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Anambra election: Test for Nigeria’s democracy – INEC

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…Says no plan-B for failing smart card accreditation
…US urges against violence, pledges sanctions
…Heavy security deployment not to intimidate voters – IGP

AHEAD the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State that is fast gathering eleventh-hour steam, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has described the exercise as a litmus test on both credibility and resilience of the nation’s democracy and democratic institutions.

  Supervising National Commissioner of INEC, Festus Okoye, stated this during his presentation in the one-day stakeholders meeting conveyed by the commission in Prof. Dora Akunyili Women Development Centre, Awka, yesterday.

  Explaining that despite difficulties and challenges, INEC is leaving no stone unturned in mobilising resources for the election, Okoye also said that Anambra election is peculiar to similar elections in some states.

  “Commission conducted the Edo and Ondo governorship elections under very difficult circumstances at a time of global uncertainty and fear accentuated by a pandemic whose unique nuances were still evolving. We have conducted elections at a time when advanced countries rescheduled, postponed or abandoned their elections on account of the pandemic. But Anambra governorship election has its own unique features and characteristics, because it is being conducted in difficult circumstances. The election will further test the resilience and credibility of our democracy and democratic institutions. It will test our determination and resolve to conduct elections in difficult circumstances. The fact must be acknowledged that the ongoing agitations in different parts of the country, including Anambra State is not new to deeply divided societies like Nigeria challenged by contestations around nationhood and citizenship. In these agitations, democracy still offers the best opportunity for addressing them in a peaceful manner and that’s why it is in the interest of Nigeria and those genuinely interested in a stronger Nigeria and the progress of the country’s electoral democracy to create enabling environment for peaceful election on Saturday November 6, 2021.”

  Similarly, National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has warned that voters who failed smart card accreditation at the polling centres would not be allowed to vote on Saturday.

  Yakubu gave the warning while dispelling the fears being entertained by some concerned stakeholders on availability of voter cards.

  He also dropped hints that INEC has enough technical staff to attend to problems that could crop up during the conduct of the election.

  According to him, while voting materials will not be supplied to 86 of the 5,720 poling units across the state because there are no voters allocated to them, the commission has adequate fool-proof mechanism to checkmate desperate politicians who may want to cash in on the development.

  While some candidates of the 18 participating political parties and their chairmen did not attend the event, flag bearers of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, his counterpart from People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Valentine Ozigbo and candidates of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Andy Uba, as well as his Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) counterpart, Obiorah Okonkwo were present.

  But Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji, confirmed that all participating candidates and leaders of their respective political parties were duly invited.

  “We invited all the stakeholders to this meeting. We invited all the political parties and their candidates to this meeting, so if some of them are absent, that is down to their own choice,” he said.

  Equally, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, has said that the heavy deployment of security to Anambra for Saturday’s election is not meant to intimidate voters, but to reassure them.

  Baba gave the promise while speaking to stakeholders in the state during a meeting during which he said heavy security was designed to cover the three senatorial districts, 21 local government areas, 326 wards and 5,720 polling units across the state.

  In a related development, United States has vowed to mete sanctions, including visa restrictions on anyone and their families instigating violence in the November 6 governorship poll in Anambra State.

  Promising to pay close attention to the exercise as it looks forward to a peaceful and transparent poll that will accurately reflect the will of the people, a statement issued by US Embassy in Abuja yesterday, called on citizens, electoral officials, party members, and security force personnel to do their part in ensuring a credible and secure electoral process.

  “The United States 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. 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. Under US immigration law, certain violations also may lead to restrictions on family members,” the statement reads.

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