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Edo Election: Your Votes Will Count, INEC Assures Edo Electorates

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Ahead of the September 19 governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has assured the electorates that their votes will count.

INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu gave the assurance on Monday during a stakeholders’ meeting in Benin City, the state capital.

To Yakubu, it is only the choice made by the voters that will determine who the next governor of the state will be for another four years.

“I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election,” he said. “The Commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures, nothing more.”

 

SEE FULL SPEECH HERE:

ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION, PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU, AT THE EDO GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION STAKEHOLDERS’ MEETING HELD AT THE OBA AKENZUA II CULTURAL CENTRE, BENIN CITY, MONDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2020

1.​ Let me join our Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Edo State to once again welcome you all to this meeting. As many of you are aware, the Governorship election in Edo State will hold this Saturday after several months of preparations since the Commission released the timetable and schedule of activities on 6th February 2020. This is also the first Governorship election that the Commission will be conducting in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global health emergency has necessitated a review of our policies, processes and procedures to protect the health of all those involved in elections in line with the guidelines issued by health authorities.

2.​ The Commission has dutifully carried out 12 out of 14 scheduled tasks contained in the timetable and schedule of activities for the election. We held many meetings with political parties and their candidates. We had several engagements with the security agencies at national and state levels. We consulted with stakeholders. We sought for and received, the blessings of Royal Fathers and religious leaders. We have recruited, trained and carefully screened all categories of ad hoc staff to be deployed to the field. We have delivered all non-sensitive materials for the election. Voter education and sensitisation are ongoing. We have made arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to all polling units on Election Day. The Commission has taken every step and made every arrangement for the election holding this weekend.

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3.​ Our ultimate objective is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next Governor of Edo State is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to reassure you that votes will count and only the choice made by the people of Edo State will determine the outcome of the election. The Commission shall not take any action to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. Our focus is on our processes and procedures. Nothing more.

4.​ In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, polling units will now open at 8.30 am (instead of 8.00 am) and close at 2.30 pm (instead of 2.00 pm). This has become necessary in order to accommodate the additional measures to protect public health necessitated by the global health emergency. However, all eligible voters who are on the queue by 2.30 pm will be allowed to vote in line with the Commission’s regulations. Other procedures for the election are clearly outlined in the Voters’ Code of Conduct (VCC) which has since been disseminated. Similarly, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we urge polling agents, election observers and the media to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Commission’s policy, copies of which have been widely circulated and more will be shared at this meeting.

5.​ As in previous elections, the Commission is deploying magnifying glasses and braille ballot guides to assist Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to vote unaided. Earlier, the Commission translated and published its policy of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the Voters’ Code of Conduct into braille in order to ensure greater awareness and effective participation of all citizens in the electoral process irrespective of disability.

6.​ To underscore our commitment to a credible and transparent electoral process in Nigeria, the Commission is determined to deepen the deployment of technology in elections. It is for this reason that the Commission recently built portals for the nomination of candidates by political parties as well as the accreditation of election observers and the media. We have used the portals seamlessly in preparing for the Edo Governorship election. The same applies to the Ondo Governorship election. We will deploy the same platforms for all subsequent elections, including the forthcoming bye-elections in 15 constituencies across 11 States of the Federation scheduled for 31st October 2020. We are working to ensure that in future elections, even the accreditation of polling agents nominated by political parties will also be done online.

7.​ Perhaps the most critical of the recent innovations introduced by the Commission is the use of a tablet now popularly called the z-pad. It is a new innovation introduced to serve as a secondary means of achieving full biometric accreditation using the facial image of the voter in support of the fingerprint authentication by the Smart Card Reader. Secondly, the camera on the tablet will be used to take a picture of the polling unit result (EC8A) and to upload the same on a dedicated portal (INEC RESULT VIEWING – IReV). This will enable all those interested in viewing the results to do so in real-time. The Commission deployed the z-pad in the Nasarawa Central State Constituency bye-election in Nasarawa State on 8th August 2020. It was a test-run intended to assess the functionality of the technology before its deployment in major elections. While the capture and upload of polling unit level result went on smoothly, the facial authentication did not. Without going into the technical details, let me say that the Commission encountered hardware and software issues which needed to be fixed.

