Buhari meets with security officials as INEC distributes election materials.
The delivery of sensitive materials in states like Lagos, Benue, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun by the Independent National Electoral Commission began on Wednesday in preparation for the presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday.
Also, as part of the election preparations, President Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) met with security leaders on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja and stated that INEC had no justification for failing to conduct credible elections.
The electoral commission stepped up preparations by distributing sensitive materials to local government districts in no less than nine states.
Before distributing the materials to local government areas, the Resident National Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Ayobami Salami, met with security agencies in Ado-Ekiti, the capital of the Ekiti State, at 10 a.m.
Salami stated that the early distribution of the materials “is an indicator that INEC has put everything in place and we are not leaving everything until the last minute” at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Ado Ekiti branch, where the distribution took place.
“We must reassure Nigerians that we are fully prepared for the elections, that the necessary materials are ready on time, that they are being distributed on time, that they will reach their destinations on time, and that the elections will go as scheduled.
“As you can see, all of our electoral officers from every local government are present here with their cars to deliver the supplies to the various local government regions, as I can guarantee you. That is a sign that the logistics have been worked out. We have the resources necessary to carry out this election, as well as the fuel for the cars that will be employed, he stated.
The exercise also started in Ondo State, where our correspondent saw on Wednesday that critical materials were transported with heavily armed security personnel from the CBN branch in Akure to the administrative centers of each of the state’s 18 local government areas.
The Acting Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Oyekola Oyelami, commented on the development and said that everything went smoothly while due preparations were taken to ensure that the materials reached the council areas.
At the CBN headquarters in Marina, Lagos, the exercise was conducted with a strong security agency presence.
At the CBN office in Marina, the Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, informed the media that all the materials will be transferred to the LGAs on Wednesday, with the final distributions taking place on election day by the electoral officers from each council.
Sam Egwu, the resident electoral commissioner for Benue State, received sensitive supplies from the CBN office in Makurdi.
The items would be sent to the local government areas on Thursday, according to Terkaa Andyar, the commission’s spokeswoman in Benue State.
“Because it is now late, the commission determined that we should dispatch the items to local governments that are nearby, while those that are farther away would receive their materials tomorrow (today),” he said.
On Wednesday, INEC started distributing election supplies and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to the 18 LGAS in the state of Cross Rivers.
At the INEC state headquarters in Calabar on Wednesday, our reporter saw the equipment being loaded into trucks.
Political party representatives and security personnel were present for the deployment.
Prof. Gabriel Yomere, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, declared before the materials were delivered that “no large man would be allowed to walk out on voting day with his orderly.”
Also, the delivery of election materials to Nasarawa State’s 13 council areas has begun.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Uthman Ajidagba, told journalists on Wednesday that the commission was prepared to hold a free, fair, and credible election after reviewing the papers at the CBN, Lafia branch.
He revealed that the 3,245 voting places around the state would receive the ballots, result sheets, and BVAS devices.
According to our correspondent, the distribution of the documents was observed by security personnel, representatives from several political parties, and candidates.
Office in Sokoto
The 3,999 BVAS machines and other sensitive items were sent to the INEC office in Sokoto State for distribution to all local government offices in the state.
Dr. Nura Ali, the resident electoral commissioner for the state, told reporters on Wednesday at the CBN office in the state that all of the sensitive materials were in the commission’s control.
He said that the commission was completely prepared for the conduct of the general election and that it had issued non-insensitive materials to the 23 LGAs around the state.
“We have been engaging with all the security services in the state on a daily basis, and they have all assured us of the highest level of protection throughout the election season,” he said.
I want to take this chance to reassure the people of Sokoto State that INEC is prepared to hold credible, free, and open elections there.
Mr. Niyi Ijalaye, the resident electoral commissioner for Ogun State, met with the heads of the state’s security agencies on Wednesday in Abeokuta as part of preparations for the elections. The meeting was presided over by Frank Mba, the state’s commissioner of police.
He cautioned that voters would not be permitted to use their phones to make calls or take images while casting their ballots and that their use was still prohibited at polling places.
Ijalaye issued the warning to journalists in Abeokuta shortly after the meeting.
Prior to the election, security was stepped up around the INEC state secretariat in Katsina.
Sheu Sa’idu, INEC’s head of voter education and publicity, stated that the materials would be distributed to all 34 LGAs on Thursday (today).
In a same vein, Ahmed Ammani, the commissioner of police for Enugu State, has directed the full deployment of all policing tools to guarantee the peaceful conduct of the state’s presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday.
Ammani, the police chief who delivered the order on Wednesday, warned that mistakes of any kind would not be tolerated at a last-minute security review and strategy conference with his management team and the leaders of the tactical and operational teams at the police headquarters.
