Friday, 2nd June 2023

Borders shut, INEC upbeat, Buhari in Daura as 87.2m vote

By Collins Olayinka, Terhemba Daka, Sodiq Omolaoye, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Matthew Ogune, Tina Abeku, Cornelius Essen (Abuja), Adeyemi Adepetun, Shakirah Adunola, Ngozi Egenuka and Silver Nwokoro (Lagos)
24 February 2023   |   4:35 am
Barely 24 hours to Decision Day when Nigerians will march to the polls to elect the next president and National Assembly members, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said a total of 87,209,007 Nigerians out of 93.4 million ...

Hon. Chairman INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

• Lagos, Kano lead in PVCs collected • INEC clears air on alleged preloaded BVAS • Abide by peace accord, Biden tells Tinubu, Atiku, Obi, others
• UN, diplomatic community laud signing of peace pact • Meta to activate mechanism to fight fake news • NCC: Ignore fraudulent messages of network shutdown • Situation Room to NCC: Nigerians will hold you responsible if BVAS fails • MTN explains telecoms ‘network freeze’ during elections

Barely 24 hours to Decision Day when Nigerians will march to the polls to elect the next president and National Assembly members, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said a total of 87,209,007 Nigerians out of 93.4 million registered citizens are eligible to vote, being the number of collected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

This represents about 93.3 per cent of the total registered voters in the country with about 6.2 million registered voters failing to collect their PVCs.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who presented the figures at the daily briefing held at the national collation centre in Abuja, said about 13.6 million new PVCs were printed for those who registered newly or applied to transfer their PVCs or requested replacement.

Leading the pack for the number of PVCs collected is Lagos State with 6,214,970. Kano is second with 5,594,193; Kaduna came third with 4,164,473; followed by Katsina having 3,459,945; and Rivers coming fifth with 3,285,785 PVCs collected as at February 5, 2023. Ekiti recorded the least PVCs collected with 958,052.

States with the highest number of uncollected PVCs include Lagos – 845,225, Oyo – 515,254, and Ogun – 410,281. Bauchi with total registered voters of 2,749,268 has the highest PVC collected rate at 99 per cent, translating to 2,721,780 PVCs collected. Yakubu assured Nigerians that the Commission was adequately prepared for the election.  

“We remain fully committed to a free, fair and credible process. I want to once again declare that our allegiance is only to Nigeria. Our commitment is to ensure that in this election, we put everything in place for free choice, fair contest and credible outcome,” he stated.   

Yakubu also provided clarification on news making the rounds on social media about existence of preloaded Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which was alleged to rig the elections.

The INEC chairman said he does not know about the existence of such a device. “I don’t know what that means. I’m not sure what that means. The BVAS can’t be operated before the election. It would only start working by 8:30a.m. on election day.”

This is as the Federal Government last night ordered the closure of Nigeria’s borders for the conduct of the elections. This was made known in a communiqué from the office of the Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Isah Idris.

Idris stated that Nigeria’s land borders will be closed effective 00:00 hours (midnight) on Saturday to 00:00 (midnight) hours on Sunday. Nigeria’s foremost agency in charge of border management, has accordingly instructed all command comptrollers, especially those in the border states to ensure strict enforcement of the order.

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, arrived in Daura, his hometown of Katsina State ahead of Saturday’s elections. This would be the first election since 2003 where he won’t be on the ballot.

The presidential jet touched ground at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua Airport at exactly 4:41p.m., 10 minutes after which the jet was opened for the President and his entourage to come down and proceed to Daura on a white helicopter.

UNITED States President, Joe Biden, has urged presidential candidates to abide by the peace accord signed on Wednesday to accept the results of Saturday’s election.

Biden, in a statement yesterday, commended the peace accord. “By signing this pledge, the parties and candidates have committed to accept the results of the election, as announced by INEC and to support a peaceful transition of power,” he said. He added that elections are a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, and all Nigerians deserve the chance to freely and fairly choose their future.

Biden said: “While the United States does not support any single candidate or party, we strongly support a peaceful and transparent process that reflects the will of the people of Nigeria. On election day, I encourage all Nigerians — no matter their religion, region, or ethnicity —to exercise this fundamental freedom and make their voices heard — including young voters, many of whom may be heading to the ballot box for the first time.

DEPUTY Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Giovanie Biha, has also commended the signing of the National Peace Accord.

Biha, who stated this in Abuja, appealed to 18 candidates and their supporters to be committed to and respect the terms of the Peace Accord. Another UN envoy has advised Nigerians not to allow the general elections to break the peace and stability in the country.

