The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said on Tuesday that the commission is setting up a legal team to deal with cases of electoral offenders during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly polls.
This was as he said the forthcoming governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections will be expectedly more demanding than the presidential poll and urged the security agencies to be on guard.
The INEC boss spoke at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security in Abuja on Tuesday.
Yakubu advised political parties to caution their supporters, stressing that the March 18 governorship and state Assembly elections are a contest and not war.
He said INEC was looking forward to receiving electoral offenders’ case files as promised by the Inspector-General of Police.
Yakubu said, “The governorship and state Assembly elections this weekend involve more constituencies than the national elections held about three weeks ago. Unlike the last elections involving 470 constituencies (one presidential, 109 senatorial districts and 360 House of Representatives seats), the state elections will involve 1,021 constituencies (28 governorship and 993 state Assembly seats). There will also be more candidates involved and more collation centres to protect. There are also local elections involving keen contests.
“It is, therefore, important for parties and candidates to speak to their agents and supporters to see the elections as a contest and not war. They should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media and service providers.
“The commission is encouraged by the directive to state commands by the Inspector-General of Police to handle all cases of electoral offences expeditiously. We look forward to receiving the case files. We will immediately set up a legal team to handle such cases in earnest.”
On his part, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, described Saturday’s polls as complicated but gave the assurance that security agencies would ensure peace.
Monguno said a lot of meetings had been going on, especially with the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector-General of Police, to ensure peaceful polls.
He said, “Of course, the elections on Saturday are going to be much more complicated, and contextually different. First of all, we are going to have 1,021 constituencies, which means more people are interested, and more people will vote. Obviously, the dynamics would be much more different than the elections that were just concluded.
“For the security agencies, I know a lot has been done. I have been talking with the Chief of Defence Staff, and with the Inspector-General of Police, who is the head of the lead agency in the process of elections. So far, so good, we do not envisage anything that is going to be terrible or apocalyptic in the next few days. But that does not mean that we should all do away with our state of readiness. We must comply with the rules. We must also allow everyone to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens of this country.”
The NSA urged political parties and candidates to demonstrate high level of discipline and maturity during and after the polls, advising them to caution their supporters.