By Adeyemi Adeleye
Barely 10 days to the Feb. 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Nigeria’s Voters Watch (NVW) a CSO, has urged INEC to remove its Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Olusegun Agbaje.
The group had alleged that Agbaje made “disturbing utterances”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that NVW is a CSO accredited by INEC for the election.
Addressing newsmen on Wednesday in Lagos, Dr Stella Ford, the NVW Convener, said that Agbaje’s immediate removal became necessary to prevent him from presiding over the affairs of the forthcoming elections in Lagos state.
According to her, the removal can be either by suspension or termination of appointment with immediate effect, to curtail and minimise the damages he has caused already by sowing the seeds of bias and doubt in the public.”
On INEC’s withdrawal of 240 polling units nationwide from the nation’s overall 176,846 polling units and the re-distribution of some voters to polling units, Ford called for more public education.
“INEC has not put enough efforts to educating voters on these changes and how affected voters can locate their new PUs
“We urge INEC as a matter of urgency, to educate voters by sending SMS, Phone contacts and general public education.
“INEC should also display the voter’s registration at least, 10 days before election, starting from tomorrow to give voters enough time to verify their PUs,” she said.
According to her, INEC should take safety and security of voters very seriously in view of threats and physical injuries already suffered by potential voters.
“Safety and security of votes cast on election day–INEC should, as a matter of urgency, withdraw any arrangements regarding the transportation of voting materials from private interested individuals in Lagos state and nationwide.
“The disturbing voice mail that has reached us and many people, including the media and law enforcement agencies where some political party members threatened their neighbors even with physical removal from Lagos state if they failed to vote APC should be taken very seriously.
“Information reaching us is that the law enforcement agencies are looking into the matter. We urge that prompt prosecution should be commenced immediately,” Ford said.
The convener said that INEC and law enforcement agencies should sanction political parties and their members who commit acts of intimidation, physical threat and verbal threats.
“We recommend that the international community should consider revoking visas of such political leaders and deny them entry to the civilized world,” she said.
Ford added that INEC should let Nigeria and Nigerians know what would be the fate of Nigerian students who did not have the time to collect their PVCs before the deadline.
“It is great injustice to disenfranchise a large number of our youth population,” she said.
Responding, Agbaje told NAN that he had not made any disturbing statement that should warrant his removal, “there is no statement I made that I cannot defend.”
The REC said that he would not be derailed in the mandate to be neutral and transparent in the conduct of the forthcoming elections.
On voter enlightenment over the re-distribution of voters from some congested polling units in the state, Agbaje said that INEC teams had begun sensitisation of voters in the affected units.
“We are doing it. In fact, we have our vehicles going round local government by local government, covering two local government areas each day, and we have pasted the register of voters in various affected polling units.
“We are also engaging the community development associations’ members to help us talk to their people in various places.
“All these are going on, and if they (NVW) have not seen us in the area, it is because they are not within the area we have touched,” he said.
On safety and security, Agbaje said that INEC had maintained that it did not support attacks on any person by political thugs.
According to him, INEC’s job is to conduct the election while other agencies are to secure the environment for INEC to do its job.
“We have told our politicians to practise our politics without bitterness. We should not have rancorous campaigns.
“We have also met with security agencies and we have appealed to them to help us secure the environment,” he said.
Meanwhile, INEC had said that the REC could not be redeployed over unfounded allegations.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi in an interview with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja, urged those demanding Agbaje’s redeployment to perish the thought. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Chioma Ugboma