FOUR days after the Appeal Court’s judgment, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday insisted that Rivers State All Progressives Congress (APC) has no candidates for the forthcoming general elections.
This is as the commission announced that both sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the elections have been dispatched to states in readiness for the polls.
INEC has fixed February 16 for the presidential and National Assembly polls. March 2 has been slated for the governorship, state Assembly and council elections.
An Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, presided over by Justice Ali Gumel, granted a stay on Justice Kolawole Omotoso’s judgment on the fielding of candidates by APC in Rivers State.
Thus, the party expected the commission to restore the names of its candidates removed as a result of the internal crisis within the party.
But, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity Festus Okoye said the commission had taken a position.
Okoye, who spoke yesterday in Abuja at an interactive meeting with reporters revealed that the position of the commission has not changed in respect of Rivers State APC candidates for the National Assembly and governorship elections.
He, however, stressed that if there is a change in situation of things, the commission would meet to review its stand.
He said: “We have taken a decision relating to the issue of Rivers and if anything changes before we take our final decision, the commission will meet and also take a decision. But we have not taken any other decision and we have not repealed our position on the issue of Rivers.”
On the preparedness of INEC ahead of the forthcoming general elections, Okoye stated that the commission has begun the deployment of sensitive materials and non-sensitive materials to states ahead of the forthcoming general elections.
Sensitive materials are the ballot papers, result sheets and the rest.
According to INEC, while non-sensitive materials were being delivered to local government offices of the commission, the sensitive materials were lodged in the Central Bank vaults in the states.
He stated that some local councils have already received delivery of non-sensitive materials such as mats, matrasses, among others, preparatory to next week’s presidential election.
He stated, “The sensitive materials and other non-sensitive materials, sleeping mats, Dunlops and so on. Some of these ones have gone to the various local governments. The generating sets that would be used in the various registration areas have also been delivered to them. The generating sets that will be used at the local governments have been delivered to them and then touch lights that will be used by the presiding officers on election day have also been delivered to the various local governments.
“Based on that, we have asked the resident electoral commissioners to beef up security at the various local government offices because some of these offices have started receiving the non-sensitive materials for the conduct of the elections.
“Secondly, the Central Bank of Nigeria in the various states have started sensitive materials for the conduct of these elections. These sensitive materials include ballot papers and result sheets. Elections are just some few days away and if we have not started receiving the sensitive materials into the vault of the Central Bank, that means we are not a serious commission.
“So, these materials are being delivered on daily basis to the various Central Bank branches in the various states of the federation. So, we are gradually getting ready for the conduct of the elections.”
Okoye, who also spoke on the burnt PVCs in Abia State said the commission would look at the possibility of printing a new ones for those affected.
Besides, INEC has directed its offices in the states to beef up security.
He said: “I think the Nigerian people ought to express some level of outrage at what happened in Abia State.
“As a commission, we thought that the era of burning the local government offices or offices of the commission had come to an end. We did not know that some will attempt to go an burn local government offices of the INEC.
“The Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) as I pointed out have been asked to beef up security at their various local government offices to prevent this type of thing from happening again.”
Okoye, who also spoke on the grievances expressed by the Road Transport Employers Association (RTEAN) for being left out in the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the lifting of personnel and materials on election days, said INEC would not sign MoU with a transport union in crisis.
“What INEC signed with the various transport unions is MOU. The RECs and the various electoral officers in the various states have also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the local unions and also with the transporters themselves, the owners of these vehicles.”