The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Manhood Yakubu, yesterday warned leaders of the political parties participating in the November 6 Anambra State governorship election against violent campaigns and unguarded utterances that could affect a peaceful conduct of the election.

Prof. Yakubu who gave the warning in his address during a meeting held at the INEC headquarters Abuja, also announced 2,525,471 as eligible voters for the Anambra governorship polls.

He said: “I wish to appeal to all political parties and candidates not to exacerbate the feeling of insecurity in Anambra State through unguarded utterances and actions. This could compound the security situation and make the work of the commission, political parties and security agencies even more difficult.”

The INEC chairman said that such violent campaigns and unguarded utterances may also lead to voter apathy, explaining that “This moment calls for statesmanship and maturity hence the decision to convene this emergency meeting.

“We are confident that the outcome of this engagement will be productive and helpful to the Commission and political parties as we continue to prepare for the Anambra Governorship holding on Saturday 6th November 2021,” the INEC chairman stated.

He reminded the political parties that in May this year, INEC state office in Awka was attacked which he said affected the main building, collation centre and store which were completely or partially damaged.

Also damaged in the attacks were 60 per cent of non-sensitive materials for the election, including 326 generating sets and several Hilux vehicles, which had been assembled in Awka. He said that the electoral body had since recovered from the attack.

“I am glad to report that we have fully recovered from that attack. The buildings have been completely reconstructed and renovated in readiness for the election.

“All the non-sensitive materials have either been procured afresh or sourced from neighbouring states and our zonal stores. We are working assiduously with security agencies to ensure that such an attack does not happen again.”

However, he said, “security remains a major challenge to our preparations. For the political parties, these heinous attacks have truncated campaigns, making voter mobilisation and sensitisation impossible.

“Consequently, Anambra State is not in the usual election mood. It is in light of the security situation in the state that the commission held an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) last Tuesday.

“The meeting was frank and productive. We are assured of the determination of the security agencies to protect voters, election staff, election observers, the media, transport providers and candidates during the election.

“Already, security around INEC facilities in the state has been ramped up. We are also confident that the heightened deployment of security officials, which is expected in the coming weeks, will further give citizens the confidence to turn up and vote on Election Day. We shall continue to work with the security agencies to ensure that the election is successful and violence-free,” he stated

Giving an update on the commission’s preparation for the governorship election, the INEC chairman said, “In Anambra State, a total of 138,802 citizens completed the registration, including applications for transfer and requests for replacement of lost, damaged or defaced PVCs as required by law.

“However, in the process of cleaning up the registration data, we discovered that many previously registered persons re-registered afresh.

“As a testimony to the effectiveness of our new system for checking double and multiple registrations, the commission found out that some 62,698 persons who are already registered voters in Anambra State went ahead to register again. These double or multiple registrations are invalid by law. We have archived these registrations and will not print new PVCs for them,” the INEC boss said.

According to him, the old PVCs still remain valid and voters can use them to vote at the Polling Units where they registered and probably voted in previous elections.

He explained that the same cleaning up exercise was going on nationwide, adding that, “As soon as it is over, the commission will provide further details to Nigerians on the situation in other states of the federation and action to be taken on the matter. Let me remind all Nigerians that the law prohibits double registration.

“The commission appreciates the fact that the deployment of technology, including the online pre-registration, has simplified the process and made voter registration in Nigeria easier. However, the same technology has also made it easier for us to detect multiple registrations,” he explained.

Consequently, the INEC chairman said, “the number of valid registrants in Anambra State at the end of the First Quarter of the CVR exercise on 5th September 2021 is 77,475. This figure has been added to the existing register of 2,447,996 eligible voters used for the 2019 general election.”

He explained that the number of registered voters in Anambra State now stands at 2,525,471. “We shall provide a detailed breakdown of the figure for public information in the days ahead,” he noted.

The INEC chairman informed the political parties that the commission had already completed 10 out of 14 activities in its timetable and schedule of activities for the governorship election.

He explained that on Thursday, INEC published the final list of candidates in our State and Local Government offices in Anambra State and simultaneously uploaded the same information to its website and social media platforms.

Furthermore, he said that all the 18 political parties participating in the election were issued a soft copy of the updated register of voters at a meeting held in the state office in Awka.

He equally said that INEC was presently working on the printing of the PVCs, adding that it shall use various channels, including e-mails and text messages, to contact the new voters to collect their PVCs before the election.

According to him, “We have almost completed the recruitment of ad hoc staff for the election. In all, about 26,000 election duty staff are required. Although there are still some minor shortfalls, we believe that we will complete the recruitment in time for their training scheduled to commence on 19th October 2021.

Also, the INEC chairman said that the training of other categories of staff such as Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) has been completed, while the training of Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs) would commence soon.

Turning to voter accreditation, he said, “I wish to assure you that the commission is committed to deploying the BVAS for electronic fingerprint and facial accreditation of voters.”

The INEC chairman said that the pilot deployment of the system in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State held last month was very encouraging.

For example, he said that the successful full biometric accreditation was 32.8 per cent in the constituency during the 2019 general election. However, using the BVAS in the same constituency during the recent bye-election the accreditation sharply rose to 97.4 per cent.

As a result, he said that the commission would continue to deploy appropriate technology to improve the electoral process, saying, “Let me once again reiterate the position of the commission that going forward, nobody will be allowed to vote in any election without successful biometric accreditation.”