Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said he has no reason to step down as he is not under any pressure to do so.
He also revealed that a total of 72, 775, 502 voters have collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to participate in the 2019 elections, which kick off tomorrow with the presidential and National Assembly polls.
Speaking in Abuja yesterday, his daily briefing on the elections,in reaction to a question as to whether he would quit his job as has been demanded by some people, Yakubu declared: “Well, I see no reason for even contemplating resigning. There is no reason whatsoever to even contemplate resigning. We stay focused as a commission and will do a job for our country.
“I said yesterday that I am not under pressure. On how certain am I to conduct the election, well, the last time I checked, which is the situation as I speak now, I am still the chairman of INEC and constitutionally, I am still the returning officer for the presidential election.
“My status has not changed. I am proceeding to conduct the election on the basis of those powers I draw from the constitution for the position I am privileged to serve in the 2019 general elections.”
The INEC chairman said that 11, 228, 582 PVCs were not collected when the exercised ended on February 11,promising that they would be kept in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) vaults for safekeeping until the end of the elections.
Giving update on the status of PVCs, he said: “Having announced the total number of registered voters and their distribution by age, gender and occupation, citizens deserve the right to know how many PVCs have been collected across the country. The last date for the collection of PVCs was Monday, February 11, 2019.
“Out of 84, 004, 084 registered voters, the total number of PVCs collected stands at 72, 775, 502 which represents 86.63 per cent of the total PVCs collected…
“A total of 11, 228, 582 PVCs, representing 13.37 per cent are uncollected. Out of this figure, 7, 817, 905 PVCs were carried over from the 2014-2016 registration exercises, while 3, 410, 677 are from the last Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise held between April 2017 and August 2018.”
Bringing message of hope to the foreign observers and the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, the INEC chairman announced that while visa extension and waivers on visa fees had been granted to the international observers, better sleeping arrangements had been provided to the corps members serving as ad hoc staff.
“We once again profoundly appreciate the continuous understanding and words of encouragement from all stakeholders. In particular, some of our international observers are on short-term single entry visa. Some may also wish to leave the country after the elections this Saturday and return to observe the governorship, state houses Assembly and FCT Area Council elections now rescheduled for Saturday March 9, 2019. In order to make the processes easier, the Nigeria Immigration Service, working with the Commission, is granting extension of visa to all international observers who require such facility.
“Similarly, the Immigration Service is also granting re-entry visa to all observers who may wish to travel out of the country and return for the second part of the general election. In this regard, the Service has also requested me to convey its decision to waive the visa fee and treat all such requests expeditiously. The extension of stay or re-entry into the country will be treated gratis.
“A special desk to handle those who wish to extend their stay as well as those travelling and coming back to Nigeria before March 9, 2019 has been set up at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Two immigration officers have been assigned to carry out the ad hoc assignment…
“On the welfare of Youth Corps members serving as Presiding Officers at Polling Units, the Commission is unhappy with images of some of them sleeping rough at the RAC centres. We have been in discussion with the Director General of the NYSC on how this situation can be ameliorated. We have made an arrangement with the NYSC to move the mattresses used in their orientation camps nationwide, except Borno State where Youth Corps members are not deployed, for the ease of their hardship. As usual, the Commission will provide electricity generators and supply water and toiletries in the RACs. We have also liaised with the security agencies for adequate protection.”
On the distribution of electoral materials, Yakubu said: “On Tuesday, I reported that a number of states had commenced deployment to the Local Government Areas (LGAs). I also assured the nation that going by our revised timetable and schedule of activities, these deployments would be concluded today (yesterday). We are fully on course.
“There is no state that has not commenced the deployment to LGAs. In fact, 19 states have fully deployed. By the end of the day, all states and FCT would have deployed except Bayelsa State, which is moving direct from our State Office in Yenagoa to the RACs tomorrow (today).
“Today (yesterday), activities at Ward level will commence with the activation of the Registration Area Centres (RACs) at 9am while the movement of personnel and materials will commence at mid-day. This is the last stage post before deployment to 119, 973 polling units leading to the opening of polls at 8am on Saturday.”
He equally reiterated the position of the commission not to accept any candidate from Zamfara and Rivers states under the platform of the AllProgressives Congress (APC).
“The position of the commission remains the position we announced before now. That is that the parties in question, by court order and by understanding and interpretation of the judgment of two courts of coordinate jurisdiction delivered same day in the case of Zamfara.”
Clearing the air on the use of mobile phones at polling stations across the country, Yakubu said: “Recall that when the commission introduced partial ban on the use of mobile phones we said that it was not a blanket ban. It was introduced essentially to address the use of smart phones for the facilitation of vote buying beginning with the Osun governorship elections and we said that we are going to extend same to the general elections from September last year.
“Yes, citizens are free to carry their phones and free also to use them within the vicinity of the polling unit, after all said, the result of each polling unit will be recorded on form EC60E and pasted at the polling units. Citizens free to use their phones to take the pictures of the results, which will further give assurance of the transparency of the process from voting at the polling units to the declaration of the result.”