The meeting was to put the finishing touches on the plans being developed for maintaining peace and order during the election period, according to a statement by Daniel Ndukwe, the spokesperson for the Enugu State Command.
The distribution in Osun State was watched by representatives from the parties, security personnel, journalists, and INEC officials. It took place on the grounds of the CBN’s Osogbo branch.
However, there was drama before the distribution began when Department of State Service agents stationed at the bank’s entry forbade journalists and other observers from approaching the area where the distribution was to take place.
The security guards asserted that they had received orders not to permit anyone in from the CBN Osogbo branch management.
But, Dr. Mutiu Agboke, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, asked that journalists and party representatives be permitted entry.
Agboke said the commission was prepared for the elections after allowing journalists access to the location to see the distribution.
The President asserted that they had no justification for failing to ensure the success of the elections during the meeting with the heads of security and Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of INEC.
The INEC chairman, according to The PUNCH, called the unexpected meeting and emphasized that it was all part of preparations to hold free, fair, and credible elections.
When asked why he was late to the commissioning and delivery of security equipment valued at over N12 billion to the military and Nigeria Police Force by the Coalition Against Covid-19, Buhari had earlier said that he had to wait for a bit to meet with Yakubu.
The President explained to the CACOVID-19 group that the reason for his five-minute delay was because he was still speaking with the INEC Chairman.
He did, however, remind the group that the goal of the discussion was a smooth electoral process.
I’ve been grounded by INEC, Buhari stated. We have a beautiful day coming up next Saturday, and I follow INEC’s instructions to ensure that there are no excuses for a good election process, he said.
In a related development, the security council said that “there is no going back” with regard to the dates of the elections on February 25 and March 11 and expressed satisfaction with the level of security experienced nationwide.
At the council’s inaugural meeting for 2023, which was held on Wednesday at the Aso Rock Mansion in Abuja and was presided over by the President, Malami revealed this to State House Correspondents.
It was believed that the proclamation was made to alleviate rumbling fears that the Federal Government could cancel the elections due to the recent currency crisis.
The Presidency has repeatedly disputed the idea that the Federal Government was intending to move the election dates as a result of the crisis brought on by the shortage of naira notes and fuel.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the AGF asserted that the Federal Government has made sufficient preparations for the election on Saturday.
The members, he claimed, expressed satisfaction with the state of security at the moment and agreed that the polls must go as scheduled.
Malami claims that the Chief of Defence Staff, the heads of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the leaders of other security agencies, informed the council members on their readiness to provide the required security protection for the election.
The AGF added that the meeting of the security council was a follow-up to earlier gatherings of the Federal Executive Council and the Council of State to determine if INEC and the police were prepared for the elections.
He said, “Briefings were given by security agencies generally and service heads at the National Security Council meeting. The National Security Adviser, the Chief of Defense Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Inspector-General of Police, who is incidentally also addressing you, the Director-General of State Security Service, and in fact DG NIA and CDI all made submissions.
“The summary and conclusion of all submissions were to the effect that the system is fully prepared for the conduct of the election and, arising therefrom, the position of the government and the President is to the effect that the election is holding on February 25, 2023, and Mr. President and the National Security Council are satisfied with the preparations on the ground and wholehearted arrangements are put in place in that direction.”
Malami continued by saying that the scheduled elections cannot be changed.
As a result of the security council meetings’ results, “we have been mandated to immediately brief you accordingly,” Malami added. Yet, the decision of the council’s meeting concluded that the elections were taking place and that there was no turning back.
Usman Baba, the Inspector General of Police, who also briefed journalists, said that the President had ordered all security organizations to ensure that Nigerians and INEC officials could participate in the election in a secure environment.
When it comes to precise directions, sure, we do have them. The precise directive is that we must make sure that Nigerians are able to exercise their right to vote or to cast their ballots for the leaders of their choice, and in order to do so, we must establish an environment or climate that encourages them to do so.
“We must also give INEC personnel and their materials protection so they can execute their jobs. Whatever the backup plan, we need to make sure that no one will take the law into their own hands before, during, or after the election. If they do, we need to be able to check on them as soon as possible to make sure that the situation does not worsen.
Responding to a query on a claim that governors had incited violence because of the new currency crisis, Baba replied that the force could only issue warnings and not bring charges.
“Anyone does anything that can be investigated is under investigation. But, certain people are immune from prosecution, so he could still face charges. I believe those are some of the causes, but we will continue to caution, warn, and advise them, as we are doing now, Baba stated.
He clarified that the military’s presence in the streets of Lagos and Abeokuta following the disturbances caused by the naira shortage in Ogun State was part of a coordinated effort to restore internal security order ahead of the election.