By LEONARD OKACHIE
UMUAHIA- INEC National Commissioner in charge of Abia, Anambra and Benue, Mr Festus Okoye, has said that the commission will deploy over 200,000 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 general elections.
Okoye, who was in Abia to monitor the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), said this during an interactive session with newsmen in Umuahia on Friday.
He said that the BVAS would be deployed in the 176,000 polling units across the country.
He said that the surplus would be kept handy as reserve.
“We will have one BVAS reserve in every Registration Area Centre (RAC) to ensure immediate intervention in case of any failure,” he said.
He further said that Technical Officers would be on standby at every RAC to attend to any technical issues that could arise in the course of the polls.
Okoye, who is the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, said that the commission had the capacity to conduct seamless general elections in 2023.
According to him, the commission is poised to replicate the achievements and successes recorded in the Ekiti and Osun Gubernatorial Elections.
He attributed the commission’s feat in the two elections to the deployment of technology.
He said that the deployment of technology and outcomes of the elections “have given Nigerians fresh hopes”.
He said that 2023 offered the commission an opportunity to improve on its record.
“The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, has assured Nigerians that this commission is determined to conduct good elections to make sure that votes count.
“The commission will deploy technology to obviate human interferences to undermine its efforts,” Okoye said.
He expressed delight over the large turnout of young Nigerians for the CVR.
He said that of the 11 million Nigerians that had completed their registration, about 7.8 million were between 18 years and 34 years.
“The interest shown by the young Nigerians meant that the future of the country is bright.
“The youths have shown that the PVC has power and they are ready to use it to make a change.
“The PVC has power and value. It is not enough to obtain your PVC.
“You must come out and vote on the day of the election,” he said.
Okoye further said that as at July 25, INEC’s record showed that about 28.5 million prospective voters registered online.
He said the figure included fresh registrants and those for transfers, destroyed, defaced and lost voter cards.
He also said that the commission had integrated Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the electoral process.
The INEC chieftain said that 34 Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers in the Osun election were PWDs.
He said that the commission would provide special equipment, including magnifying glasses, brailes and other aids for PWDs during the 2023 polls.
He also said that expectant and nursing mothers would be given preferential treatment during the polls.
Okoye said that the commission had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers as part of the efforts to ensure speedy distribution of electoral materials on the election day.
He said that Electoral Officers at the local government areas would also arrange with the local transport workers for the movement of materials.
He also said that the commission was discussing with the Police for the timely deployment of personnel to escort materials to polling units.
Okoye further said that the commission had begun intensive discussion with all the security agencies on ways to provide adequate security on the election day “so that the electorate would be confident to go out to vote”.
He said that the July 31 deadline for the CVR remained sacrosanct.
He said that the commission had enormous task to accomplish ahead of the election proper, hence could not afford another extension.
He said that the CVR had lasted for over a year and that INEC would not glorify “the last minute rush attitutde” of some Nigerians.
Addressing a crowd of prospective registrants at the INEC office, he advised them not to engage in double registation.
“This exercise is exclusively for those who have not registered before and those that have just attained age 18,” he said.
He warned that double and multiple registrations were criminal offences and amounted to exercise in futility.
“At the end of the CVR, the commission will carry out a de-duplication to remove double and multiple registrations,” Okoye said.
He also spoke on the efforts by the commission to check “voter suppression” through vote buying by desperate politicians and their agents.
He said that the commission was collaborating with DSS and EFCC to effectively checkmate the ugly phenomenon.
He said that the commission had yet to get concrete evidence regarding the allegations of under-aged registration in some parts of the country.
He challenged communities to help arrest the illegal act, saying it could only take place with the complicity of the people.
Okoye said that PVCs had no expiry date and that it was not true that those obtained in 2011 needed to be revalidated.
He also said that investigation was still ongoing to uncover the facts surrounding the millions of PVCs reportedly found in one of the states in the country.
He said that a preliminary investigation by the commission with some samples of the PVCs did not give any clues as to the owners and state they originated from. (NAN)