Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu

The chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, says the electoral body is non-partisan.

Yakubu said this in reaction to allegations that some INEC officials pervert electoral processes for “partisan consideration” and the alleged cloning of smart card readers.

At a meeting with political parties at the INEC Electoral Institute, Abuja on Wednesday, Yakubu said it was impossible for the commission’s officials to manipulate electoral processes given its “robust procedures”.

“It is unfortunate that in certain quarters, there is still the fixation that INEC officials are involved in deliberately perverting the processes and procedures for partisan considerations,” Yakubu said.

“We should stop seeing INEC as a political party or its officials as rival candidates. We are not a political party.

“We have no candidate in any election. We shall continue to maintain our integrity as election managers. I wish to assure you that our electoral processes have gone beyond the capacity of our own officials to manipulate.

“The procedures are robust. The claim that the permanent voter cards (PVCs) are cloned and smart card readers pre-loaded is simply ludicrous.

“The card readers are only configured to specific polling units 72 hours or less before an election, set to operate only on election day from 8am and is manually shut down for accreditation after the last person on the queue has voted or automatically by 8pm.”

He allayed the fear of those who said there were plans to rig the July 14 election in Ekiti state.

Ayodele Fayose, governor of the state, is among those who have alleged that INEC is working in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Kolapo Olusola, Fayose’s deputy, is the PDP governorship candidate in the election.

The INEC chairman also spoke on plans to ensure that the exercise ends smoothly.

“In Ekiti state, where we are deploying the enhanced Smart Card Readers (SCRs), this process has not even commenced. It is impossible to pre-load the card readers, let alone do so with cloned PVCs,” he said.

“In any case, electoral officials at polling units on election day cross check the voter’s name on the register of voters which includes the voter’s photograph. The voter must be personally present in order to vote. It cannot be done by proxy or prior to election day.

“We appeal to Nigerians to discountenance this unimaginative theory which is similar to the allegation of scientific rigging before a previous stand-alone Governorship election in which the Commission was accused of deploying a special ballot paper that altered the voter’s choice within minutes after it has been dropped into the ballot box in favour of another political party.

“Similarly, the accusation that excess result sheets are being printed in order to surreptitiously alter results during collation is simply untrue.

“With lessons learnt from every election and the reports we receive from political parties, civil society organisations and other stakeholders, the Commission has been introducing new innovations to further protect the integrity of our processes.”

Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, INEC director, voter education and publicity, had said the commission would commence systematic hardware and software upgrade of all its smart card readers nationwide by next week.

Osaze said this after PVCs appeared online for sale on Chinese e-commerce website, Alibaba.

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