Ahead of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State, the Independent National Electoral Commission says it has insured all its staff and the 20,974 ad hoc staff that will be deployed for the exercise. It said comprehensive insurance had been put in place for them and those who would serve in the October 10 governorship election in Ondo State.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, told Sunday PUNCH in an interview on Saturday that the election officers would be insured against deaths and other election hazards.
There have been apprehensions from within and outside the state that the election, which holds on Saturday, maybe marred by violence. This had prompted INEC, security agencies, prominent individuals and organisations to sue for peace.
No fewer than 14 political parties would participate in the election, but the two major parties in the state; All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party, continue to accuse each other of planning to foment trouble during the exercise.
The Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, had on September 2 chastised the candidate of the PDP, Governor Godwin Obaseki; that of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and some other party chieftains over the pockets of political violence and tensed political atmosphere in the state.
In a meeting with the candidates, their running mates and other stakeholders at his palace, the monarch described some of their utterances and activities during the electioneering as immature.
Many previous elections across the country have been marred by violence, during which some election officers were killed.
But in a bid to assure its personnel of its commitment to their safety in the forthcoming election, Okoye said the staff members of the commission were already insured but that the ad hoc staff would be insured.
Okoye said, “All the ad hoc staff engaged by the commission for the purposes of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections will be covered by insurance and it’s comprehensive insurance covering deaths, accidents and other election hazards. It’s group insurance that covers every individual given a contract by the commission as ad hoc staff. The staff of the commission are already covered and there is no need to cover them a second time.”
The National Commissioner also said most of the ad hoc staff had been trained, except for Collation Officers who are usually trained three to four days to the election.
He said corps members would be deployed as Presiding Officers and students of federal tertiary institutions as Assistant Presiding Officers. While promising that each of them would be given a contract and their allowances paid promptly, he added, “We plead with them to always supply their correct details and account numbers to prevent the late payment from the bank.”
He added, “The commission will deploy a total of 20,974 election officials in Edo State. We have 18 Local Government Areas in Edo State, so there will be 18 Local Government Collation Officers; 192 Registration Area Collation Officers, 263 Supervisory Presiding Officers and 2,627 Presiding Officers.
“The commission will also engage a total of 13,557 Assistant Presiding Officers and 3,259 Presiding Officers (Voting Points) and we will also engage not less than 841 Reserves. There will be one Returning Officer for the election. There are 2,627 polling units and a registered voter population of 2,210,534. Our training programme has been robust and we are confident that our trainers have done a good job.
INEC had said out of the 2.2 million registered voters in the state, only 1.72 million collected their permanent voter cards, while 484,000 persons who did not collect theirs would not vote.
Mahmood meets Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, others Monday
Meanwhile, INEC National Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, will on Monday hold the last stakeholders meeting in Benin, the state capital, while the ad hoc staff would be deployed on Friday prior to their resumption on Saturday. He noted that non-sensitive materials had been deployed to the Registration Areas already.
Okoye said, “The commission will deploy the ad hoc staff to the Registration Area Centers on Friday, September 18, from where they will be deployed to the polling units at first light on Saturday. As a prelude to the election, the Chairman and National Commissioners will hold the last stakeholders meeting on Monday and sign and the political parties and their candidates will sign a peace accord on Tuesday.”
Yakubu had said on Thursday that the National Peace Committee, INEC and every conscientious Nigerian had been concerned about the fear of violence in elections.