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Anambra election: Fear grips Onitsha residents amid tight security

.Govt declares Thursday, Friday work-free days ahead of guber

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PHIL OKOSE, Onitsha

 

Palpable fear has allegedly gripped residents of Onitsha and its environs, Anambra state, following the heavy presence of security operatives in respect to the 6 November 2021 gubernatorial election in the state.

The security operatives that composed mostly police and military personnel, are seen in strategic positions that include, DMGS round-about, Uga junction, Borromeo round-about, Onitsha/ Owerri road/Franobi building, Niger Bridge head approach, among other places.

Those on patrol have a combination of Civil Defence, military, police, DSS and vigilante men in a convoy of 10 to 15 vehicles and armed to the teeth.

Reacting to the heavy presence of the security personnel, a resident of Fegge  Onitsha, Mr Peter Omeh, said, “ls it because of this Anambra election that we have these security men every where like in a war front.

They are scarying the people away from participating in the election. Most people will prefer to stay indoors rather than go to vote because of fear of the unknown”

In his reaction, a civil servant who pleaded anonymity say that, “my brother that day I will not come out, let them rig the election for their own candidate and declare him winner and allow us have our peace.

Voting is not by force and the military personnel deployed to Anambra because of the election should knowe that we are not at war”, he started.

Meanwhile, more of the security personnel are said to be on their way to the state even as a good number of them have allegedly been deployed to the interior areas.

Meanwhile, the Anambra government has declared Thursday, Nov. 4, and Friday, Nov. 5 as work-free days ahead of the Saturday governorship election.

This is contained in a circular signed by Mr Harry Udu, the Head of Service in Anambra.

The directive said the work-free days were to enable residents in the state to move to the locations where they registered as voters.

According to Udu, Gov. Willie Obiano has approved the two days as work-free.

“This will enable Public Servants in Anambra to travel to their respective communities to cast their votes on Saturday, November 6,” he stated.

Similarly, the Police Command in Anambra said there would be a total lockdown from Thursday to enable the Police to take control of the space and deal with situations promptly.

Mr Echeng Echeng, Commissioner of Police in Anambra, said top-notch measures had been put in place to ensure maximum security of life and property.

DSP Nkeiruka Nwode, Zone 13 PPRO and Head, Media for Anambra governorship election, who disclosed this in a statement, said Police assets and personnel posted from various Commands and formations had started arriving.

It would be recalled that a total of 34,000 and 20,000 personnel were deployed for the election by the Police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps respectively.

However, the United States has warned that anyone who interferes with the lawful conduct of the Anambra state government or instigate violence in the South East state would be given visa restriction.

A statement on Wednesday from the US Embassy in the country said that the American government looks forward to a gubernatorial election in Anambra State on November 6 that is peaceful and transparent, with results that accurately reflect the will of the state’s residents.

The statement added that: “We will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere with the democratic process or instigate violence against civilian populations before, during, or after the elections.

“We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process.”

The statement further explained that: “Under U.S. immigration law, certain violations also may lead to restrictions on family members.”

The statement however called on citizens, electoral officials, party members, and security force personnel to do their part in ensuring a credible and secure electoral process.

In another development, On Saturday November 6, 2021, Anambra State will make history as the first governorship election in Nigeria in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will deploy the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device.

The BVAS, deployed in its pilot phase for the Isoko South I State Constituency Bye-election in Delta State on September 11, 2021, is a new device that replaces the Smart Card Reader (SCR) used in previous elections since 2015.

The BVAS has the dual capacity for fingerprint and facial authentication of voters, and according to the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, this is to guard against voting by identity theft where one person uses another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to vote using the incident form.

In his remarks during a stakeholders meeting on the Anambra State Governorship Election on Wednesday, Prof Yakubu said that with the introduction of the BVAS device, the use of incident forms during elections has been abolished.

 

On Saturday 6th November 2021, Anambra State will make history as the first Governorship election in Nigeria in which the Commission will deploy the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device. This new device replaces the Smart Card Reader (SCR) used in previous elections since 2015. We are satisfied with the pilot deployment of the BVAS in the Isoko South I State Constituency Bye-election in Delta State on 11th September 2021.

 

“The BVAS has the dual capacity for fingerprint and facial authentication of voters. This is to guard against voting by identity theft where one person uses another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to vote using the incident form. With this development, the use of the incident form is abolished. No voter without a genuine PVC will vote. No voter who has not been successfully accredited electronically using the BVAS will vote.