8.​ Our ICT Department worked on the new device and made a presentation to the Commission which decided that the system needs to be robust enough before it can be deployed in a major election. Unlike the 44 polling units of the Nasarawa Central State Constituency, the Edo Governorship election involves 2,627 polling units. The Commission decided that since this technology is work in progress, we should carry out a further test-run in some of the smaller constituencies during the bye-elections scheduled for 31st October 2020 and thereafter engage with stakeholders before it can be deployed in major elections. The atmosphere in Edo State ahead of the election this weekend is already charged. We cannot afford to complicate it further by introducing a new technology we are not yet fully satisfied with.

9.​ However, the uploading of polling unit level results in the election on Saturday will proceed as planned. The z-pads have already been delivered, configured and ad hoc staff trained on its deployment on Election Day. Enough chargers have been provided to address the power problem identified during the Nasarawa test-run. We envisage that there will be high traffic of persons interested in viewing the results in real-time. Consequently, the Commission has dynamically expanded the result viewing portal to accommodate almost two million viewers at the same time without clogging. To view the uploaded results, please visit our website (www.inecelectionresults.com) to register and create an account.

10.​ I must quickly add that the Smart Card Readers will be used for voter verification and authentication. This is a mandatory requirement and where it is deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines.

11.​ The Commission is also aware of the concern expressed in some quarters about the neutrality of our staff, in particular, the ad hoc staff engaged for election duty. We have heard allegations that some ad hoc staff were recruited in such a manner as to compromise the election. In response, the Commission deployed two National Commissioners who reviewed the process for strict compliance with the guidelines for such recruitment. I want to assure you that all categories of ad hoc staff have been vetted. The integrity of the process will not be compromised and there will be no partisan infiltration.

12.​ As the eligible voters in Edo State go to the polls on Saturday, I wish to renew my appeal to all political parties, candidates and their supporters for peaceful conduct. Your votes will count. Polling unit-level results will be uploaded for public view. However, this will not happen where the process is disrupted by violence or malpractices. The Commission is determined that no one will benefit from impunity or rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote-buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results. The people of Edo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment. We have been assured by the security agencies that thugs and their sponsors will not have the freedom to move around freely to disrupt the election or collation of results. The Inspector-General of Police who is here personally will speak more about their plans to safeguard the process.

13.​ On Election Day, the national headquarters of INEC will monitor the election throughout Edo State. Our Zoom Situation Room will receive live reports from the field. Accredited observers and the media will also be invited to join at intervals. By doing so, the Commission will receive first-hand information as the election is going on. At the same time, citizens can contact us on our various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

14.​ On this note, let me once again welcome you all to this meeting and to assure the people of Edo State that the Commission has taken every step to ensure that the election this weekend is free, fair, credible, inclusive and safe.

15.​ I thank you all for your presence and God bless.

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Fulani Will Always Revenge Injustice, Says El-Rufai

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Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State says the Fulani tribe will always take revenge whenever they suffer injustice.

He, however, said they accept their fate whenever they are convicted of a crime. El-Rufai said this on Thursday during a webinar organised by the Africa Leadership Group.

The governor was asked to clarify his tweet in 2012 wherein he said, “Anyone, soldier or not, that kills the Fulani, takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes.”El-Rufai had been asked why he made the comment and if the Igbo would be justified to take revenge on other Nigerians that killed them during the Biafran war.

In his response, the governor said, “If a Fulani man dies in war, it is different. If a Fulani man is arrested by the authorities and convicted, it is not an issue. What the Fulani never forgets is when he is innocently targeted and killed and the authorities do nothing. He will never forget and he will come back for revenge. This is it.

“So, it is better to understand the context given the context of what I tweeted which had to do with an issue in Plateau State in 2012. I hope you get the context. So, it is not that Fulani will never forget. Anyone that goes through pain and sorrow either forgets or doesn’t forget but when it is extrajudicial, when it is extra-official, the attitude is completely different.

“This is the context in which Fulani never forgets. It is not in every context. As I said, I lost relations during the war. It doesn’t mean I still hold a grudge. We’ve moved past that.”

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Buhari Probes N165.32bn Unremitted Operating Surplus by NPA

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The President, Muhammadu Buhari , is probing alleged non-remittance of about N165bn operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund by the Nigerian Ports Authority.

There are indications that the development may not be unconnected to the recent suspension of the Managing Director of the agency, Hadiza Bala-Usman.

Documents sighted on Friday showed that the government figured out discrepancies in the remittance of operating surpluses by the NPA to the Consolidated Revenue Fund for two consecutive years under the leadership of Bala-Usman.

Findings indicated that a total of about N73.61bn (N56.3bn in 2017 and N17.31bn in 2018) realised within the two-year period was not remitted to the CRF as expected by the government, although the suspended NPA boss provided explanations to the contrary.

