Abbas Jimoh (Abuja), Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos), Bassey Willie (Yenagoa), Hope Abah (Makurdi), Magaji lsa Hunkuyi (Jalingo) & Mohammed Ibrahim Yaba (Kaduna)
A total of 4,613,291 Nigerians who have collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) are expected to participate in today’s by-elections to replace members who died or resigned their memberships of the national and state assemblies, as well as rerun elections at designated constituencies or polling units (PUs) as ordered by the election appeal tribunals.
The elections involve 26 states of the federation, including 9 states where two senators, four members of the House of Representatives and three members of state Houses of Assembly will be elected in by-elections to replace members of the national and state assemblies.
The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said that in all, the elections would fill vacancies in not less than three senatorial districts, 17 federal and 28 state constituencies spread across 80 local government areas, 575 registration areas/wards and 8,934 polling units involving 4,904,627 registered voters, out of which 4,613,291 PVCs have been collected.
The affected states are Ebonyi, Yobe, Kebbi, Lagos, Ondo, Taraba, Benue, Borno, Kaduna, Plateau, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Cross River, Delta, Enugu, Jigawa, Katsina, Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Kano, Nasarawa, Niger, Oyo, Sokoto and Zamfara.
Some notable vacant seats to be filled are those of President Bola Tinubu’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi; Senator Ibrahim Geidam; Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, and Tanko Sununu, who all resigned to take up appointments in the present administration.
There is also Isma’ila Maihanchi, a member-elect from Taraba State who died before the inauguration of the National Assembly, and Abdulkadir Danbuga from Sokoto, who died in October 2023.
The INEC chairman assured of the commission’s readiness for the elections, saying the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had delivered materials to the affected locations and security operatives concluded arrangements to ensure hitch-free elections.
Apart from logistics arrangements, the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), comprising INEC, Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and all security agencies, met a fortnight ago to map strategies to ensure the security of lives and property during the elections.
Police restrict movement in affected states
As part of measures to ensure the success of today’s elections, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Kayode Egbetokun, ordered the restriction of all forms of vehicular movement on roads, waterways and other forms of transportation from 12am to 6pm in all the affected constituencies.
The IGP also ordered a ban on all security aides attached to VIPs and escorts from accompanying their principals to polling booths and collation centres during the elections.
The IGP also said state-owned security outfits and organisations, quasi-security units and privately owned security outfits were barred from participating in election security management.
Step up security in 6 LGAs in Plateau
In a bid to ensure a hitch-free rerun in areas where elections will be conducted today in Plateau State, the state police command said it had stepped up security arrangements to protect lives and property in six local government areas – Jos North, Jos East, Bassa, Jos South, Riyom and Barkin Ladi.
A statement by the spokesperson of the command, DSP Alabo Alfred, said that “The Plateau police helmsman, AlG Okoro J. Alawari, reiterates the commitment of the command to ensuring successful rerun elections in the affected areas.
“He also warns persons who have no business in RAC centres, polling units and collation centres to steer clear of the election premises to avoid being arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the law”, the statement added.
Deploy drones, restrict movements in Bayelsa
Ahead of today’s rerun election into the state House of Assembly Constituency ll, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the police command said it had deployed drones and other operational assets to the affected areas to ensure watertight security in the arenas of political activities and the election.
The police also announced the restriction of vehicular and human movements in Gbarain and Ekpetiama areas of Yenagoa, where the election will be held, to guarantee public safety.
The police spokesman in the state, ASP Musa Muhammed, in a statement on Friday, said that the commissioner of police in the state advised all to respect electoral guidelines.
INEC deploys 400 ad-hoc staff in Benue
The INEC, on Friday, said it deployed over 400 ad-hoc staff for the conduct of the February 3 by-election to fill an existing vacancy in the Benue State House of Assembly.
Our correspondent reports that the existing vacancy for the seat of Guma 1 state constituency was created by the exit of Dr Yamar Ortese from the Assembly after he was appointed Commissioner for Health and Human Services.
INEC’s public relations officer for the state, Terka Andya, said, “Over 400 ad-hoc staff will be used for the exercise tomorrow (Saturday). The non-sensitive materials have been sent to Gbajimba, the headquarters of Guma Local Government Area, while other sensitive materials that are still with us will be moved to Guma any moment from now so that they can be taken to the state constituency headquarters”.
Urged to conduct free, fair elections in Taraba
Ibrahim El-Sudi, a lawyer and the chairman of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba State, has urged INEC to conduct a free and fair by-election in the state to redeem its image.
INEC is conducting an election in the Jalingo/Yorro /Zing federal constituency of the state.
El-Sudi, in an interview with reporters, described the conduct of the 2023 elections in the state as poor, adding that INEC purportedly failed to deliver a straightforward mandate.
“As we conduct the by-election for Jalingo, Yorro and Zing federal constituency in Taraba State and other states, I am urging INEC to redeem itself by conducting a credible election than the one it conducted last year,” he said.
El-Sudi also appealed to the electorates in Jalingo,Yorro and Zing federal constituencies where the by-election will be conducted to turn out in large numbers to elect their lawmakers peacefully.
Meanwhile, INEC in the state has expressed its readiness for the conduct of the by-election
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Taraba State, Mohammed Umar, said the election would take place in 658 polling units across the constituency, and various stakeholders have given the assurance that the citizens were ready to exercise their franchise.
Kaduna restricts movement in 8 LGAs
The Kaduna State police command has also restricted the movement of vehicles in eight local government areas of the state where the rerun election is being held today.
The public relations officer of the command, ASP Mansur Hassan, noted this in a statement, listed the affected eight to include Chikun, Igabi, Kachia, Kudan, Kaduna South, Kagarko and Kauru.
“A complete restriction of movement will be enforced from midnight on February 3, 2024, to 5 pm. However, essential personnel like INEC staff, election observers, medical personnel and accredited media practitioners are exempted from this restriction,” he said.
He cautioned against unauthorised presence at RAC centres, polling units and collation centres, emphasizing that individuals with intent to constitute nuisance would face arrest and prosecution.