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NEWS :Kogi, Bayelsa Polls-INEC deepens collaboration with EFCC, ICPC on vote buying

Independent National Electoral Commission The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged to deepen its collaboration with the Nigeria police and anti-graft agencies to tackle vote-buying in the forthcoming Nov.16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa. Also read: Our democracy now for highest bidder — Senator Adokwe INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this at the commission’s consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja on Tuesday. Yakubu, however, appealed to political parties to speak to their candidates and supporters to shun hate speech, inciting statements, physical attacks, destruction of electoral materials and other violations of Electoral Act. He also advised politicians to eschew voter harassment, intimidation, vote-buying at polling, adding that such actions constitute a violation of Electoral Act. The INEC boss stressed that prohibition of the use of the mobile phone by voters in the voting in cubicle remained in force. He said:“We are going to deepen our collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in this respect. “They will keep eyes on the movement of cash during electioneering campaign and on election day. “On this note, I am very happy to report that during the 2019 general elections, alleged voter buyers were arrested across the country by EFCC, while some have been charged to courts. “The latest update I received indicates that the EFCC has secured the first conviction of vote buyers in Gombe State. This is a welcome development. “Similarly, about two weeks ago, the commission received some case files from the Nigerian Police on alleged offenders, generally during the 2019 general elections. “We are studying the case files for further necessary action,’’ Yakubu said that the commission had repeatedly warned its entire members of staff to remain neutral and professional. Staff detailed for election duty would be made to swear an oath of neutrality as required by law. The INEC boss said that the training of Adhoc staff was ongoing in the two states, assuring that election materials would be deployed promptly to all polling units. He also said that all non-sensitive materials for the four elections were had been delivered to the states concerned. Yakubu said that 12 out of 16 activities scheduled for the conduct of Kogi and Bayelsa elections had been concluded. He reminded political parties to submit a list of their poll agents, latest by Nov. 2 for proper accreditation to avoid harassment on the election day. Yakubu disclosed that the commission would be organising events for the signing of peace pact by political parties and their candidates on Nov. 7 in Bayelsa and Nov. 11 in Kogi. He urged political parties participating in the elections to ensure that their candidates were present at the event. “Our objective is to speak early and loudly enough to all stakeholders on the necessity for peaceful conduct during the campaign, election day activities to collation and declaration of results and thereafter.’’ Yakubu, however, disclosed that the commission would be saving Nigeria over N290 million for conducting both Kogi West Senatorial District election and the Kogi governorship election on the same day. He said that the commission also would spend less than N10 million naira for the conduct of the two elections on the same day, instead of N300 million, if conducted on separate days. The Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), High Chief Peter Ameh, stressed the need for all stakeholders to develop laws that would further tighten and restrict the manipulation of the electoral system. Ameh, who commended INEC for improving the electoral process, said that over the years, IPAC had been working for a sustainable and credible electoral environment. “This we have been doing for so many years, speaking out against electoral violence, ballot box snatching and voter intimidation, including vote-buying.” Ameh, however, advised INEC not to be conscious with the move by the National Assembly that political parties should be de-registered. “INEC knows what the best is, INEC registered these parties, INEC will look at the laws and work with the laws. “ If the Senate continues to make this  pronouncement on a daily basis, it will seem as if they have authority over the mandate that the Constitution gives to the commission.’’

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