Bayelsa REC: I never thumbprinted ballot papers

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The Bayelsa State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Monday Udoh, in this interview, outlines preparations for the November 16, 2019 governorship election in the state.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued to complain about Nembe, alleging that some persons were driven out of Basambiri during the last general election. They have also demanded that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) create extra polling units for the internally displaced Peoples (IDP) camps. Is this claim by PDP true and what steps are you taking to ensure that nobody in that area is disenfranchised?

I think that if there is any case like that, the National Emergency management Agency (NEMA) should be contacted, because INEC does not have power to declare positions on IDP camps. In a case where we are duly notified, we would make sure materials get to them. But for now, I am not sure that any part of the state has been declared an IDP camp.

However, in the last general election, I took steps to go to that area and visited the chiefs of Basambiri. I also went to Ogbolomabiri, where I met with the deputy governor of the state in his house. I also met with the former military administrator of Ebonyi State, Walter Feghabo. I did all these just to build bridges among these communities so as to ensure that they take part in the election peacefully. I even had a meeting with chiefs from both communities and together, they agreed to work in peace.

So, I have not got any report about what they are talking about; rather, I was told that I was seen in a car with somebody with whom I drove to a hotel where I thumb printed on ballot sheets. What a misguided accusation. That is pure fabrication of lies and falsehood.

The election is few days away from today and all eyes are on Bayelsa State. In the past, INEC made promises that election would commence early, but it failed. This time, what are the logistics put in place and the arrangements you have made to ensure that materials arrive on time and voting commence at the stipulated time?

Well, we all know that Bayelsa is 75 per cent water. Therefore, our movement of man and materials is going to be difficult. I was able to convince our national secretariat to allow us to conduct the election over three days. Now, we have concluded arrangements with boat owners and supply of buses to the points. The Nigerian Navy is profiling them as we speak. We want to know the owners of the boats and persons that would be piloting them on the day of election. As I speak, our legal department has met with them and signed all the agreements.

We have trained all our ad hoc staff. That is about two weeks to the election. We even went further to give them manual with which they can train themselves at home. We are doing all these because we want this election to be exemplary in a way it would serve as a catalyst for the 2023 election.

In terms of security, we are meeting with security agencies and tackling issues. We have also enlisted the use of helicopters so that where we may have delay in the distribution of materials through land and water, we would be able to distribute them through air. In terms of voter education, we have done a lot. There is nothing we have not done to ensure the forthcoming election is free, fair and peaceful.

How are results going to be transmitted in this election? Will they be done manually or electronically?

Transmit results electronically to where? Is there a server in Bayelsa? I don’t have a server here; then, I don’t have anywhere to transmit results electronically to. Why we are using smart card reader is to ensure that you are authenticated to vote. We don’t vote electronically. So, we cannot transmit results electronically. That is the law in Nigeria today.

In the last election, some of us were shocked when you said 68 card readers were stolen and you managed to recover some. What improvements have you made to ensure that card readers can be tracked and recovered when stolen this time?

There is this issue that happened in Brass during the last election. We had a situation where a deputy commissioner of police was kidnapped. What gave rise to that was that some persons decided to leave the collation centre and wanted to take the collation to Yenagoa, but the people said no.

So, when the policeman insisted that the collation be done in Yenagoa, the people held him hostage, saying he would not move until the results were collated there. So, it was in situations like that that card readers went missing. So, the card readers were not stolen while election was ongoing. They got missing after results had been collated. They were stolen by people who were angry about where results were collated in some areas. In some cases, the card readers got lost in transit while materials were being transported on the sea. But card readers are insured by INEC, having it in mind that such things would happen. And the insurance company is ready to make replacement.

So, that will not affect us in any way in this election.

Source: Nigerian Tribune

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