Speaking during a prayer session for the country, which ended with the release of doves in the sky, the UN Ambassador for Nigeria, Amina Temitope Ajayi (Mama Diaspora), said: “There is always light after every dark tunnel and there is always a silver lining after every dark cloud. Your vote is your voice and fundamental human right.” She urged youths not to engage in violence during and after the election.

THE diplomatic missions of the United States, Australia, Japan, Norway, Canada and the United Kingdom in Nigeria have welcomed the signing of the second peace accord by candidates of the 18 parties contesting tomorrow’s presidential election.

Through the peace pact, the candidates fully commit to supporting all efforts that will ensure the Nigerian people decide who wins the election. The community said: “We believe it is vital for Nigeria’s stability and democratic consolidation that the process is conducted and concluded safely, fairly and credibly. We encourage all actors to intervene proactively to calm any tensions and avoid any violence in the periods before, during and after the elections.”

They also called on parties to respect electoral laws and institutions and take a firm stance against violence and hate speech by their supporters. The community urged all presidential candidates and political parties to live up to their commitments under the second peace accord to accept the results of the election as announced by INEC and to pursue any challenge of the results through the appropriate legal channels.

AHEAD of the polls, social media giant, Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has disclosed its readiness to remove the most serious kinds of misinformation from Facebook and Instagram, and other content that could contribute to imminent violence or physical harm, or that is intended to suppress voting.

Meta has also concluded to activate a Nigeria-specific Elections Operations Centre, focused on identifying potential threats across its apps and technologies in real time, accelerating our response time.

Corporate Comms Manager, Anglophone West Africa, Meta, Oluwasola Obagbemi, who revealed this in a chat with The Guardian, yesterday, said this is part of efforts in combating misinformation as false news related to voting, locations and methods will be removed, based on guidance from local partners. This will specifically include photos and videos shared out of context that falsely depict ballot stuffing and acts of violence.

She said: “We work with independent fact-checking organisations in Nigeria — AFP, Africa Check, Dubawa and Reuters  — who review and rate content in English, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. When a content is rated “false” or “partly false” by these fact checkers, we attach warning labels to the content and reduce its distribution on Facebook Feed so people are less likely to see it.”

MEANWHILE, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has dismissed as fraudulent and misleading, information circulating in some social media platforms, insinuating that there is a planned shutdown of all telecom networks and relevant ICT Units, including online transfer facilities of banks.

In a statement yesterday, the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Reuben Muoka, said: “The Nigerian public, consumers of telecommunications services and all bank customers are advised to ignore these or similar messages that insinuate deliberate network shutdown or disruption of services in the Nigerian telecom network. 
“The Commission has received unequivocal assurances from all the service providers to the effect that all the network services are currently in optimal performance, and will not witness any deliberate shutdown or disruptions, especially at this very crucial period of general elections in the country.
“Therefore, all users of telecommunications and banking services utilising network facilities are assured of continued optimal service delivery before, during, and after the general elections in Nigeria.” 

THE Nigeria Civil Society Situation room has informed NCC that the Commission will be held responsible for any network issues and internet outages on election day.

Situation Room Convener, Ene Obi, who stated this in Abuja while presenting the group pre-election findings, said it was important to inform the Commission in time as a key stakeholder in the process.

Ene said: “For the first time, BVAS will be deployed nationwide in a general election. This makes NCC a key stakeholder in the process. The Commission will be held responsible for any network issues and internet outages on election day. Security agencies are expected to deploy adequately to hotspots as identified by
INEC and other stakeholders to forestall violence.”

IN response to the mis-interpretation and subsequent apprehension that greeted a notice from telecommunications firm, MTN, titled: ‘Network Change’, where it was stated that there would be network freeze during the forthcoming general elections, the telecoms firm has explained what it planned to do.

In the notice, MTN had said: “Dear esteemed customer, please be informed of the Planned Network freeze period for the 2023 National Election to enable proper management of customers’ expectations. During the freeze period, all activity that will impact the network has been put on hold.”

However, following the confusion that greeted the plan, MTN later sent another notice with the title: “About the network freeze: We don’t implement changes on our network during critical times to minimise the chance of on outage. Keeping the network as is, is a common practice in telecoms referred to as a Network Freeze.”

Giving further details on the matter, a source within the telecoms firm, explained to The Guardian that during the period of freeze, “there will be no core works, upgrades or maintenance as these may cause changes on the network and disrupt service. The aim is to restrict non-essential activities on the network for a critical period like the elections.

“Freeze is carried out essentially, during periods such as festivities like Christmas, New Year, elections, among others.”