The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may bow to pressure to extend the Friday, February 8 deadline for the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), for the 2019 general elections.
Although INEC has constantly maintained that the deadline for collection of the PVCs is sacrosanct, the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had on Wednesday appealed to the electoral commission to extend the collection date.
However, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who hinted at the possibility of extending the deadline at the National Stakeholders’ Forum on the 2019 general elections in Abuja, yesterday noted that the final decision would be taken after the meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) in the 36 States of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT to review the collection.
Yakubu further assured Nigerians that the elections would not be postponed as being speculated in some quarters, emphasising that INEC had already implemented most of the programmes outlined for the 2019 polls.
“I want to assure stakeholders that INEC is prepared for the election. Let me reassure stakeholders and the nation that the Smart Card Readers will be deployed for the 2019 general elections. The next issue is voters register and the PVCs. We have a lot of complaints from citizens, however, the complaints are coming from those who have damaged their PVCs and require replacement, as well as those who applied for transfer and relocation but the cards, have not been found.
‘Some of you will ask that the last day for the correction of PVCs is Friday, February 8. The commission will meet yesterday after this forum and the next meeting we are going to hold is with security agencies and where it is necessary we will review the arrangement for the collection of PVCs. No Nigerian is going to be disenfranchised for no fault of theirs.
“We have three categories of ad hoc staff; we have the supervisory presiding officers’ category. We have the presiding officers and assistant presiding officers 1, 2 and 3. The third category is the collation and returning officers.
“Our state offices are responsible for the recruitment and training of the first two categories. We are satisfied with the processes and we are going to do refresher training before the election,” Yakubu said.
He further announced that 148 observer groups have been approved for the election with 119 domestic and 28 foreign observer missions, making a total of 90, 000 observers that would be going around pulling units across the country on the election day.
The INEC Chairman who explained that RECs had been mandated to meet with commissioners of police in their respective states to decide on the deployment of security, said they were to meet state chapters of Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers to implement the earlier signed MoU to ensure that election staff and materials were moved to various pulling units before the arrival of voters at 8 am on the election day.
Also speaking, the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, disclosed that the six Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs) would be deployed to the six geopolitical zones, 24 Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) would be deployed across the zones while 36,000 tactical personnel would also be deployed in addition to regular police to beef up security on the election day.
“In the tactical unit, over 24,000 mobile police personnel will be deployed, 4,000 counter-terrorism personnel will be deployed and about 8,000 special protection personnel will be deployed.
“I work tirelessly with the INEC, with the office of the National Security Adviser and other security agencies to make sure that 2019 election is done in a secured manner, in a professional manner, in a way that a level playing field is provided for every political party and this indicates that all the security agencies will be impartial in the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
“All the commissioners of police in the states were made to identify the flashpoints within their states to identify those that will cause what will lead to the disruption of elections and make sure that we bring them to order before the elections. That has been done.
“We have done the threat analysis in all the state commands. The state commissioners of police are also going to identify all the polling units and voting points within their commands in cooperation with the RECs to make sure that all the polling units are known before the day of the election.
“Apart from the regular police officers and other security agencies posted, we have our tactical units like the mobile police force, the counter-terrorism unit and our special protection unit are all deployed to give additional security,” he assured.
The acting IGP further noted that all the Squadron Commanders of Police Mobile Force, Special Protection and Anti Terrorism units would escort sensitive election materials to the states branches of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Registration Areas and accompany INEC staff and poll officials especially National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to their duty posts.
He added that there would be no police escort for VIPs to pulling units but INEC state and local government offices, collation centres, NYSC members lodges and public utilities would be protected by armed police personnel while three unarmed security personnel would man each polling unit on the day of the election.
The police boss promised that before the election day, phone numbers of all Police Public Relations Officers, AIGs, Commissioners of Police, Assistant Commissioners of Police and other officers involved in the conduct of the polls would be made available to the public, noting that security personnel would be professional and impartial to provide a level playing field for all political parties.
Earlier, ECES Project Coordinator, Rudolf Elbing, urged stakeholders in the electoral process to support the growth of Nigeria’s democratic system and work with INEC to ensure that democracy is sustained and elections conducted in the most peaceful atmosphere.
“The forum provides electoral stakeholders with the necessary tools to ensure that elections are conducted with operational and logistical efficiency. At the same time, dialogue- development and dialogue-based decision making throughout the electoral cycle have been enhanced.
“Electoral administration is not a job left to an election management body alone. There are many other important stakeholders who play vital roles in ensuring the successful delivery of the electoral process.
“It is expected that this dialogue will strengthen the long-term capacities of participants and the commission to effectively deliver the coming general elections on February 16 and March 2, through the provision of requisite information on how far the INEC has fared in its planning and implementation of the election project,” he added.
Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road
No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank
The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.
Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms
Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.
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