THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured residents of Kogi State of a hitch-free governorship election across the state today in spite of palpable tension and fear of violence in the state.
The Commission asked the people of Kogi State to come out en masse to cast their votes, saying there can only be violence when a few people come out to vote.
National Commissioner in Charge of Kogi, Niger and Nasarawa states, Mohammed Haruna, said in an interview in Lokoja that even though there is palpable tension and apprehension about violence in the state, this will only happen when people fail to turn out to vote.
He said: “As much as possible, people should come out and vote. There is, of course, apprehension. The tension is there; it is palpable. But if people come out in enough numbers, even those who want to perpetrate violence would be afraid.
“It is only when a few people turn up that there would be problem. So people should come out in their huge numbers and vote for whom they want to vote to rule the state.
Speaking on preparations for the election, Mallam Haruna said “To begin with, yesterday the materials were here. The sensitive materials at the CBN by 3 pm were deployed to all the 21 local government headquarters and a lot of them have arrived their destinations and are moving up to the Registration Area Centres.”
The National Commissioner said so far, security situation across the state has been calm, adding that the police has given them assurance that the security situation would remain calm through the period of the election.
He said: “You know, usually, it is when results start coming in that problem starts. But we hope this time, it would be a different ball game.”
Speaking on the tribal sentiments that has taken over the entire electoral process, he said politicians are in the best position to answer the question, saying: “They are the ones that should be talking about issues because there is nothing INEC can do. Our own is to make sure the rules guiding the elections are observed; that is the electoral law, and the guidelines must be obeyed.”
Mallam Haruna said he was not aware of any challenges surrounding the conduct of the election, saying “Initially, we were a bit worried about the way late court judgements were coming in.
“As it is now, we have two sets of ballot papers. We had already printed them when the court said we must include SDP, which we did. And then there was one outstanding case and we are not taking chances.
“We printed another set which arrived the day before yesterday. That one includes all the parties and we will only distribute the one that took the two court judgments into account.”
He said the ballot papers that will not be used will remain with the Central Bank of Nigeria, saying, “It is the usual practice. At the end of the election, whatever ballot papers we do not use are collected and returned to the CBN.
“We have a way. We bring in party agents and officials and CBN disposes of them. We have a way of burning them so that nobody would say there is any abracadabra.”
Mallam Haruna dismissed speculations that fake ballot papers were in circulation, saying he was not aware of any fake ballot papers.
He said: “Everybody was there yesterday at the Central Bank of Nigeria when we distributed the materials. How can we circulate fake ballot papers?”
He also dismissed allegations that INEC was being arm twisted, saying, “You will always have such accusations. There was a story that I and the Governor met somewhere when I have never met the Governor, except twice during the stakeholders meeting when we shook hands.
“There was a story that we had already finished everything and the smart card readers were in Hilton Hotel in Abuja. You will hear all manner of things. Your job as reporters is to dig and confirm that they are true.”
Also speaking, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner James Apam said the Commission had already dispatched voting materials to all the registration centres across the state, adding that they were not bothered by allegations against them.
He said: “We have since gone over that. We are not worried about any accusations. I am doing my work and so far, it is fine. We are doing what we are supposed to do.
“We have trained people, we have sent sensitive materials yesterday and they have been moved to the Registration Area Centres.”
He said the Commission has not had any challenge with the movement of electoral materials, adding that “the materials have been moved to the RACs today. We have even moved the excess staff from Lokoja.”
On challenges from possible flashpoints across the state, he said: “We have not heard anything. We even have some of our colleagues who came from other states moving round and we have posted them to some of those local governments.”
He claimed that the Commission was not under pressure from any quarters, adding that the Nigerian Navy was assisting them in getting materials to parts of the state that were difficult to access.
He said that the Navy was helping them to reach areas like Ibaji and Boudon which needs Flying Boats for deployment of materials, adding that the Nigeria Navy is helping out with their boats to back the INEC boat to move staff and materials to those places.
He expressed the hope that the election would be hitch-free, based on INECs preparations.