With less than 48 hours to the Presidential and National Assembly elections, the total number of Permanent Voter Cards collected by Nigerians for this year’s elections, presently stands at 72,775,502, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has said.
The breakdown of the figure which was released on Thursday, represented 86.63 per cent of the total PVCs collected.
The commission which had about 84,004,084 registered voters, also said a total of 11,228,582 PVCs representing 13.37 per cent were uncollected.
Yakubu, who stated this in Abuja during the fourth daily press briefing on the preparations for the polls, also ruled out the possibility of resigning his appointment as the INEC chairman.
He said, “The last day for the collection of PVCs was Monday, February 11, 2019, out of the 84,004,084 registered voters, the total number of registered voters stands at 72,775,502, which represents 86 .83 per cent of the PVCs.’’
Yakubu, however, said that a total of 11,228,582 printed PVCs or 13.7 per cent were uncollected.
“Out of this figure 7,817,905 PVCs were carried over from the 2014 to 2016 registration exercise, while 3,410,677 are from the last CVR held between April 2017 and August 2018.
“All uncollected cards have been deposited with the CBN for custody.’’
In 2015, before the commission held the presidential election, 68,833,476 Nigerians were registered, out of which, 56,431,225 collected PVCs.
The figure represented 81.9 per cent of the registered voters.
However, the figure released by the commission in Abuja on Thursday indicated that more Nigerians would take part in the elections this year.
For example, the figure indicated that 84,004,084 Nigerians were registered for election while 72,775,502 of this number picked their PVCs this year.
This figure also showed an increase of 16,344,272.
The increase cuts across all the 36 states of the federation, and the Federal Capital Territory.
However, the 2019 figure indicated that Lagos has overtaken Kano with the highest number of registered voters with PVCs.
In 2015, while Kano came first with 4,112,039 while Lagos came second with 3,799,274. The reverse is the case with the figure released on Thursday.
The 2019 figure shows that Lagos State now has 5,531,389 voters with their PVCs while Kano State is trailing behind with 4,696,747 as number of registered voters with their PVCs.
The INEC chairman also assured Nigerians that he would conduct the 2019 general elections, saying he would not heed the call of those calling for his resignation.
He said, “Well, I see no reason to even contemplate resigning. There is no reason whatsoever to even contemplate resigning. We’ll stay focused as a commission, we’ll do the job that is there for us to do for our country.
“Well, the last time I checked and that is the situation as we speak, I am the chairman of INEC, Nigeria and constitutionally, the Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Federal Republic and the Returning Officer for the Presidential election. So my status hasn’t changed and I am proceeding on the basis of those powers I draw from the constitution for the position I am privileged to serve for the 2019 general elections.
INEC seals APC fate in Zamfara, Rivers
Speaking on the position of the commission on whether the APC candidates in Zamfara and Rivers states would participate in other elections apart from the presidential poll, the INEC chairman said the party had no candidate in the two states in the remaining elections.
Yakubu said, “The position of the commission on Zamfara and Rivers still remains the position before now that the parties in question by court order and by our understanding and interpretation of judgements of two courts of coordinate jurisdiction delivered in the case of Zamfara cannot field candidates in the 2019 general elections for the National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“That does not include the presidential election and the position of the commission has not changed. Once the court of law makes pronouncement all persons and authorities in the Federal Republic of Nigeria are duty bound to obey. I think the judgement is from the Supreme Court. That is the end to litigation,” the INEC chairman said.
On the deployment of election materials, Yakubu disclosed that 19 states had fully deployed election materials including the non-sensitive materials to the local government areas, except for Bayelsa State where materials would be deployed directly from the state INEC office.
“There is no state that has not commenced deployment to local government areas. In fact, 19 states have fully deployed. By the end of the day, all states and the FCT would have deployed, expect Bayelsa State which is moving direct from our state office in Yenagoa to Registration Area Centres (RACs) tomorrow (today).
“Tomorrow activities at the ward level will commence with the activation of the RACs at 9 am, while the movement of personnel and materials will commence at the midday.
“This is the last scheduled course to the last deployment to 119, 973 polling units leading to the opening of polls at 8am in the morning of Saturday,” the chief electoral officer said.
On the welfare of the members of the National Youth Service Corps participating in the election, Yakubu said that the commission was not happy about images on social media where NYSC members were seen sleeping on the floor.
He said the commission would provide water, electricity and other facilities needed as well as security for the NYSC members.
He also said that the commission was working with the Nigeria Immigration Service to extend the date for international observers who were on short term entry visa, as well as ease their re-entry if they wanted to go and return to observe state elections scheduled for March 9.
“In order to make the process easier, the NIS is working with the commission to grant visa extension to all international observers that required such facility.
“Similarly, the Immigration Service is also granting re-entry visa to all who may wish to travel out of the country and return for the second part of the election.
“In this regard, the service has requested me to convene the decision to wave the visa fees and all grants of such request expeditiously.
“The extension of stay or re-entry into the country will be granted gratis.’’
