Speaking with GBENGA ODOGUN, Dr. Gabriel Longpet, the Kogi State Resident Electoral Commissioner, discusses many connected matters, including the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission for the state’s governorship election on November 11.
You voiced concerns on the low number of Permanent Voter Cards being obtained. Was there a change in circumstances prior to the PVC collecting deadline?
The deadline for collecting PVCs has passed; October 9 was the last day. We determined that there were 128,000 PVCs in Kogi State that had not been collected. The committee decided it would be prudent to extend the invitation to further individuals so they may claim theirs. The people who defiled their cards and those who requested transfers were the majority of those impacted. Since then, we have gone through, and I regret to inform you that we were unable to provide further PVCs to individuals in just four weeks. The prospective voters did not arrive to vote. Out of the 128,000, only roughly 20,000 were gathered in four weeks.
Certain areas of the state have received threats of violence. Do you think this will bother you?
Sure, I’m worried, but I can’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on around me. But I am also aware that there are legal guidelines that dictate the actions of politicians and the general public, and that breaking these guidelines has legal repercussions. I can’t make people arrest me; all I can do is set the guidelines and essential context and converse with them, just like I have been doing on radio, television, and other platforms. People should not run for office wearing masks, and they should be aware of the law’s provisions.
To enable political parties to launch a successful campaign or gather votes, for example, all government agencies should be placed on watch and prohibited from using guns, thugs, or harsh language. This would ensure that November 11th is a pleasant occasion for all. However, handling what has been occurring and what we have heard is under the purview of the security authorities. I can only make them aware of the actions and inactions of the politicians and then let them take over.
Regarding the usage of electronic results transmission on election day, what is the stance of the Independent National Electoral Commission?
The fact that, despite the previously provided explanation, people are continuously asking the same issue perplexes me. There is no electronic transfer of results; instead, we upload results from polling places once the results are entered into form EC8A and BVAS. Form EC8A is utilized to capture the party scores, which are then sent to the collation center by I-REV. INEC is attempting to create an additional degree of transparency. Before the results reached the collation centers, people were accustomed to them being mangled. In this instance, the actual result has already been transferred and is accessible on the I-REV to help the collation officer. They will examine it, compare it to the physical result that will be manually carried to the collation center, and determine whether there are any differences. Although it’s not required of him (the collation officer) to collate that result, it’s acceptable provided it corresponds with the result sent by the I-REV. While results from polling places would be uploaded to the collation center, INEC has not stated that results will be transmitted electronically.
This election has not seen the thorough discussion of numerous issues pertaining to the election that was customarily done at stakeholder meetings before to the election. For what reason is that the case?
It isn’t accurate. On the invitation of the National Commission for Voters Education, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman was present at meetings that were recently held with civil society organizations and media house CEOs in Kogi State. Political parties were invited to stakeholder meetings as well. When we formally gave the voter registration forms to each registered political party running in this election on the 12th of this month, I believe that was the final meeting we had with political parties. We also appealed on politicians to follow the rules for campaigns and rallies using these forums. We have been having stakeholder meetings with women, youth, and other groups. Thus, discussions have been continuing.
What arrangements do you have in place for locations that border rivers and those that might flood during the election?
We’ve got everything set up properly. In order to evaluate our registration area centers, or RAC centers, where our materials will be stored prior to election day, officers from headquarters visited us earlier. We have determined which areas we believe could be affected by flooding and have also developed backup plans to move those centers and polling places to higher elevations so that people can vote there. For example, we are planning for a similar situation this year because Ganaja Primary School, one of our voting locations, flooded last year. Alternative plans have been made. Thus, last week when the Chairmen visited, he was informed that our RAC center in Ganaja had been moved to a higher location. Thus, measures have been taken to guarantee that no one’s right to vote is violated.
What level of certainty about the election have you been able to obtain from the security agencies?
The Inter Consultative Service on Security, or ICES, is available to us. We just had one; the co-chair is the Commissioner of Police, who is involved in the police force. In addition to the DSS, Army, Immigration, Civil Defense, ICPC, EFCC, and everyone else who is meant to be providing security, I am the Chairman. We have noted the locations that are most likely to provide security risks.
To make sure we have enough protection, the committee is collaborating with various organizations. Conflicts between farmers and herders have also been noted in a region similar to Bagana. People no longer reside in the same places as before. We have arranged for their transfer to safer locations so they can cast their ballots. In Bagana, there are impacted polling places; nonetheless, we have taken the necessary precautions to guarantee that voters do not feel intimidated.
Similarly, in order to reach certain localities like Kupa or Egon, one must first pass via the states of Kwara or Niger. We have taken the necessary precautions to guarantee that, in the event that we are unable to transport the supplies by road, we will still have a backup plan for utilizing helicopters to deliver the materials. We are in contact with the Air Force to inquire about the possibility of using their planes to help us reach those locations. Additionally, we have started training poll workers who live in such locations in order to lower the likelihood that our ad hoc workers will need to travel and incur the associated hazards.
One issue that frequently arises when ad hoc workers are used is the delay in paying their allowances. Has someone handled that?
Here in Kogi, we went above and above to make sure that everyone who ran for office in February received compensation. Regretfully, there are many other types of bank accounts available these days, including O’pay, Palmpay, Kuda, and others. The Central Bank of Nigeria does not recognize them. Payments made to these accounts are not accepted. An additional factor is that people utilize their relatives’ accounts, which may not match up with those of the voters.
To receive alternative bank accounts, we must give them another call. After learning last week that we had failed to pay 57 ad hoc workers, we reviewed our documentation and found that some of them had received payment using other bank account information. We requested that they print their account statements in order to verify that they had been paid. However, this time, we will only accept actual bank accounts instead of O’pay and Palmpay.