The Independent National Electoral Commission said on Wednesday that it would be deploying a total of 17,000 electoral personnel for the conduct of the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State.
It is also seeking the presence of armed security operatives within the precinct of the polling units in the face of recurrence of ballot box snatching and violent disruptions of elections.
The National Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, made this known at training for journalists ahead of the election, themed, Ondo 2020 Governorship Election: Election Process/Procedure, held in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
He noted that policemen deployed at the polling units are not allowed to bear arms within the voting area, but a fresh discussion was ongoing to ensure the presence of armed security men not too far away from the polling units.
“INEC is very concerned about security. Security is fundamental to the electoral process. No amount of life insurance is worth the life of a corps member,” he said.
Mr Okoye said of the total number of personnel, 15,000 will constitute members of the National Youths Service Corps scheme as well as students from federal tertiary institutions.
He said the rest would include presiding officers, supervising, collation and returning officers that would be drawn from federal institutions across the country.
Mr Okoye noted that no collation officer would be picked from any tertiary institution from Ondo State, adding that those who would determine the conduct and outcome of the election would be Nigerians outside of INEC.
“We Nigerians will conduct the elections, the National Commissioners of INEC will provide the policy guide,” he said.
Mr Okoye also restated INEC’s position that it would not postpone the election for fears of Covid-19 infection, arguing that the commission was constrained by the provisions of the Constitution not to do so.
“When others were overwhelmed by the pandemic, we were not overwhelmed. We worked out our guidelines for holding the elections in Edo and Ondo and we insisted that we will hold the elections in Edo and Ondo because of constitutional implications,” Mr Okoye said.
While citing relevant sections of the Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010(as amended), Mr Okoye noted that the schedule of elections with regards to Ondo and Edo was completely out of the control of INEC.
“So, INEC is only empowered to conduct elections and not to take any political decision,” he said.
He said Section 180 of the Constitution provides for the proclamation of postponement or extension of the tenure of governor of a state if the country is at war, adding that it is not within the powers of INEC to declare whether the Covid-19 situation is a war situation.
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He noted that the commission had taken measures to ensure the fears of Covid-19 were mitigated by providing for the availability of infrared thermometers at all the polling units and would ensure that other protocols of the prevention of Covid-19 were strictly adhered to during the election.
The Chairman of the Nigerians Union of Journalists in Ondo State, Adetona Aderoboye, urged INEC to provide a level-playing field for all political parties and provide useful and timely information to journalists covering the election.
Mr Aderoboye also charged the commission to carry out effective mobilisation at the grassroots to forestall voter apathy.