 

“At the same time, the BVAS is also equipped with a camera. Therefore, it has the capacity to snap Polling Unit level result and upload same to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal so that citizens can view results as election is concluded in each Polling Unit. Therefore, there is no need for the Z-Pad since its functions have been embedded in the BVAS. I am glad to report that all the BVAS required for the election on Saturday have been configured and delivered to Anambra State. Election duty staff have also been trained on the use of the device and we have sufficient technical staff to respond to any glitches that may occur,” the INEC Chairman said.

 

Also, the INEC Chairman revealed in his remarks that in designing the sensitive materials for the election, the Commission has introduced additional visible and invisible security features, including different colour codes.

 

“I want to assure all voters in Anambra State that in designing the sensitive materials for the election, the Commission has introduced additional visible and invisible security features, including different colour codes. Materials have also been customized.

 

“Local Government Areas and Polling Units. Let me therefore warn those who may attempt to compromise the process that we have put in place sufficient safeguards to detect counterfeits. We are also determined to prosecute perpetrators of electoral malpractice, including any election duty staff found to be complicit. The choice of the next Governor of Anambra State is in the hands of the eligible voters and their will must prevail,” Prof Yakubu said.

 

Read full speech by the INEC Chairman:

 

1.​ On behalf of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this interactive meeting just a few days to the Anambra State Governorship election. I am glad to note that the Inspector General of Police, as the head of the lead agency for internal security, including the conduct of elections, in Nigeria is here personally. This further underscores the importance of this consultative meeting. Issues relating to election security will be addressed by the Inspector General of Police himself. I am also glad to note the presence of the candidates for the election as well as other distinguished invited guests.

 

2.​  The Anambra State Governorship election holds in the next 3 days. As far as INEC is concerned, there are two activities left in our Timetable and Schedule of Activities. The first one is the end of campaign by political parties which is at midnight tomorrow Thursday 4th November 2021. The second is the Election Day which is Saturday 6th November 2021. These two activities will conclude the 14 items listed in the Timetable for the election released by the Commission about 11 months ago on 19th January 2021. INEC has diligently implemented every activity on schedule.

 

3.​  The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Anambra State has just briefed us on our detailed preparations for the election, including logistics and the recruitment, training and deployment of election duty staff. Non-sensitive materials have been delivered to the 21 Local Government Areas of the State. The sensitive materials are secure in the branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) here in Awka. As is always the case on the eve of major elections, INEC will invite political parties, civil society organisations and the media to the CBN tomorrow Thursday 4th November 2021 to inspect the sensitive materials and to witness their movement to the various Local Government Areas under security escort. By the same arrangement, the materials will be delivered to the Registration Areas or Wards on Friday 5th November 2021 to facilitate the opening of Polling Units at 8.30am on Election Day i.e. Saturday 6th November 2021.

 

4.​  I want to assure all voters in Anambra State that in designing the sensitive materials for the election, the Commission has introduced additional visible and invisible security features, including different colour codes. Materials have also been customized by Local Government Areas and Polling Units. Let me therefore warn those who may attempt to compromise the process that we have put in place sufficient safeguards to detect counterfeits. We are also determined to prosecute perpetrators of electoral malpractice, including any election duty staff found to be complicit. The choice of the next Governor of Anambra State is in the hands of the eligible voters and their will must prevail.

 

5.​  On Saturday 6th November 2021, Anambra State will make history as the first Governorship election in Nigeria in which the Commission will deploy the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device. This new device replaces the Smart Card Reader (SCR) used in previous elections since 2015. We are satisfied with the pilot deployment of the BVAS in the Isoko South I State Constituency Bye-election in Delta State on 11th September 2021. The BVAS has the dual capacity for fingerprint and facial authentication of voters. This is to guard against voting by identity theft where one person uses another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to vote using the incident form. With this development, the use of the incident form is abolished. No voter without a genuine PVC will vote. No voter who has not been successfully accredited electronically using the BVAS will vote.

 

6.​  At the same time, the BVAS is also equipped with a camera. Therefore, it has the capacity to snap Polling Unit level result and upload same to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal so that citizens can view results as election is concluded in each Polling Unit. Therefore, there is no need for the Z-Pad since its functions have been embedded in the BVAS. I am glad to report that all the BVAS required for the election on Saturday have been configured and delivered to Anambra State. Election duty staff have also been trained on the use of the device and we have sufficient technical staff to respond to any glitches that may occur.

