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Punch Newspaper Headline (21st February,2019)

Saturday’s elections

  • Only an act of God can stop Saturday’s elections, says INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission on Wednesday assured the electorate that the rescheduled presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday would hold.

It said only an ‘act of God’ could stop the conduct of the polls.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, stated this in Abuja while addressing a cross-section of the diplomatic community and international election monitoring groups in Nigeria on the elections.

Yakubu, who was represented by an INEC National Commissioner, Dr Mustapha Lecky, categorically stated that everything needed to ensure the conduct of the polls on February 23 had been put in place, adding that the commission had no reason to feel things would go wrong.

The commission, he added, had developed a six-point agenda of what needed to be done to ensure success, noting that it had completed the deployment of materials as of Wednesday (yesterday).

The INEC boss said, “We have no reason to believe that anything, except an act of God, and we believe that as a prayerful nation, the act of God has been assuaged and that things will go right. We have no reason to feel that anything will go wrong.

“We have received all the materials; they have been checked, audited; people have been informed; party agents have gone there to check.”

He reiterated that the agency was committed to surpassing the achievements of previous polls in the country.

INEC also said it had commenced the deployment of sensitive materials to the 774 Local Government Areas, adding that it would be concluded today (Thursday).

The commission also explained that it had achieved 100 per cent completion of the configuration of Smart Card Readers, adding “we are good to go on this score.”

Yakubu told journalists in Abuja during the commission’s daily press briefing held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, that INEC was fully ready for the rescheduled polls.

In his remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, urged the international community to respect the sovereignty of the nation and allow the country solve her internal challenges herself without undue interference from foreign countries.

Onyeama stressed that while Nigeria welcomed partnership and support from the international community, the country, being a sovereign nation, would not allow herself to be dictated to since it did not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

He stated, “We welcome very much your engagement, we appreciate your support, we acknowledge how important your engagement for us in 2015 helped us to deliver probably one of the most free and credible elections we have had in this country for a very long time.

“But we have cause to be concerned with the way the engagement has been communicated, because at the end of the day, we are a sovereign country and the line shouldn’t be crossed from exhorting us, and wanting us to succeed and wanting this to be really democratic process to dictating to us and getting to the nitty-gritty of how we run the country which is the responsibility of this government.”

Onyeama noted that the international community would do better if they remained impartial and did not give the impression that they have a preferred candidate in the elections.

Speaking on the failure of the elections to hold last Saturday, the minister noted that the government was shocked by the postponement, adding that the administration ensured INEC had all it requested on time and never interfered in its operations.

He, therefore, tasked INEC to ensure that the rescheduled elections held unfailingly on Saturday.

  • Deal with ballot box snatchers- Chief of Army Staff

Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, on Wednesday held a strategic meeting with field commanders in Abuja, ordering them to deal decisively with ballot box snatching, thuggery and other electoral crimes during the elections.

President Buhari had ordered the security agents to deal ruthlessly with ballot box snatchers during the elections.

The army chief, while addressing the commanders said electoral offenders, particularly ballot box snatchers would be dealt with during the elections.

He said thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of election materials and similar crimes were common antics of politicians witnessed in previous elections in the country.

Buratai noted that this time round, “the army will adopt a proactive posture that ensures that similar incidents do not even arise.”

Buratai said, “…I want to remind us that the acts of thuggery, snatching of ballot boxes, illegal possession of election materials and similar crimes are intended to mar an election and create deliberate avenues for post-election violence and mayhem.

“Accordingly, I wish to lay emphasis on the following actions that all commanders are to abide by: one, commanders must deal decisively with any electoral crime or action that would be inimical to national security. Two, commanders are to ensure that they and their personnel do not hobnob with politicians at any level.