AUTHORITIES of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Osun on Thursday held a meeting with governorship candidates and running mates of 48 political parties that would participate in the forthcoming September 22 gubernatorial poll in the state.
Though not all the governorship candidates were present at the meeting, some of the standard bearers of political parties were sighted at the parley, which was held within the premises of the electoral body, located almost opposite Osun State House of Assembly Complex, in Osogbo, the state capital.
Addressing the flag bearers and their running mates, including the chairmen of the political parties, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC in Osun State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje reiterated the commitment of the umpire to the conduct of free, fair and credible poll which would be acceptable to all stakeholders.
According to him, “we are going to ensure that those who will determine the winner of the poll are eligible voters with Permanent Voters Card (PVC). What matters to us is the conduct of a credible and acceptable election. We are going to create a level playing ground to all political parties. To us, there is no big or small political party”.
Agbaje maintained that “we want to make it an election that enables Nigerians, both within and in the diaspora, including the international community to build more confidence in our electoral system. On our part, we are committed to make it a peaceful poll. That is why we have invited you here to brainstorm on the conduct of the exercise”.
Giving a breakdown on the statistics of the PVCs, the REC said “the total number of PVC received is 1, 668, 524. We have 332 electoral wards and our ad-hoc staff would be camped a day before the election in 214 areas. Total number of PVC collected is 1, 127, 866, representing 67.60 %.
While urging candidates of political parties to implore their supporters on the need to collect their PVC during electioneering campaigns, Agbaje warned politicians and governorship candidates against vote buying, declaring that INEC would deal decisively with any individual caught according to stipulated laws.
Restating the impartiality of the electoral body, he emphasised that “I don’t know any candidate of political parties and I don’t want to see them. We are all going to sign an oath of neutrality. If you notice any electoral officer, including me getting involved in any malpractices, you have the rights to call INEC authorities in Abuja to report such matter”.
Agbaje listed electoral offences to include “carrying of offensive weapons at polling unit is liable to two years, using of abusive, inciting and slanderous language during the campaign, which attracts 12 months jail term or N1 million fine. Broadcast of the campaign, placement of advertorials in newspapers 24 hours before the polling day is an offence”.
Some of the gubernatorial candidates sighted at the meeting include Alhaji Fatai Akinbade of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Olugbenga Akintola of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), among others.
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