10th July 2022. We are also updating our records to provide a detailed breakdown of PVCs collected by polling units.

This will be concluded and made available on Friday 15th July 2022. This is important because the total number of PVCs collected will be used to determine the margin of lead principle, as against the total number of registered voters in line with our Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections 2022 derived from the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.

To underscore our commitment to an inclusive, credible and transparent electoral process, the Commission is deploying assistive devices for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) to have a more pleasant voting experience on Election Day. Magnifying glasses, Braille Ballot Guides and Posters for voters with hard of hearing conditions will be deployed at the polling unit level in areas of need based on data collected in collaboration with the PwD community.

Similarly, our revised Regulations and Guidelines provide for priority to be accorded at polling units to PwDs without waiting in long queues during voting as is the case with elderly people, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Beyond these measures, we also want to make PwDs get more involved in election administration like everyone else.

In this regard, the 2022 Osun State Governorship election will also make history, being the first election in which INEC is deploying PwDs as ad hoc staff. Thirty-five (35) serving NYSC members with one form of disability or another have been identified, trained and engaged as ad hoc staff at the polling unit level. I appeal to all stakeholders to cooperate with, and protect them, as well as all other ad hoc staff, in our effort to make our electoral process more inclusive and participatory.

The Commission continues to deploy technology in the electoral process both as a matter of practice and a requirement of the law. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be deployed for voter accreditation and uploading of election results on the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal on Election Day. Steps have been taken to ensure that the BVAS machines function optimally during voter accreditation based on lessons learnt from the conduct of recent elections.

A few weeks ago, a mock accreditation exercise was conducted in polling units across the State. I personally observed the exercise in Osogbo and Boripe LGAs in Osun Central as well as Ede South and Egbedore LGAs in Osun West Senatorial Districts. I also visited our Ife Central, Ife East and Ife North LGA offices in Osun East Senatorial District.

We are encouraged by the successful outcome of the mock exercise and the level of preparations by our offices. We have also trained enough Registration Area Technical Support Staff (RATECHs) and made adequate transportation arrangements for their rapid response in the event of reported glitches on Election Day.

The Commission has accredited Polling Agents nominated by political parties for the 3,763 polling units, 332 Ward collation centres, 30 Local Government Area collation centres and the State Collation Centre where the final declaration of result will be made. As an indication of the intense national and international interest in the 2022 Osun State Governorship Election, 87 Observer groups (79 domestic and 8 international) deploying a total of 7,790 field observers have been accredited for the election. Similarly, 94 media organisations (92 national and 2 international) deploying 624 journalists have been accredited to cover the election.

On Election Day, the national headquarters of INEC in Abuja will monitor the election throughout the state. Our Zoom Situation Room will be activated. We are working to ensure that accredited observers and the media are invited to join us at intervals to provide live reports from the field. At the same time, citizens can contact us on our various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

I cannot conclude my remarks without addressing a matter of serious concern to our elections. Here, I am referring to sundry violations of our electoral law, including the diabolical practice of vote-buying in which voters are financially induced to vote one way or another.

It is obvious that the more the Commission and other stakeholders work hard to progressively improve the quality of national elections in Nigeria, the more some retrogressive elements try to undermine the process.

While we will continue to work with the security and anti-corruption agencies to confront this challenge, our effort will be given a boost by the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal as recommended by the Uwais Committee in 2009, reinforced by the Lemu Committee in 2011 and the Nnamani Committee in 2017.

Happily, the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal Bill is under consideration of the National Assembly. INEC supports this initiative and appeals to the National Assembly for a speedy conclusion and passage of the Bill into law.

Before I conclude, I would like to seize this opportunity to invite you all to the signing of the Peace Accord by parties and candidates under the auspices of the National Peace Committee chaired by our respected former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar GCFR. The occasion is holding in this hall at 10 am tomorrow Wednesday 13th July 2022.

Once again, I welcome the Inspector-General of Police, leaders and candidates of political parties, and all other stakeholders, to this meeting. I wish to reassure you that the Commission has taken every step to ensure that the election this weekend is free, fair, transparent, credible, inclusive and conclusive.

I thank you all for your presence and God bless.

Published By Odoh Dominic Chukwuemeka

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