The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police have pledged determination to ensure fair and credible general elections in the South East and the country at large.
The stakeholders assured residents of Zone that the general elections would hold notwithstanding the few security challenges.
They are optimistic that far reaching security strategies had been put in place by the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to ensure violent-free, peaceful and most credible elections in the zone.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commission (REC) in Enugu State, Dr Chukwuemeka Chukwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu that the election would “definitely hold” as re-echoed by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, in London.
Chukwu said that the ICCES had come out with a security plan, which would not be made public, to ensure robust security in the state going forward.
He also noted that there would be water tight security before, during and after the elections in the state.
“Election will surely be held in Enugu State. People of Enugu should relax as we are working out elections that will be more transparent, credible and violence-free than any other ever held in the history of the state.
“It is going to be held here and in other parts of Nigeria; We are putting all hands on deck to ensure it holds.
“People should not entertain fear even as we know that for some time now, the security situation has been calming down in the state,” he said.
In the same vein, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Ahmed Ammani, also assured residents that the election would hold.
Ammani said that the police in collaboration with sister security agencies would deal with a few pockets of violence or activities of few dissidents in the state.
The commissioner, who is the co-Chairman of ICCES in Enugu State, said that the security agencies and formations in the state had drawn up strategies to ensure continuous peace and safety of all in the state.
“For the few acts of criminality perpetrated by few dissidents, the security agencies will deal with the situation headlong and decisively.
“I assure trouble makers and saboteurs that anybody trying to undermine the security of the election will have himself or herself to blame,” he warned.
Collaborating, Comrade Gabriel Odi, Chairman, Coalition of Enugu State Political Parties Youth Leaders, said that the youths were working for the success of the elections by engaging in sensitisation for a violence-free election among the young population.
“The Vote and Do Not Fight Campaign, launched by the coalition is permeating all political wards and we want youths to imbibe the culture of civility and decorum towards elections.
“We believe that the election will hold and that is why we are investing in it with our resources and time to ensure we make it credible and devoid of violence,” Odi said.
The INEC in Ebonyi says the ongoing collection of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) is a critical aspect of its preparation for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
Mrs Pauline Onyeka, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ebonyi, told NAN in Abakaliki, that the commission would not leave any stone unturned in its determination to conduct credible free and fair elections in the state.
According to her, the Feb. 25 and March 11 presidential, National Assembly and Governorship as well as state House of Assembly dates are sacrosanct.
Onyeka disclosed that enough logistics arrangements had been put in place for a seamless exercise.
She said that the commission had been collaborating with the relevant stakeholders on election matters to enhance the speed of distribution and collection of the PVC in the state.
The REC however, called for more effective collaboration between it and the various stakeholders to accelerate the speed of collection of PVCs by owners within the extended period.
Onyeka said that as part of preparations for the conduct of hitch-free elections, the commission held an expanded stakeholders’ interactive meeting in December where it briefed the stakeholders on the level of preparation ahead of the scheduled elections.
The REC said that the commission was poised to ensure that all registered voters in the state collected their cards within the INEC’s stipulated time frame and called for partnership with the stakeholders to sensitise the people on the issue.
She said that the ongoing collection of the voter cards was central to the conduct of elections stressing that anyone without the voter card would not be allowed to cast their ballots on the day of the election.
“We have put enough logistics arrangements in place to ensure smooth conduct of the February and March elections and all we appealing is for the electorate to collect their PVC in the ongoing collection exercise which has been extended by eight days.
“No voting on election day without the PVC, that is why every registered voter who is yet to collect his or her voter card must utilise the opportunity to do so.
“It is on record that my predecessor had held meetings with the leadership of the political parties with their presence in Ebonyi; traditional rulers, the media and the members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES).
“At those meetings, the commission updated the stakeholders with the commission’s timetable and schedule of activities and preparation for the general elections.
“I have equally had a meeting with the members of ICCES at which I expressed concern about the burning down of INEC offices in the state in particular and the South-East as a whole by hoodlums.
“As part of security arrangements to protect our facilities and property, I had requested that security be beefed up in all the offices and the centres for collection of PVCs and security agencies had assured us of adequate protection of INEC offices and staff,” Onyeka said.
Mr Aliyu Garba, Commissioner of Police in Ebonyi, who spoke to NAN on security arrangements for the election, promised adequate security before, during and after the elections while urging the public to report any security breach within their localities.
The police boss however, called on residents and critical stakeholders to assist the police in securing INEC facilities domiciled in their respective areas.
A traditional ruler, Eze Charles Mkpuma, in an interview, expressed concern on the deplorable security situation in various parts of the country urging security agencies to brace up for the challenges.
Mkpuma, Chairman of the Ebonyi Council of Traditional Rulers, pledged the support and cooperation of the royal fathers in the state in mobilising their subjects to collecting their PVCs.
“The police and other law enforcement agencies should make adequate security preparation to ensure the protection of lives and property of people before, during and after the elections,” Mkpuma said.
Meanwhile, the commission through its chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, recently in a statement, allayed the fears of Nigerians on the possibility of postponing the election due to insecurity stressing that the election would hold as planned.
A cross section of Awka residents in Anambra, have blamed the upsurge on violent attacks on the offices of INEC on failed and overzealous politicians.
Mr Osita Obi, National Coordinator of a pressure group, Recover Nigeria Project, told NAN that burning of INEC facilities and other public facilities were deliberate political strategy of some failed politicians to weaken the areas of strength of their opponents.
According to Obi, what all these politicians are doing is to cause problems in the strongholds of their opponents in order to make the electoral umpire reschedule the conduct of elections in such locations.
“When after the conduct of the general elections, a date is fixed for election in such places, the masses might not be willing to participate due to fear of possible eruption of violence,” he said.
Another respondent from Awka, Mr Tony Ezike, corroborated the position of Obi saying that politicians were complicit over such attacks.
“It has been long since bad eggs began to attack the facilities of INEC, police stations and other public facilities all with the intention to derail the elections,” he said.
Obi however, maintained that ordinary Nigerians are very much ready for the conduct of the elections because the masses actually need a change in the management of state resources.
On his part, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Anambra Command said that police was ready for the elections.
Mr George Edeani, Head of Department, (HOD) Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Awka, said the Commission was already putting finishing touches on activities for the conduct of the elections.
“Already, the non-sensitive materials are in the various local government areas, we are currently distributing the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) at various wards.
“What we are telling those who registered and were given the temporary cards is to ensure they go and collect their PVC because without the permanent voters cards, they will not be allowed to vote,” he said.
Edeani said that INEC in the state had been sensitizing community leaders on the need for them to help stop the culture of destroying INEC facilities.
He said that the action was an ill-wind, as both the arsonists and the masses were affected at the long run.
Edeani, however prayed God for a change of heart on the part of the people destroying INEC and other Public facilities