The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has expressed readiness to conduct supplementary elections in the 23 Local Government Areas of Benue State, in North Central Nigeria, scheduled for March 23rd.
The Commission says all the sensitive and non sensitive materials meant for the conduct of supplementary elections for Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in the State are safe and ready for distribution.
Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Benue State, Dr. Nentawe Yilwatda gave the assurance in an interview with Voice of Nigeria Correspondent, Aloysius Umalo after a stakeholders meeting in Makurdi, the State Capital.
The Commission gives assurance that the exercise would be free, fair and transparent.
According to him, about 109, 733 eligible voters will be participating in the March 23rd governorship supplementary elections.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner explained that “out of the 121, 102 registered voters in areas where elections were cancelled, only 109,733 religible voters have collected their Permanent Voters Cards, (PVCs) and would participate in the election”.
The figure is against the initial 121,102 cancelled votes that resulted in the declaration of the March 9 elections inconclusive.
Dr. Yilwatda stated that apart fr Katsina Ala Local Government, the supplementary election for governorship will be conducted in 22 out of the 23 Local Governments Areas of the state while the state assembly elections would hold only in nine Local Governments.
He says the sensitive materials in some affected local governments will be moved from INEC Area offices straight to polling units, while in some places, materials will be moved from collation centres.
Yilwatda warned politicians from adopting social media speculations to make unnecessary complaints about opposition using federal might before the commission.
He notes that INEC will not sympathise with any political party using that ploy as according to him, the constitution remains the ultimate authority the commission would bow to.
Governor Samuel Ortom says his election does not warrant the shedding of any Benue blood and appealed to the people of the state not to make the process a do or die affair.
Governor Ortom expressed concern about the high level of violence and the new trend of vote buying in the electoral process which he described as “unnecessary, unwarranted and unacceptable”.
Represented by his Deputy, Engineer Benson Abounu, Governor Ortom commended INEC for the tremendous innovations and improvement introduced in the electoral process.
“As a sitting Governor, Ortom is concerned and deeply worried about violence in our electoral process. It is very unnecessary, unwarranted and unacceptable because we are not in a war.”
The Governor urged INEC to allow the will of Benue people to prevail in the supplementary elections.
“The essence of the election is for people to decide who to govern them and at the end of the day, we will come back living as brothers and sisters.”
The governor called on Benue citizens to conduct themselves peacefully during and after the supplementary elections emphasising that the interest of the state should be placed above personal interests.
Benue State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Umar Muri gave assurance of adequate security to be deployed to ensure safety of Benue electorates at Polling Units and Collation Centres across the affected areas on Saturday.
In his words, “there would be water-tight security at both polling units and collation centres to ensure the safety of election officers and that of electoral materials.”
The meeting which had in attendance top security chiefs and party representatives was aimed at providing the stakeholder’s opportunity to make observations and amendments in preparation for the supplementary elections.