Also, the Federal Ministry of Transportation in a May 4, 2021 letter to the President claimed that the NPA failed to remit N165.32bn to the CRF from 2016 to 2020 and called for an investigation and audit of the financial accounts of the authority

But in a letter, with reference MD/17/MF/VOL-XX/541, dated May 5, 2021 and addressed to the Chief of Staff to the President, Bala-Usman said the NPA was aware of Buhari’s approval for the Federal Ministry of Transportation to conduct an audit of the accounts of the NPA and its remittances to the CRF.

The letter was entitled, “Re: Request for the record of remittance of operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Funds account by the Nigerian Ports Authority.”

In the letter, she explained that the audited financial statements of the NPA provided operating surpluses in 2017 and 2018 that were contrary to what were arrived at by the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.

The letter read in part, “Audited financial statements of the authority for the period 2017 and 2018 provides operating surpluses of N76.782bn and N71.480bn for 2017 and 2018 respectively as contrary to the sums of N133.084bn and N88.79bn arrived at by your office from the budgetary submission.”

The letter stated that the presidential approval for the audit of the NPA accounts arose from a correspondence between the Budget Office of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Transportation where the budget office conveyed to the FMoT an observed shortfall of the authority’s remittances to the CFR.

Bala-Usman said, “We wish to state that the authority’s basis for arriving at the operating surplus on which basis the amount due for remittance to the CFR is guided by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 as amended.

“It is further based on the statutory mandate Part 1, S.3(1) (b) &(d) whereby the FRC issued a template for the computation of operating surplus for the purpose of calculating amount due for remittance to the CRF.

“Accordingly, the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the operating surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall are derived from submission of budgetary provision not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the authority’s financial statements.”

She argued that in line with the template issued by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the accessible operating surplus of the authority stood at N51.09bn and N42.51bn for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

“This amount will give rise to a remittance due to the CFR in the sum of N40.873bn and N34.065bn representing 80 per cent of the surpluses for the year 2017 and 2018 respectively.

“Accordingly, the authority consequently made a remittance of N42.415bn and N33.969bn for the years 2017 and 2018 respectively for the full amount required as remittance for the period.”

On remittances for 2019 — 2020, the suspended MD said the audit of the 2019 financial statement had been completed and awaiting consideration of the authority’s board at which point the final figures for the 2019 operating surplus would be determined for consequent computation of the amount due for remittance to the CFR.

“But thus far, the authority has made a remittance of N31.683bn for the 2019 remittance. The sum of N51.049bn has also thus far been remitted for 2020, while awaiting the audited financial statement to determine the final amount required for both 2019 and 2020 at which point the authority will make the payment of the balance as required,” Bala-Usman noted.

She stated that based on the above, the authority wished to clarify that the computation of its remittances to the CFR were concluded from audited financial statements using the template forwarded to the authority from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and not budgetary provision.

“The authority has remitted the full amount due to it to CFR for the periods 2017 and 2018 arising from the operating surplus derived from the audited financial statement for the period totaling N76.384bn as evidenced in attached treasury receipts,” Bala-Usman said.

She added, “The authority has remitted a total of N 82.687bn for the periods 2019 and 2020 pending the audit of the financial statement at which point the amount so computed arising from the value of the operating surplus in the audited financial statement will be remitted to the CFR.”

She said the NPA wished to request the Chief of Staff and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation who were the statutorily custodian of status of payment to the CRF to provide clarification on the above so as to establish the true position of the authority’s remittances to the CFR.

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Parents of Abducted Kaduna Students Protest at National Assembly

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Parents of the abducted students of the College of Forestry Mechanization Afaka in Kaduna State have occupied the National Assembly complex, Abuja, in protest.

The protesters which include members of the Students Union Government (SUG) of the institution are lamenting over what they described as the negligence of the state and Federal Government in securing the release of the children.

They chanted songs of solidarity and displayed placards demanding prompt rescue of the students.

“Education is our right! Safety is our right! Freedom is our right!, Free Afaka 29! ” the parents and students chanted as they marched to the National Assembly.

The protesters joined by the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore and Deji Adeyanju had earlier gathered at the Unity Fountain before proceeding to the National Assembly complex.

The main entrance of the National Assembly was however manned by security agents who denied the protesters entrance.

On 11th March, 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization Afaka in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State were abducted from their hostels by bandits dressed in military uniform.

Ten of the students were released in two batches of five each but 29 others have remained in captivity.

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