By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
The Independent National Commission (INEC) yesterday disclosed that it is ready for the Saturday, February 23 Presidential/National Assembly elections, pointing out that it has achieved 95 percent configuration of the Smart Card Readers to be deployed for the polls.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu made the disclosure while addressing journalists at the International Conference center, Abuja.
Yakubu stressed that the Commission is focusing on the elections to be held on 23rd February and 9’h March 2019, to ensure that they are free, fair and credible.
According to him, “Already, the sensitive materials for the elections have started arriving at various locations for onward movement to various Central Bank branches across the country. Indeed, some of these materials arriving through our airports have been erroneously construed by some people as materials for the elections holding this weekend.
“I want to reassure you that all materials for the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections next Saturday are already in the States, ready for deployment to LGAs, Ward and Polling Units.
“We have learnt a lesson from the preparations for the elections holding this weekend. For this reason, we shall start the movement of materials for the next elections early, to ensure that nothing disrupts our process.
“While we fully understand the disappointment and even anger that followed that rescheduling of the elections on l6‘h February, I wish to appeal to stakeholders to be more dispassionate and circumspect in their comments in order not to overheat the polity.
“The Commission is focusing on the elections to be held on 23rd February and 9’h March 2019 to ensure that they are free, fair and credible. We urge all Nigerians to participate fully in the elections, notwithstanding the disappointment of caused by the rescheduling of dates.
“You will recall in my last address to stakeholders on Saturday I mentioned that we intended to deploy card readers and we identified very clear time line for the delivery of the card readers.
“I want to report that as at last night, we have achieved 95 per cent configuration of the 180,000 card readers and this process is going to be completed early morning on Wednesday, one day ahead of schedule.
“We also told stakeholders that in response to appeal to the commission to extend the period of campaign by political parties, the commission yesterday also met with party leaders and extended the period for campaign to midnight of Thursday before the election date”, he said.
The INEC Chairman further disclosed that as at 4pm, last Monday, all issues related to delivery of materials were identified and virtually addressed, saying ballot papers, result sheets and non-sensitive materials were now in locations across the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT.
He added that INEC state offices also commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Banks to examine the materials recalled from last week as well as to witness the departure of materials to Local Government Areas (LGAs), which he said, would be completed today.
Yakubu added that the deployment of all materials to local governments and wards would take place on Wednesday and Thursday, adding that all the Registration Areas would be activated by Thursday.
The Chairman added that personnel and materials would also be at the Registration areas by midday on Friday, while refresher training for ad hoc to take place on Friday.
According to him ,”Personnel and materials must arrive at polling units latest 7 am, on Saturday, and the opening of poll will take place by 8am on Saturday,’’.
He said that INEC was committed to free, fair and credible elections, saying the commission was working hard to ensure that the elections take place as scheduled.
He appealed for continued understanding by Nigerians and called on political parties to be mindful of their speech in order not to overheat the polity, saying that votes of Nigerians would determine the outcome of the elections.
The INEC Chairman promised that in the spirit of transparency, “We shall be giving daily briefings from today (yesterday) until we formally officially declare the national collation centre open for the tallying of Presidential elections results which will take place here in this hall.”