Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu

Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said that the commission was collaborating with security agencies to track those behind the online advert for sale of blank permanent voters cards (PVCs) in the open market.

Prof. Yakubu made the disclosure while addressing the quarterly consultative meeting of registered political parties which opened in Abuja Wednesday.

Recall that the yet-to-be-identified persons had placed an advert on an online platform, Alibaba.com soliciting for prospective buyers of the blank PVCs, action that drew the ire of Nigerians.

The INEC boss noted that with the approach of the 2019 election, “there would be a lot of interest in our activities for virtuous and malicious reasons,” but assured that the commission was not letting off its guard in ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.

To this end, he said the commission had taken proactive steps to halt the disturbing trend.

“Nigerians were legitimately outraged by the image of a blank PVC advertised by an offshore company for purchase in the open market. Within a few hours, we contacted the online platform responsible for the advert which promptly removed it.

“What Nigerians may not know is that it was not a single advertiser. A second company was forced to remove a similar advert and only this morning a third one was withdrawn,” he said.

“We have extracted a commitment from Alibaba.com to stop this unwholesome practice forthwith and will continue to work with the security agencies to track down those responsible for the advert as well as any prospective buyers of which there are none so far.

“We suspect that many dubious enterprises would keep trying, keep trying openly and in the dark web. We have anticipated these challenges and we are far ahead of the mischief-makers. Our security source codes are not only robust but continuously enhanced,” he said.

On the forthcoming Ekiti governorship poll, he said the commission remained committed to delivering free, fair and credible election.

Prof Yakubu, however, decried what he said was a fixation by some Nigerians that the commission was out to pervert the electoral process, stressing that the processes had gone beyond the capacity of even INEC officials to manipulate.

“The procedures are robust. The claim that the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) are cloned and Smart Card Readers preloaded is simply ludicrous. The Card Readers are only configured to specific polling units 72 hours or less before an election and set to operate only on election day from 8 a.m. and is manually shut down for accreditation after the last person on the queue has voted or automatically by 8 p.m.

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

He gave an update on activities of the parties, noting that 74 out of 136 new associations seeking registration as political parties have failed the initial assessment due to the unsuitability of their names and logos.

He said, “Sixty-two have passed the initial assessment. Nine associations have undergone verification of their offices and proposed leadership while 16 are either awaiting verification or yet to supply supporting documents.

Prof. Yakubu disclosed further that as at June 22, 2018, the commission has made 9,922,619 new registration while PVC Collection stood at 576,346.

He said the commission has received 489,354 requests for transfer of PVCs whereas 766,435 applicants want their PVCs replaced.

The consultative meeting continues today with members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Media.

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