Politics

Imo election: INEC raises alarm as youths refuse to work as ad hoc staff

…As insecurity threatens Nov 11 governorship polls

There is security threat to the November 11 governorship elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said on Wednesday.

The commission also lamented that residents are now scared of applying as ad hoc staff for the election in Imo and the other affected states.

It added that there is need for the government to bring down the level of insecurity to guarantee free and credible elections.

INEC National Commissioner Mohammed Haruna stated this yesterday during a media engagement in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

The electoral umpire implored political ”actors “ and other stakeholders like security operatives and the media to work for peace ahead of the polls.

It, however, said that in spite of the security challenges, it was working assiduously to ensure that the elections turned out successfully.

The commission explained that of the 13 items mapped out for the November polls in the three states, eight had been taken care of.

Haruna lamented that insecurity in Imo and Kog had resulted in a situation where residents were scared of applying as ad hoc staff for the election in the states.

He said: “We have gone so far with our preparedness for the off-cycle elections in Imo, Kogi and Bayelsa states.

“But the commission is truly worried about the growing level of insecurity and violence in Kogi and Imo states. This is unacceptable, unnecessary and not healthy for our democracy.”

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Haruna explained that the security situation in Bayelsa a shade better than the situation in the other two states.

He added: “Campaigns in Kogi State have been violent and this is most unfortunate. Our political gladiators and indeed, all citizens, must work towards ensuring free, fair and credible elections.

“It stands to reason that if this situation is allowed to continue, there is the likelihood that people will be afraid to come out to vote, on the election day.

“Already, INEC is having a shortfall in the number of ad-hoc staff needed to superintend over the forthcoming elections. This is because most people expected to work are afraid of their safety.

”It is very important that peace prevails otherwise voters will not come out to vote.

“I appeal to all actors to observe peace because at the end of the day, if there is no peace, there will be no free, fair and credible election.”

Early this month, there was a renewed insecurity and a series of killings that put residents of Imo State to fear.

One of the incidents was in the Umualumaku in Ehime Mbano Local Government Area where gunmen attacked and killed five security personnel.

Earlier in April 21, a group of gunmen killed five police officers and a couple in Okpala in Ngor-Okpala Local Government Area.

Kogi State has also had a series of security breaches, especially kidnappings, of recent. The latest is the kidnap of a medical doctor Austin Uwumagbe, in Ogaminana, Adavi Local Government Area. His abductors are demanding N80 million for his release.

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Raising the hope that things might change so that the elections will be done under a safe atmosphere, Haruna recalled that during the preparation for the election that produced Prof. Chukwuma Soludo as Anambra State governor, ”people called on us to postpone the poll, but INEC went ahead to conduct it and today, that election was one of the most peaceful we ever had.”

He also charged media people to adhere strictly to the ethics of their profession by reporting factually, objectively and accurately.

“In reporting the activities of the Commission, pre-election, election, and post-activities, we plead with the media to be factual, objective, and professional in their reportage.”

The INEC chief noted that diatribes heaped on the electoral body in respect of previous elections arose chiefly through inaccurate and unverifiable reports.

He assured voters hat INEC had put in place the necessary mechanism to guard against the resurgence of the odds that marred previous elections.

Haruna recalled that INEC received kudos for the successful conduct of the last Osun State governorship poll but received bashing from some members of the public over the conduct of the February 25 presidential election due to glitches during the transmission of election results to the IREV.

He said: “We tested the BVAs up to state level and created files for each level, by the time there was this glitch, we were worried because the other elections were perfect.

“But we asked the petitioners if what they have at ward, local government to state levels are different from what the polling agents presented.

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“There was no malice and we will not have such problems in the governorship election and we need the media to tell the story as it is without bias or misrepresentation.”

Imo State INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner Sylvia Agu said the commission would continue to see the media as partners in progress.

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