By Harry Awurumibe, Editor Abuja Bureau
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu has charged new Residents Electoral Commissioners (RECs) to take their appointments as call to service in ensuring free, fair and credible elections to deepen the nation’s democracy.
This is even as he promised that the Biomodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) technology will be tracked against hijacking in the November 6 Anambra state Governorship Election.
Prof. Yakubu said this on Wednesday while welcoming three new RECs at a short ceremony at INEC headquarters in Abuja just as he told the RECs that as election managers, their integrity is paramount to the success of their duty.
Said he: “let me draw the attention of the new National and Resident Electoral Commissioners to the reality of serving in INEC. The task ahead is challenging but it is also a national call to service. It is important to quickly settle in and familiarize yourselves with the rules, procedures and responsibilities of your office.
”Let me reiterate once again that you should always bear in mind that a credible election draws heavily from the integrity of the election managers, I urge you to join us in raising the bar even higher”.
The three new National Commissioners who were recently sworn-in by President Muhammadu Buhari are; Professor Abdullahi Zuru, a Chemist and former Vice Chancellor of Kebbi State University and Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto; Professor Sani Adam, a lawyer and former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Abuja; and Dr Baba Bila, a Chartered Accountant and former Bursar of the University of Benin.
Yakubu also during the event sworn-in a new REC, Prof. Sa’idu Ahmad, a Professor of English Literature from Bayero University Kano, who fills the vacancy for Jigawa State, being the only State without a REC following the completion of tenure of Abdullahi Kaugama.
The chairman said the policy of the Commission is to deploy RECS within their geo-political zones, but they will not be posted to their States of origin. Accordingly, Professor Ahmad is hereby deployed as the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Zamfara State.
He expressed joy that all four appointees bring to the Commission their vast knowledge and experience as scholars and administrators.
He said ”I am confident that they will join us in further extending the frontiers of free and fair elections in Nigeria. In addition to adherence to the provisions of the law, our success in this arduous task also draws from our integrity as election managers.
“We must be strict in the application of the law, firm in handling the public trust bestowed on us and fair in our dealings with political parties and candidates. We must remember that in discharging our responsibilities, Nigeria and Nigerians must always come first.
“We must abide by our oaths of office to defend the choice made by Nigerians at the polls in all elections and continue to protect the sanctity of the vote without which democratic election is meaningless”.
Speaking on the November 6 Anambra State Governorship Election, he said the Commission will install a mechanism to disable and track the new Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device in the event of theft by hoodlums.
The chairman said though the BVAS was deployed in last Saturday’s Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State where huge success was recorded, there were a few challenges.
“Only last weekend, we piloted yet another innovation in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State. We introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for efficient human recognition through a biometric verification mechanism using both fingerprint and facial recognition of voters.
“The result of the pilot in the 84 polling units was very encouraging indeed. It took an average of just one minute for the device to correctly locate the voter in the system and another two minutes to authenticate a voter.
“All voters were accredited electronically using the BVAS, The use of the incident form was eliminated: The Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye election was historic in this respect.
“However, there were a few challenges. Matching the voter’s live image against the image on the register was difficult in a few instances due to the quality of pictures of some voters arising from previous voter registration.
“Secondly, some polling units were not bright enough when taking the photo for the facial authentication. Thirdly, there was the age-old problem of thuggery during elections Our officials were attacked and five BVAS devices snatched by hoodlums.
“Although this did not affect the elections because we deployed extra devices as part of our contingency measures. Incident is being investigated by the Police: Nevertheless, we wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will address these challenges including the installation of a mechanism to disable and track the device in the event of theft by hoodlums.
“This mechanism will be activated ahead of the forthcoming Anambra State Governorship election”, said Yakubu.