By Omotilewa Quadri
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday said it had enlisted the support of the marine police and the Nigerian Navy to escort election personnel and materials moving to riverine communities through the high seas with gunboats.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this in Abuja while updating the media and observers on the commission’s preparation for the Saturday presidential and national assembly elections.
Yakubu assured that the commission has made good progress in resolving logistics challenges that led to the postponement of the election by one week.
He assured that election materials will be delivered to polling units, including those in riverine communities across the country in good time.
He, however, acknowledged that riverine communities like those in Bayelsa State pose special challenges to the commission.
He said, “Five out of the eight local government areas in Bayelsa State are only accessible by sea. We have experience, having previously conducted elections in Bayelsa. I know the considerable distance, for instance, between Yenagoa, the capital and Oporoma, the capital of Southern Ijaw. You spend literally hours on the high seas.
“We also appreciate the challenge that security poses, particularly when you have personnel and materials on the high seas. It is for that reason that we have always made arrangements with the police and sometimes with the navy and the army as well to provide gunboats in addition to the boats that carry our personnel and materials to locations.”
“Our office in Bayelsa must have finished the batching of materials, deploying to the local governments will be today and I have listed ten states that have moved materials to the local government today. Bayelsa is not one of them but I believe at first light tomorrow, they will deploy and the strategy always is to deploy to places where you need some extra time like Oporoma in Southern Ijaw. And why you can count the distance of moving the materials by sea like in Ekeremor, then you can go through Delta to get to Ekeremor,” he said.
Prof. Yakubu assured that the deployment of voting materials to the 774 local government areas of the country will be completed on Thursday (today).
He also said that the commission has completed the configuration of smart card readers that will be used for the accreditation of voters.
The INEC Chairman assured that the commission’s ICT facilities can not be compromised since they are offline.
“INEC is not under pressure. Let me state here that most of our ICT facilities will be offline because its difficult to attack ICT facilities that are offline. We will continue to strengthen security during this period.
“We will continue to do all we can in line with the stipulations of the law and due process,” he added.