By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA- The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC said it has achieved 98 percent reconfiguration of its smart card readers, expressing readiness for the rescheduled general elections.
INEC boss INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu disclosed this Tuesday in Abuja while briefing stakeholders on the level of preparedness of the commission. “Last Saturday, the Commission, after extensive review of our preparedness for the 2019 general elections, decided that it was necessary to reschedule the elections by one week. As I explained to stakeholders, we were constrained to shift the polls due to severe challenges and lapses we experienced with arrival and distribution of sensitive materials, as well as the fires that gutted some of our offices in quick succession, destroying several election materials”, the INEC Chairman began.
In order to achieve its set objectives, INEC had identified six areas covering three broad areas like deployment of materials, movement of personnel and reconfiguration of Smart Card Readers.
“Let me therefore present to you the level of implementation so far achieved as follows; “By 4pm yesterday, all issues relating to the delivery of the materials were identified and virtually addressed. Ballot papers, result sheets and a host of non-sensitive materials are now in location across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory FCT.
“Our State offices commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central Bank of Nigeria to examine the retrieved materials deployed last week and to witness the batching of materials according to Local Government Areas LGAs. This is ongoing at the moment and is expected to be completed today Tuesday 190‘ February 2019.
“The movement of materials to LGAs for batching according to Wards and Polling Units shall take place on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st February 2019.
“All Registration Area Centres RACs are to be activated by 9.00m on Friday 22nd February 2019. “Personnel and materials should be at the RACs by mid-day on Friday 22nd February 2019. “Refresher training for ad hoc personnel should take place at the RACs on Friday 22nd February 2019.
“Personnel and materials must arrive at the Polling Units latest 7am on Saturday 23″ February 2019. Opening of polls nationwide will take place at 8am on Saturday 23rd February 2019”, he declared.
Explaining further on the rationale for a week long postponement of the polls, the INEC Chairman said; “You would recall that in my address to stakeholders, I mentioned that we intended to reschedule the elections for just 24 hours to enable us to deliver the final batch of sensitive materials for the elections. However, our ICT team notified us that it would require more time to reconfigure the Smart Card Readers in time for the elections. Let me explain why. The Smart Card Readers (SCRs) are configured to only open for use at 8am on election day, and to automatically shut down by 10 pm. This is designed to forestall any illegal use of the SCRs before the appointed time of elections. There are roughly 180,000 SCRs to be deployed for the elections and the ICT team said that they would require 5-6 days to complete the configuration. I am glad to say that as at today, about 98% of the SCRs have been reconfigured and we are confident that by tomorrow all would be ready, which is a day earlier than scheduled.
” Following requests by some stakeholders last Saturday and further consultation with political party leaders, the Commission has approved that campaigns by political parties and candidates can resume immediately for the first set of elections. Consequently, campaigns for the Presidential and National Assembly elections shall now end at midnight on Thursday 21st February 2019 while campaigns for the Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council elections shall end at midnight Thursday 7th March 2019. Accordingly, media organizations are at liberty to accept, publish, broadcast and circulate campaign materials until the specified end of campaigns.
“Preparations for Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council elections are well underway. Already, the sensitive materials for the elections have started arriving at various locations for onward movement to various Central Bank branches across the country. Indeed, some of these materials arriving through our airports have been erroneously construed by some people as materials for the elections holding this weekend. I want to reassure you all that all materials for the rescheduled Presidential and National Assembly elections next Saturday are already in the States ready for deployment to LGAs, Ward and Polling Units. We have learnt a lesson from the preparations for the elections holding this weekend. For this reason, we shall start the movement of materials for the next elections early to ensure that nothing disrupts our process.
“While we fully understand the disappointment and even anger that followed that rescheduling of the elections on 16th February, I wish to appeal to stakeholders to be more dispassionate and circumspect in their comments in order not to overheat the polity. The Commission is focusing on the elections to be held on 23rd February and 9th March 2019 to ensure that they are free, fair and credible. We urge all Nigerians to participate fully in the elections, notwithstanding the disappointment caused by the rescheduling of dates”, he added.
He said the commission would continue to speak to Nigerians daily to let them know the extent of readiness of the commission.