As political gladiators crisscross the country ahead the 2019 elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has created a voter registration centre within the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The development is coming amidst reports about rising number of prospective voters in the FCT and its environs to have their names in the voter register 2019 polls, the first to be conducted under the present administration.
It was learnt that before now, only a polling unit was located at the Presidential Villa, but sources in the INEC ruled out any ulterior motives behind the creation of the new centre.
However, INEC said it only approved mobile units, one of which was located close to the Presidential Villa but not within the Villa.
With the centre, the number of such centres in the entire Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has risen to 33.
“It used to be a polling unit at the Presidential Villa, but not a registration centre,” a source said.
According to multiple sources, the new centre became imperative because of the nature of the work of majority of workers in the Presidential Villa and its environs.
Some targetted beneficiaries of the centre are workers and residents of the Villa, including other arms of government located in the area.
“It is for those working in the Presidential Villa, including those residents there because there are people who reside near the Villa. Such people could be found in the judiciary as well because it (the Villa) is not far from the territory of the Judiciary,” the sources claimed.
But, the sources could not confirm the likely number of prospective voters that might be registered at the centre.
One of the sources simply said: “I do not have the idea of the number of people, likely to be registered there but sometimes, the people especially security personnel, who are not necessarily living there, could use the opportunity to register there.
“After the whole registration exercise is concluded, we would now take them to their polling units wherever they live because in every polling unit, there is what we call the Polling Unit guides.
The sources explained that new machines were deployed to the registration centres in the Presidential Villa to guard against hiccups witnessed in some centres where the machines used in 2015 were put into use.
“Our machines are old ones; there ones we used in 2015. But, the Commission is injecting new machines because the old ones sometimes hang, only start functioning again after rebutting. They have become old.
“But, the authorities of the Commission are getting new machines. For example, new machines have been deployed for the registration centre in the Presidential Villa with 422 scanner. The other centres within the City Centres also have the new machines and the 442 scanner. So, there is a plan to make it go round all the area council.
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, denied knowledge of registration centre within the precincts of the Presidential Villa.
Speaking, he said the commission approved mobile units for Abuja to make registration easy for residents.
“INEC isn’t aware of any voters registration centre within the Villa. What I am aware of are special mobile centres to make registration easier for people in FCT.
“We have been doing it for sometimes. If you say there is such close to the Villa that could be true, but not inside the Presidential Villa,” he explained.
Meanwhile, INEC has called on stakeholders to ensure good conduct and orderliness during the 2019 elections.
Professor Francis Ezeonu, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Imo, gave the advice on Saturday during a sensitization visit on voter registration with members of his team to Isiala Mbano Local Government area of Imo.
He said that the days of ballot box snatching, falsification of results and harassment of electoral officers were gone as all results would be transmitted electronically as soon as counting of votes were over.
Ezeonu warned stakeholders such as polling agents, local observers, voters and politicians to play the game according to the rules to ensure smooth conduct of the polls.
He said that plans were underway by INEC to establish an Electoral Offences Commission with a tribunal to tackle all electoral offences and secure conviction.