Yakubu said all the affected international observers could approach the INEC headquarters to get their visa renewed or extended gratis.
US embassy closes Abuja, Lagos offices today for polls
Meanwhile, the US Embassy says its Abuja office and Consulate General in Lagos will be closed on Friday (today) in recognition of the work-free day declared by the Federal Government.
The embassy said this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.
The Federal Government has declared Friday (today) as a work-free day to enable Nigerians to prepare for the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly Elections tomorrow.
“In recognition of this declaration and to encourage all our Nigerian employees to exercise their right to vote, the US Embassy in Abuja and the US Consulate General in Lagos will be closed.
“No consular services will be available. If you already have a regular visa or ACS appointment for that date, you will be contacted for rescheduling,” the embassy stated.
Buhari’s anti-ballot snatching comment not licence to kill – NLC
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress has said President Muhammadu Buhari’s comment that security agents should deal ruthlessly with ballot snatchers or arsonists in the elections is not a licence to kill.
The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, stated this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.
According to Wabba, the President’s comment to deal ruthlessly with ballot snatchers or arsonists is not a licence to kill but is intended to deter troublemakers.
“We insist on strong institutions for the sustenance of our democracy,” he said.
Wabba, however, called on Nigerians to avoid violence during the Presidential and National Assembly elections across the country on Saturday.
He said that as Nigerians went to the polls, they must exhibit the finest traditions, highest values, utmost sense of responsibility and unflagging patriotism in them.
“The moment of truth has come, and we must of necessity perform our civic duty in fulfilment of our beliefs or in betrayal of them.
“Our conduct will reveal our true identity, betray our intentions and test our claim to nationhood.
“We, therefore, challenge you the candidates, politicians, supporters, security personnel and INEC to be of utmost good behaviour and ethical standard.
“You are also to conduct yourselves with civility, humility, truth and abide by the rule of law,” Wabba said.
Wabba urged INEC to be fair, impartial and just, to all parties or contestants, saying that the onus rested on it to conduct free, fair and credible elections and earn the confidence of the electorate.
He called on the electorate to vote according to their consciences and beliefs and not according to primordial or sectarian sentiments or emergency seductions.
Sagay lists conditions for killing of ballot box snatchers
But the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Council Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), has listed instances in which a law enforcement officer is allowed to gun down a ballot box snatcher.
Sagay made this known in a statement on Thursday.
He said, “The controversy arising from the President’s warning that anyone snatching ballot boxes or violently disrupting the coming elections may be doing so at the risk of his life is uncalled for. It is a very timely and benevolent advice.
“In the first place, anyone not planning to snatch ballot boxes or disrupt the election process has nothing to worry about. If it is assumed that those expressing anger and dismay in the media are not planning to commit any of these offences, then why take Panadol for someone else’s headache?”
Sagay noted that the Electoral Act prescribed a prison term of two years for stealing of election materials.
He, however, said if the ballot box snatcher was armed, then the rules of engagement had to be adjusted.
The PACAC chair said, “Of course, regardless of whatever section or scenario it is, if the ballot snatchers or election disrupters are armed, they are goners. The security men have a complete right of self-defence. So the President’s admonition is not far from the reality of our law.”
Sagay said many of Buhari’s critics that declared the President’s statement as illegal did not do the necessary research.
He added, “It is true that under Section 118 paragraphs (f)(i)(j) of the Electoral Act 2010, destroying or removing ballot papers is liable on conviction to two years imprisonment only. This by implication applies to anyone who disrupts the voting process in any way.
“But the matter cannot end there. What if the culprit starts running away with the ballot box and other voting materials? The security agencies and even the ordinary citizens are entitled by law to chase after him with the intention of apprehending him and recovering the materials.
“Now the critical factor is what level of force can be applied to stop him. Section 261 of the Criminal Code provides: It is lawful for a person who is engaged in the lawful execution of any sentence, process or warrant, or is making any arrest, and for any person lawfully assisting him, to use such force as may be reasonably necessary to overcome any force used in resisting such execution or arrest.
“Thus, such a person can intentionally be shot dead, only if the penalty for his offence is seven years and above. The security or the arresting official is allowed to use such force as may be reasonably necessary in securing the arrest. If the ballot box snatcher has fleeter foot (i.e., faster) than the security men, reasonable force to stop and arrest him, could include shooting his legs to stop him.”
Youths, pupils sign pact against electoral violence
Meanwhile, a group of youths and schoolchildren representing the six geopolitical zones on Thursday signed a peace accord ahead of the elections.
The schoolchildren and youths said the peace accord was a declaration that they would resist any attempt to use them for thuggery during the elections.
The exercise was organised by the Guard Nigeria Image and Values Initiative, in conjunction with the Nigeria Youth in Diaspora Engagement Forum, New York and was attended by political and youth leaders.
They warned that any politician, who contravened the terms of agreement and engaged children and youth in carrying out election violence, would be called out and shamed.
According to them, they were no longer available to be used as tools by politicians.”