By Kingsley Okoye
Abuja, Sept. 17, 2020 The Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) says none of the paid staff of the commission will be directly involved in the conduct of the Edo State governorship elections slated for Sept. 19.
Mr Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, made the disclosure when he featured to newsmen Forum in Abuja on Thursday.
Okoye was responding to a question on the tendency that some INEC officials might be in connivance with some political parties to compromise the Edo election.
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“Let me just say this, elections in Nigerian are conducted by Nigerians, not even by INEC officials, the only thing INEC officials do is to provide policy guidance.
“The Chairman of the commission is around now (in Abuja), we are not going to be in Edo state.
“In fact only three National Commissioners are in Edo state, the rest of the commissioners are at the headquarters.
“So we will not be involved in what is going on in Edo state; in Edo state, for instance, we have over 2,000 polling units, all the presiding officers are serving corps members.
“There is no paying staff of the commission that will serve as presiding officer, we are going to deploy over 13,000 Assistant Presiding Officers I, II and III; these are students of Federal tertiary institutions.
“No single staff of the commission is going to serve as Assistant Presiding Officers I, II and III; we are also going to deploy over 250 Supervisory Presiding Officers.
“These are senior public officers in Federal Boards, Parastatal Agencies, no staff of the commission will do that.
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Okoye said that INEC would deploy 192 registration collation officers in all the registration areas, and that no staff member of the commission was involved in it.
“So, from the polling unit to the declaration of the results, no paid staff of the commission is involved.
“ The way our electoral processes is configured is that that presiding officer are at the polling unit.
“The moment that presiding officer has made a declaration and announces the figure, even the Chairman of the Commission cannot change it, only a court of law can change it.
“So, it is Nigerians that really conduct these elections.
“So, when we say INEC officials are conniving with politicians, what we are clearly saying is that Nigerians are conniving with the politicians to undermine the electoral processes.“
He, however, said it was a fact that there had been some instances in the past where some paid staff of the commission connived to undermine the electoral process.
He also said the commission had taken necessary action to remedy the ugly situation in the past.
“But, I agree that we have had instances where paying staff of the commission had also connived to undermine the process, and whenever these has happened, we have always taken action.
“ For instance, just two weeks ago, the commission demised three staff members from its Akwa Ibom state office for electoral malpractice arising from the 2019 elections.
“By next week, we are going to arraign two professors, who served as collation officers during the 2019 elections, for undermining the electoral process and betraying their oath of neutrality in relation to the elections.
“And so, it is an evolutionary thing, we are also learning and we are also improving, and so wherever we falter, we accept responsibility and make amend,’’ he added.