By Patrick Abang (CALABAR)
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has commenced the distribution of sensitive materials to the 18 local government areas of Cross River State for the Saturday Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The distribution began on Wednesday at the INEC office in Calabar with the loading of Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines and later headed to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for loading of the result sheets and ballot papers.
Representatives of twelve political parties and Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) were present to witness the distribution.
The State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), who led The Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security in Cross River State (ICCES) Prof. Gabriel Yomere, said, the exercise was to show transparency of the process in the distribution of sensitive materials for the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
The REC said, ” “today is a very special day for INEC to ICCES . It is a special responsibility. We are going to move from here to the central bank for the sensitive materials. We have invited the parties so that they will not nurture the impression that properly that some deals have been done in the process of handling these sensitive materials.
“Let me state here, if you look at the BVAS, they are no more in the package in which they were and the explanation is very simple, the BVAS came here completely empty. We have to configure them, we have to charge them so that the BVAS will be hundred percent ready.they are configured accordingly to the 3231 polling units where they will be used.
“Secondly, the BVAS have been charged to work for 48 hours, so that once you open it, for the next two days, you don’t need it to recharge. The charging will be sufficient and thank God, the voting process won’t last for six hours. At the central bank, the ballot papers are there and especially the most sensitive is the result sheets where the parties will have the opportunity to inspect them.”
Speaking also, the Co-Chairman of ICCES, the State Police Commissioner, Aliyu Garba, represented by Kabiru Ibrahim, said the security agent would escort the trucks loaded with the sensitive materials to their destinations.
“All the security agencies are fully represented here as regards to this process. As earlier said by the rec, the security agents will follow the vehicles and escort the materials to it final destination. The members of the public should be rest assured that we will be fair and professional in carrying out our duties.” He assured.
Meanwhile, political parties present at the distribution of the materials have expressed satisfaction over the distribution process, describing it as transparent. He urged election management body to sustain this transparency in the conduct of the general elections.
However, the representative of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Committee and the state Chairman of the party, Venatius Ikem, raised concern on the issues of non availability of serial numbers on the BVAS and the reluctance by the REC to append his signature on result sheets for the elections.
Ikem said: “We remain dissatisfied because the issues of the serial numbers on the BVAS remain quite relevant to us.
“It is surprising that the REC admitted that the BVAS machines come with serial numbers but that he is not under any obligation to release them to us.
“The interest is particularly so in the BVAS machines because of the allegations that some highly placed people have been able to obtain some alternative machines which they intend to swap with the authentic ones.
“So that issue remains to us very sensitive, so they must do something to give us that satisfaction that there is nothing under the carpet”.