By Joy Odor
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has ensued that the 14 political parties contesting for various positions in the forthcoming FCT Area Council Elections on the 12th of this month signed a Peace Accord.
The Peace Accord which took place during the Enlarged Stakeholders’ Forum for the 2022 FCT Area Council elections aimed to ensure peaceful, credible and hitch-free polls by the political parties.
In his welcome address, tlhe INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu disclosed that the Commission have accredited 45 media organisations, deploying 340 journalists to cover the election.
According to him, INEC also accredited 58 observer groups (53 domestic and 5 foreign) and are deploying a total of 2,242 field observers.
He promised to work with the security agencies to ensure that observers and the media are granted unimpeded access to voting and collation locations and called upon the media and observers to operate within the context of the code of conduct for election observation and media coverage.
“I would like to assure all stakeholders that the Commission will protect the transparency and integrity of the process. In line with this commitment, we have accredited 58 observer groups (53 domestic and 5 foreign) that are deploying a total of 2,242 field observers. We have similarly accredited 45 media organisations deploying 340 journalists to cover the election. We will work with the security agencies to ensure that observers and the media are granted unimpeded access to voting and collation locations. I call upon the media and observers to operate within the context of the code of conduct for election observation and media coverage.
“The Commission is also deploying six Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to support the REC for the FCT and three National Commissioners to supervise the conduct of the election. Our eyes are on all our officials, be they ad hoc or regular staff, to ensure that they strictly abide by the rules. All parties, candidates and their supporters should do the same. No one will benefit from the disruption of the process or other acts of bad behaviour. Let the voters in the FCT choose their leaders in a free, fair and peaceful contest.
“I would like to reiterate that voter inducement in all forms, including vote-buying at polling units, is a violation of the law. The ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices in the voting cubicles is still in force.
“So far, there are no adverse reports of clashes between supporters of different parties and not many incidents of hate or inciting speeches during the electioneering campaign. I commend the stakeholders for their advocacy for peaceful elections.
”473 candidates, comprising 110 (chairman and vice chairman) and 363 flag bearers sponsored by 14 political parties are contesting for the six chairmanship and 62 councillors positions in the FCT” he said.
“Sensitive materials for the election will be delivered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the Commission’s FCT Office in Garki, Abuja on Thursday, adding that party agents, observers and the media will be invited to inspect the materials before they will be moved to the Area Councils on the same day.
“With only four days to the election, most of the major activities have been carried out. We shall deploy assistive devices such as Braille ballot guides and magnifying glasses for the physically challenged voters. We had several meetings with the security agencies in the area councils, the FCT and the national level on how to address potential threats to the election and secure the election”he added.
The INEC Chairman appealed to political parties and candidates to continue to show maturity and decorum in the last few days of campaign and on election day and beyond.
In his Goodwill message, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Alhaji Usman Alkali-Baba, said the Force will deploy tactical units drawn from the Mobile Police Force, Special Forces, Counter-terrorism and Senior Officers from the Force Headquarters to provide security and monitor the election.
Represented by DSP Basil Idegwu, Alhaji Alkali-Baba said the Police will engage in convoy patrol with other security agencies to ensure the protection of INEC infrastructure in all the area councils, adding that stop and search operations will be conducted at strategic locations and vulnerable points, as well as raids on suspected criminal hideouts.
According eto him, there would be deployment of additional conventional personnel from contagious states of Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa and Kaduna as well as deployment of additional logistics to support the FCT Command.
Commenting, the FCT Minister, Alhaji Muhamad Bello affirmed that the FCT will support INEC and other stakeholders to ensure free, fair and inclusive elections for democracy to grow.
“It is our duty irrespective of party affiliation to work very hard to ensure that every registered voter is allowed to vote fairly and equitably. FCT will continue to support INEC for this election and other subsequent elections, so that one day we can beat our chests to say we participated in entrenching democracy in Nigeria”, he stated.