INEC declared in Abuja on Sunday that turnout at the July 14 governorship election in Edo was unprecedented.
Its chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that contrary to claims of voter apathy from some quarters, the exercise witnessed a turnout of 39.1 per cent of registered voters, a level, he said was unprecedented in the state.
He stressed that the level of turnout was higher than the 35 per cent average turnout recorded in the state since the return to democracy in 1999.
“So, by all credible standards and measures, there was a high turnout this time around in Edo State than there has ever been in the election in Edo state since 1999, so it is not correct to say there was voter apathy in Edo State.’’
Commenting on the outcome of the election, Jega acknowledged that there were slight hitches in the delivery of electoral materials in some parts of the state, but explained that it was not deliberate.
“We did our best to prevent it, but it was caused by a combination of factors and in Edo State the delay was experienced in only two out of 18 local government areas.
“We deployed a strategy in which we sent materials to the most difficult terrain areas first; to the farthest local government area first and then we distributed to the nearest local government areas last.
“That’s why Oredo local government area and the other local government areas which are within Benin City were the last where materials were distributed.
“But by 3 a.m., the materials had been distributed to what we call Supervisory Presiding Officers, who were supposed to go to the wards and distribute to the other Presiding Officers who go to the polling units.
“But there was no security coverage, and we cannot move election materials unless there is security coverage.’’
Jega added that some of the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) were posted to Edo on Thursday by the Inspector General of Police and most of them did not get to their stations until almost mid-night on the preceding Friday.
He added that the police could not mobilise for a very long time and that though the posting of the senior police officers was done with the best of intentions, it affected timely deployment of security to some areas.
“The Supervisory Presiding Officers in Oredo local government area, on the eve of the election, demanded that they must be paid in full before they proceeded for the election; it was unusual, it has never happened, but we had to pay them to ensure that materials now go to the field.
“We must do everything possible to ensure that materials arrive in good time, but sometimes in spite of everything you do,
The INEC Chairman said in spite of the delays and contrary to various accusations, legitimate voters with legitimate voter cards were not disenfranchised at the election.
“In Edo State, no voter was disenfranchised, where there were delays, the Resident Electoral Commissioner extended the time for accreditation and voting.’’
Jega assured that INEC would keep improving on its strategies and was fully prepared for the October governorship election in Ondo State.
He said INEC had re-strategised for the Ondo State election with focus on the riverine areas, even though INEC did not anticipate any challenge with regards to the riverine nature of parts of Ondo State.
He said INEC had handled similar challenges in Bayelsa, Rivers and Cross River States and other places and that similar measures were intended to be used for the Ondo State election.
“Ondo State is not as riverine as any of these three states that I have mentioned and you can see that there was no complaint in the Bayelsa election about difficulty because of the place being riverine.’’
He said the Commission had full support and cooperation of the security agencies from the Navy to the Air force to the JTF and the Army.
“Wherever there is difficulty in terms of either security challenges or in accessibility these security agencies provide the support that we need.
“Where it is necessary to lift materials by boat, the Navy provided the assistance, where it is necessary to transport the Air Force also provides the necessary assistance.’’ (NAN)
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Category: Benin City