The Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday raised the alarm that some politicians in Oyo State were mounting pressure on the commission to sell unclaimed 914,529 permanent voter cards in its custody to them.
The commission said it was not giving in to such pressure aimed at rigging the forthcoming polls because “INEC is determined to ensure that people’s votes count in the free, fair and credible elections in 2019.”
Speaking on the theme, “Online journalism and Media integrity in Nigeria,” Agboke declared that some politicians, whose identities he did not disclose, approached the commission to buy PVCs to rig the elections.
He stated, “As far as we are concerned, PVCs are not for sale.”
The REC assured residents of the state of smooth elections devoid of crisis in 2019, stressing that no worker of the commission would sell PVCs to any politician ahead of the 2019 elections.
Agboke said, “They are looking for PVCs to buy. They are looking for what is not available because they know that these things are not available. This is the security report at my disposal.
“Tell those who are looking for PVCs to buy that there is none to buy in Oyo State. I can assure you that no INEC employee will sell PVCs to any politician. I can assure you that the process will be free and fair in Oyo State.
“Those who are looking for PVCs to buy, I won’t give you their names. I don’t have their names.
“But that is the security report I got and the report did not specify the party and the individuals that are involved. They want us to give them PVCs but we can’t give it to them. They want to buy PVCs but there is none to sell in Oyo State.”
Agboke urged journalists in the state to cooperate with the commission in spreading accurate information to members of the public.
He said, “All of us are stakeholders. If you are in doubt, call INEC. More so, you are online journalists, let us ensure that we have our facts correct. For me in Oyo State, I have nothing to hide. We conducted the election in Eruwa and the people that won, won.”
He urged journalists to abide by the ethics of the profession at all times.
The South-West Bureau Chief of The Nation and an Associate Editor of the Nigerian Tribune newspapers, Mr Bisi Oladele, and Mr Wale Ojo-Lanre respectively, urged journalists to always abide by the rules and regulations guiding the profession in their day-to-day reportage.
They said online journalism had come to stay in Nigeria and admonished journalists to distinguish themselves from ordinary writers considering the fact that “almost everybody is a journalist with the advent of internet and smart phones.”
They agreed that one of the ways for the journalists “ to differentiate themselves from ordinary writers was for them to cross-check their facts, investigate their stories and be conscious of the existing laws of the land.”
INEC says 2019 polls won’t be delayed, meets ASUU Jan 4
INEC also on Thursday ruled out the postponement of the 2019 general elections because of the dispute between the Federal Government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The commission, however, said it had scheduled a consultative meeting involving its Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, its national commissioners and ASUU leadership on January 4.
In an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the meeting would focus on the role and involvement of ASUU members in the 2019 general elections.
While expressing optimism that the strike would be called off before the elections, Okoye said INEC would explore other alternatives, including the use of vice-chancellors, professors and lecturers to serve as returning officers and collation officers, “depending on the outcome of the commission’s interaction with their leadership.”
“The same thing applies to the leadership of the other unions in the different federal tertiary institutions that are on strike or are threatening to go on strike,” Okoye added.
Other alternatives, he said, included exploring the possibility of using federal employees and students of state tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfall.
Okoye said, “The chairman and national commissioners of INEC will on January 4, 2019 hold a consultative meeting with the leadership of ASUU. The meeting will focus principally on the issue of the role and involvement of their members in the 2019 general elections.
“The meeting will also explore the possibility of ensuring that the students would be on campus during the elections. The commission is confident that there will be a breakthrough during the meeting. The commission is not involved in the negotiation between ASUU and the Federal Government and may not stray into that area.
“The involvement of the commission is limited to harvesting the rich academic resources in the various federal tertiary institutions for the 2019 elections. The commission has relied on and will continue to rely on staff and students of federal tertiary institutions for its ad hoc staff requirements.
“Elections and conduct require some level of intellectual acumen. It is not an all-comers affair. The lecturers and students are clustered in an institution and they can be reached in cases of electoral malfeasance and election petitions. They have a better understanding of the electoral process.
“Some of the vice-chancellors and lecturers have experience as some of them have acted as returning officers and collation officers before. Some of the students of federal tertiary institutions in Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Edo and other places where the commission conducted off-season elections already have a store of knowledge and experience and only need refresher courses on new and creative innovations introduced by the commission.
“Furthermore, the corps members are fresh from institutions of higher learning and are serving in communities, local governments and states other than their own. They are not involved in the ‘local or domestic issues’ of the various states and may not be easily swayed or influenced. Most of them have been patriotic and some paid the ultimate price in serving their nation.”
To use VCs, professors as returning, collation officers
When asked what INEC would do if ASUU failed to call off its strike, he said, “The commission is confident that there will be a breakthrough or middle ground that will enable the students and the lecturers to contribute their quota during the 2019 elections. However, the vice-chancellors, professors and the lecturers can still serve as returning officers and collation officers during the pendency of the strike, depending on the outcome of the commission’s interaction with their leadership. The same thing applies to the leadership of the other unions in the different federal tertiary institutions that are on strike or are threatening to go on strike.”
Strikes won’t force us to delay elections– Electoral body
Okoye also explained that the commission would not postpone the 2019 general elections.
He said, “INEC will conduct the 2019 elections on the dates already communicated to the Nigerian people. The strike by the different unions will not lead to the postponement of elections. The commission will prefer to use the lecturers and students in federal tertiary institutions for the conduct of elections but if that fails, the commission will explore alternatives.”
We may mobilise ex-corperswith election experience – Okoye
Okoye said, “The commission has been updating the database of former corps members. Some of the corps members served as presiding officers in previous elections. Some of them are still unemployed and will readily be mobilised. The commission may also use its online platform to mobilise the students wherever they are and train them in the states where they are.
“The commission may also explore the possibility of using federal employees and students of state tertiary institutions to make up for any shortfall. The commission is however confident that the issues that led to the strike will soon be resolved or partially resolved. We still appeal to the Federal Government and the unions to negotiate in good faith in the overall interest of the nation.”