Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said 18,511 electoral officials had been deployed to Edo State ahead of the Saturday’s gubernatorial election in the state.
Yakubu made the disclosure at a Stakeholders’ Forum on the election, organised by the commission in Benin on Wednesday.
He said that majority of the personnel were drawn from “the pool of young Nigerians on national assignment through the National Youths Service Corps Scheme (NYSC)’’.
“Their service, complemented by other patriotic Nigerians, is essential to the electoral process and our democracy,’’ he added.
Yakubu assured of the commission’s continued neutrality in elections, saying that the Edo exercise would be free, fair and credible.
He disclosed that the electoral officials had been warned “to operate strictly within the confines of the law and our guidelines.
“All election duty personnel have sworn to an oath of neutrality and fairness to the process, and any infraction will attract severe sanctions from the commission’’.
He appealed to political parties and their supporters to eschew violence and intimidation of electoral officials “and the desperate resort to ballot-snatching and falsification of results’’.
“It is unfortunate that already, one smart card reader was snatched at one of the training centres recently.
“It was a futile effort because the card reader had not been configured to any polling unit for the election. It was nevertheless a disturbing incident; security agencies are the trail of the snatchers,’’ he said.
Yakubu also warned high profile personalities in the state to ensure that they complied with the law by avoiding acts of perambulation during the election.
According to him, like other ordinary citizens, they are expected to vote and then go home; if they must stay around, they must also maintain a reasonable distance from the polling centres.
“Heads of the security agencies from our various inter-governmental agencies meetings have given their assurances that they will provide adequate security for the electorate, INEC and ad hoc staff and materials.
“No orderly may accompany these high profile personalities to the polling centres, but where they escort them, they are not expected to display their arms,’’ he stated.
The chairman appreciated the contributions of stakeholders to INEC’s preparations for the elections and reiterated the commission’s commitment to conducting a credible and conclusive governorship election.
Earlier, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Mr Sam Olumekun, said that no fewer than 1.9 million registered voters were expected to participate in the governorship poll.
Olumekun said that Edo had 1,925,105 registered voters, adding that accreditation and voting would be done simultaneously during the election.
He attributed the decision to the paradigm shift in the evolving electoral system, saying “the polling procedure in this governorship election requires a prospective voter to cast his or her vote immediately after being accredited’’.
“This procedure is less consuming and less wearisome for the voter,’’ he said.
The REC expressed the commission’s readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible governorship election on Saturday, saying that INEC had complied with all electoral Acts on the election.
He, however, urged the people to stop seeing election as a do-or-die affair, but as a healthy process on a level-playing field.
Olumekun said that as was the case in the 2015 General Election, the commission would retain the use of permanent voter card and smart card reader for conduct of the.
In his contribution, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, assured the people of the state of adequate security, saying that the police had earlier deployed 25,000 personnel to complement those in Edo command.
Idris, who was represented by Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Joshak Habila, said that with the collaboration of other security agencies, effective policing logistics had been mobilized for adequate protection of voters, INEC staff and materials.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that candidates of the 19 political parties participating in the election attended the forum.