REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROF. MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT A SPECIAL CONSULTATIVE MEETING WITH POLITICAL PARTIES HELD AT THE INEC CONFERENCE ROOM, ABUJA, ON FRIDAY 29TH OCTOBER 2021
1: It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this consultative meeting. Only three weeks ago on 8th October 2021, we held an emergency meeting to brief you on our preparations for the Anambra State Governorship election. Once again, the Commission considers it appropriate to meet with political parties at the national level for a final briefing ahead of a wider stakeholders’ meeting next week in Awka. At that meeting, the Commission will interact with all stakeholders, including leaders of political parties at the State level, the candidates for the election, civil society organisations, the media, security agencies, traditional rulers as well as religious and community leaders.
2: Let me reassure you that the Commission is ready for the Anambra State Governorship election next weekend. We have moved all non-sensitive materials for the election to the 21 Local Government Areas of the State. As usual, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is handling the delivery of sensitive materials to the State on schedule. Our State office in Awka is arranging for stakeholders to inspect the materials at the premises of the CBN in Awka. As is the case in all elections, the sensitive materials are moved under security escort to each Local Government Area from where they are distributed to the Registration Areas or Wards and finally to Polling Units on Election Day. I urge you to inform your Party Agents to be present for inspection of the materials at the CBN and to follow the movement of the materials to various locations should you chose to do so.
3: Three weeks ago, the Commission published the register of voters for the Anambra Governorship election on 7th October 2021 i.e. 30 days to the election as required by law. Each of the 18 political parties was given a soft copy of the register. In addition to meeting the requirement of the law, the presentation of the register is significant for another reason. The Anambra Governorship election will be the first that voting is taking place in polling units since the recent successful conversion of voting points arising from the expansion of voter access to polling units in Nigeria. An additional 1,112 polling units were established in Anambra State in addition to the existing 4,608 locations. This brings the total number of polling units in the State to 5,720. Voters were encouraged to seize the opportunity of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise to transfer to the new polling units most convenient for them. Many did not do so. This can be partly attributed to the security situation in the State which has affected the Commission’s pre-election outdoor activities, including voter education and sensitisation. Understandably, the voters have also been more circumspect in asking for transfer to polling units.
4: At the same time, the Commission did not use its powers under Section 42 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to allot voters to the new polling units in order to minimise the disruptions that may occur from such a decision in view of the forthcoming Governorship election. Consequently, out of the 5,720 polling units in Anambra State, 86 (1.5%) have no voters. For that reason, the Commission will not be deploying personnel and materials to these polling units. Furthermore, 894 (15.6%) of the polling units have between 1 and 49 voters. Election will hold in these polling units. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that all Polling Units have voters allotted to them ahead of the 2023 General Election.
5: Meanwhile, in our avowed commitment to transparency, the Commission has compiled a comprehensive list of all the Polling Units without voters as well as those having under 50 registered voters. Copies of the list will be made available to all political parties at this meeting. The same document will also be uploaded to our website and social media platforms for public information.
6: As required by law, we requested political parties to upload the names and other personal details of their Polling Agents to a dedicated portal at least two weeks to the election. These agents are your representatives at the polling units and the various collations centres. The deadline was 21st October 2021. While 17 out 18 political parties nominated their Polling Agents for all or a substantial number of the Polling Units and collation centres, one party failed to nominate a single agent for any Polling Unit or collation centre although it has a Governorship candidate and a running mate participating in the election.
7: With just a few days to the Anambra election, it is our hope that any lingering grey areas will be discussed and addressed at this meeting. We will also brief you about the assurances we received from the security agencies and the outcome of our interactive meeting with the Joint Committee of the National Assembly this week.
8: The Commission appreciates the presence of Chairmen and leaders of political parties for honouring our invitation to this meeting despite the very short notice and in the middle of your preparations for the Anambra State Governorship election and other party activities.