By Our Reporter
Ahead of Saturday’s parliamentary election into the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Wednesday, embarked on an inspection visit to Nasarawa local government to assess the state of preparedness for the exercise.
INEC chairman, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu spoke during a courtesy visit to the Emir of Nasarawa, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ibrahim Usman Jibril.
Indeed, he stressed the uniqueness of Saturday’s poll, noting that the commission was set to conduct a credible exercise in accordance with the laws of the land.
“This is the first election we are holding since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. We thought we should come to check the level of preparations and I am happy we are joined by the Liaison Officer of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
“The lessons that will be learn from this election will help us in Edo, Ondo governorship elections and so many bye-elections to be conducted by INEC.
“As far as the headquarters is concerned, everything that Nasarawa state INEC office requires for the election has been provided. So, we want to see how ready they are to deploy for Saturday election,” Yakubu said.
According to him, the visit was also for the commission to meet with traditional rulers in the constituency as well as relevant stakeholders in the by-election including security agencies.
“This is an extra-ordinary election, so we are visiting the palace of Emir of Nasarawa to ask for their support.”
He explained that strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols would be the hallmark of the election including wearing of facemasks by voters.
Some of the non-sensitive materials inspected include Voters Register, voting cubicles, ballot boxes, hand sanitizers, generating sets, facemasks and jackets for electoral and presiding officers, stamp and other voting materials.
The election is set take place in seven wards, 44 polling units and other voting points. Total number of registered voters is 71,919.
Two political parties, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, cleared candidates to participate in the exercise.
In his welcome remarks, the Emir of Nasarawa, His Royal Highness, Ibrahim Usman Jibril thanked INEC chairman and pledged the readiness of the entire Nasarawa Emirate for peaceful and orderly exercise.
Describing Nasarawa local government as a huge land mass, the monarch expressed optimism that Saturday’s exercise would provide invaluable lessons that would help the commission prepare well for the September 19 and October 10 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively.
“Peace shall reign in this election. Nasarawa is a huge local government in terms of land mass. It is bigger than Anambra, Abia and Edo states. This election is significant because it is the first election to hold in the COVID-19 era.
“Ironically, the man we are trying to replace lost his life to COVID-19,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chairman PDP Board of Trustees, who incidentally hails from the state, Senator Walid Jibrin said political stakeholders will work together to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
While calling on the commission to provide a level playing field, Jibrin noted that the PDP would play by the rules even as he added that his party has done enough sensitization of its members given the peculiarity of the election.
A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Muhammed Sani Otto who represented the APC spoke in like manner, stressing that all hands are on deck to support INEC in delivering a transparent election.
The Nasarawa State Central constituency seat became vacant following the death in April of the previous occupant, Hon. Suleiman Adamu from coronavirus complications.
The INEC chairman was accompanied on the inspection visit by an INEC national commissioner and Chairman information and voters education committee, Barrister Festus Okoye and his counterpart overseeing Nasarawa state, Mallam Mohammed Haruna.