 

7.​  The Commission is also aware of the concern expressed about the availability of PVCs for new registrants in Anambra State. At the end of the recent Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, a total of 138,802 citizens completed the registration. After cleaning up the data, the Commission identified and archived 62,698 multiple registrants. Consequently, the number of valid registrants is 76,104. This figure has been added to 5,674 requests for transfer, update of voter information and replacement of lost or damaged PVCs, bringing the total of valid registrations to 81,774. I am glad to report that the PVCs have been printed and delivered to all the Local Government Areas for collection by voters. We have also contacted the voters by text messages and e-mail addresses and informed them of the exact locations to collect their cards. Through the media, we have also been sensitizing them to the availability of the cards for collection. Many of them have done so already. Let me therefore once again appeal to those that have not done so that their cards are available for collection.

 

8.​  Another issue that I need to address is the distribution of voters by polling units in Anambra State. About four weeks ago, the Commission published the register of voters for the election on 7th October 2021 i.e. 30 days to the election as required by law. Each of the 18 political parties was given a soft copy of the register here in Awka. In addition to meeting the requirement of the law, the presentation of the register is significant for another reason. The Anambra Governorship election is the first time that voting is taking place in polling units since the recent successful conversion of voting points arising from the expansion of voter access to polling units in Nigeria. An additional 1,112 polling units were established in Anambra State in addition to the existing 4,608 locations. This brings the total number of polling units in the State to 5,720. Voters were encouraged to seize the opportunity of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise to transfer to the new polling units most convenient for them. Many did not do so. This can be partly attributed to the security situation in the State which has affected the Commission’s pre-election outdoor activities, including voter education and sensitisation. Understandably, the voters have also been cautious.

 

9.​  At the same time, the Commission did not use its powers under Section 42 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to allot voters to the new polling units to minimise the disruptions that may occur from such a decision in view of the forthcoming Governorship election. Consequently, out of the 5,720 polling units in Anambra State, 86 (1.5%) have no voters. Consequently, the Commission will not be deploying personnel and materials to these polling units. Furthermore, 894 (15.6%) of the polling units have between 1 and 49 voters. Election will hold in these polling units. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure that all Polling Units have voters allotted to them ahead of the 2023 General Election.

 

10.​  Meanwhile, in our avowed commitment to transparency, the Commission has compiled a comprehensive list of all the Polling Units without voters as well as those having under 50 registered voters. Last week in Abuja, we had a special consultative meeting with the leadership of all political parties in and shared with them copies of the comprehensive locations of these Polling Units. We appealed to them to quickly inform their branches in Anambra State as well as their candidates for the election. I would like to seize this opportunity to draw the attention of political parties, candidates and other stakeholders to this situation. Copies of the list have been distributed to all stakeholders at this meeting. Already, the same document has been uploaded to our website and social media platforms for public information.

 

11.​  On this note, let me reassure all stakeholders of the Commission’s commitment to inclusivity. In line with our policy for equal opportunity for all Nigerians to participate, the Commission introduced assistive devices for Persons With Disability (PWDs) during elections. This includes the Braille Ballot Guide and magnifying glasses at polling units for the visually impaired as well as voter education posters for the hearing-impaired. I am glad to report that the Braille Ballot Guide and magnifying glasses will be deployed in the election this Saturday. I wish to reassure you that INEC will remain an equal opportunity Commission for all Nigerians irrespective of disability. As an affirmation of this commitment, data on disability is being collected in the ongoing CVR to enable us to serve this category of voters better.

 

12.​  In our continuing determination to protect the integrity of the electoral process, I wish to remind political parties, candidates and their supporters that vote buying is illegal under our laws. I wish to reiterate that the ban on the use of smart phone or other photographic devices in the voting cubicles is still in force. The anti-graft agencies, who are members of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), will deploy their personnel to arrest and prosecute violators.

 

13.​  Before I conclude, let me extend the Commission’s appreciation to you all for your presence. I thank the religious, traditional and community leaders as well as civil society organisations and the media that have worked tirelessly for the peaceful conduct of the forthcoming election.  I call on the leaders of political parties and candidates to continue to appeal to your supporters to eschew hate speech or disruptive behaviour before, during and after the election. Doing so will only further compound the current situation and scare voters away from exercising their rights as citizens. Working with the security agencies, we have put so much in place for the successful conduct of this election. Let us by our words and action support the peaceful and credible conclusion of the 2021 Anambra State Governorship Election.

 

 

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