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Punch Newspaper Headline (23rd February,2019)

underage voters

  • INEC reads the riot act to underage voters, sponsors

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday warned politicians against sponsoring underage persons to participate in the 2019 general elections starting on Saturday (today).

He said such underage persons and their sponsors would be arrested.

Speaking at the 5th press briefing held at the National Collation Centre in Abuja, which was also attended by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Yakubu also asked Nigerians to report underage voters to security agencies or INEC officials.

Yakubu said, “Underage voting is an illegality because there is a statutory age for eligibility for registration of voters. But if on election day you find anyone that is apparently or conclusively underage, kindly report to any official of the commission or the security agencies.

“Working with the Inspector-General of Police, I say here that any underage person caught trying to be accredited or vote on election day will be arrested.

“Voting is only open to Nigerian citizens who are above the statutory age of 18. Underage voting is an illegality and let me seize this opportunity to warn those who may wish to sponsor underage persons to vote on election day that they will be arrested.”

After the 2015 presidential and National Assembly elections, there were allegations of underage voting in about seven states in the North, including Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Jigawa, Gombe and Kogi states. The two popular parties; the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress had traded accusations over the development.

Also in 2018, there were allegations of underage voting in the local government election conducted by the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission.

  • Police officers will be on duty to arrest ballot box snatchers

The IG, in his remarks at the briefing, warned intending ballot box snatchers to have a rethink as armed policemen on patrol would deal with anyone caught with a ballot box or involved in other electoral offences.

He said, “Voting proper is taking place today. I have explained to Nigerians that the electorate, observers, INEC staff, electoral materials are all secure. Maximum security is provided before, during and after the elections.

“In the polling booth or polling unit, there will be no fewer than three security personnel to protect the electorate, INEC and electoral materials. The personnel there will not be armed and there will be no need for apprehension while the elections are going on. We have some group of people who may want to disrupt the elections; we have put in place a strategy to stop that.

“We have a tactical unit of our personnel and other services that will be patrolling everywhere to ensure the process is not disrupted. And the patrolling personnel will be armed and will deal with anybody who wants to disrupt the process during the course of the elections. If any electoral offence is committed, we will work with the INEC officials to apprehend the culprits and set up investigative team headed by the commissioner of police in charge of legal (matters) to investigate the cases and prosecute them.

“Be it vote-buying, ballot box snatching or thuggery, if you commit any, you will be arrested and prosecuted. After the voting, the movement of electoral materials to the collation centres will be protected. Armed security personnel will be posted to the ward collation centres.

He added, “Even when the results are announced, for those people planning to disrupt it, we have put strategies in place to prevent that. So, what we require from all Nigerians is to go out peacefully, cast your votes and wait for the announcement of the results.

“You have no business moving about on election day if you are not an accredited official. Please don’t come out. All the accredited officials, whether domestic or foreign observers, must carry their tags; you can move freely and be protected.”

  • Final Collation of results will begin by 6pm on Sunday- INEC

The INEC chairman also disclosed that the final collation of election results would open on Sunday at 6pm at the Situation Room in Abuja.

He said, “The final collation will open at 6pm with the general introduction of those who are present, including the agents. Then, I would set the ground rules for the collation of the results of the 2019 presidential election.

“The sorting and counting of ballots will take place at each polling unit while the first stage of the collation process takes place at the registration areas. From there, collation and declaration will take place at designated local government area result collation and declaration centres for federal constituencies and senatorial districts. The final collation and declaration of presidential election results will be done here in this hall.”

  • 45 Presidential candidates step down for Buhari and Atiku

Meanwhile, no fewer than 45 candidates out of the 72 presidential candidates billed to contest today’s election have abandoned their ambitions to rule Nigeria and adopted either President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress or former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

One of our correspondents, who spoke with the candidates and party chairmen on Friday, learnt that most of them lacked the funds and membership to carry out a nationwide campaign and thus decided to support the bigger parties.

It was learnt that about 15 of them had endorsed Buhari while 30 had agreed to work for Atiku.

Those working for Buhari include Shitu Kabir (Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance), Edozie Madu (Independent Democrats); Danjuma Mohammed (Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy); Yusuf Dantalle (Allied Peoples Movement); Ahmed Buhari (Sustainable National Party) and Isah Dansarki (Mass Movement of Nigeria).

Others are Ikechukwu Nwokeafor (Advance Congress of Democrats); Alista Soyode (Yes Party); Charles Ogbali (Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party); Kenneth Kalu (United Peoples Congress); Isiyaka Femili (Nigeria Element Progressive Party) and Robinson Akpu of the National Democratic Liberty Party.

Other candidates supporting Buhari are Inwa Sakil (Unity Party of Nigeria); Babatunde Ositelu (Accord), the Africa Peoples Alliance, which has also endorsed the President although its candidate, Ibrahim Hassan, says he is still in the contest.

While the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has stepped down and did not endorse anyone, her former running mate, Galadima Oseni, who is also the national chairman of the party, had endorsed Buhari.

For Atiku, about 30 parties and presidential candidates have stepped down.

The parties, it was learnt, were members of the Coalition of United Political Parties.

On Wednesday, Eunice Atuejide (National Interest Party) stepped down for Atiku.

Similarly, the African Democratic Congress has adopted Atiku while its Presidential candidate, Obadiah Mailafia, has yet to make any public statement on the matter.

The National Chairman of ADC, Chief Okey Nwosu, told one of our correspondents that Atiku had been adopted by the party, adding that it did so in line with the CUPP’s arrangement.

“Our candidate did not have enough funds to execute a nationwide campaign. However, we will be participating in all other elections from National Assembly, governorship to state Houses of Assembly,” he said.

The presidential candidate of the All Grassroots Alliance, Nwachukwu Nwabuikwu, has also endorsed Atiku.

Dr. Nicolas Felix, the candidate of the Peoples Coalition Party also endorsed the PDP candidate earlier in the week just as Action Alliance dropped its candidate, Abdulrashid Baba, and adopted the PDP candidate.

The National Chairman of the Advanced Allied Party, Salihu Butu, told one of  our correspondents on the telephone on Friday that his party had adopted Atiku.

Muhammed Zaki (Labour Party) also stepped down for the PDP candidate, according to the LP Chairman, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, while Dr Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davies of the Mass Action Joint Alliance also stepped down for him.

Mark Audu of the United Patriots has also endorsed Atiku, according to its acting National Chairman, Chukwudi Ezeobika, while Nsehe Nseobong of the Restoration Party of Nigeria said that he had also stepped down for the former Vice-President.

The presidential candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, Peter Ameh, said he had endorsed Atiku while Major Hamza Al Mustafa (Peoples Party of Nigeria) also stepped down for the former vice-president.

  • 27 Presidential candidates face the polls with Buhari and Atiku

However, 27 other candidates will be slugging it out with Buhari and Atiku on Saturday(today).

They are Mr Fela Durotoye (Alliance for New Nigeria), Omoyele Sowore (African Action Congress), Donald Duke (Social Democratic Party), Rev. Chris Okotie (FRESH), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu (Young Progressive Party), and Adesina Fagbenro-Byron (KOWA).

Others are John Gbor (All Progressive Grand Alliance), Tope Fasua (Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party), Tanko Yunusa (National Conscience Party), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (People’s Trust), Yabagi Yusuf (Action Democratic Party), Shipi Godia (All Blending Party) and Peter Nwangwu of (We The People Nigeria).

Ayo Dasilva (Save Nigeria Congress), Chukwudi Osuala (Rebuild Nigeria Party) and Victor Okhai (Providence Peoples Congress) have also decided to test their strength at the polls.