The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday said the use of smart card readers (SCRs) is mandatory in Saturday’s governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, said this in Abuja.
Mr Okoye said the clarification was important going by allegations since the conduct of the February 23, Presidential and National Assembly elections that INEC was selective in the use of smart card readers in the conduct of the exercise.
He said the allegations had led to speculations that INEC may be forced to jettison the use of SCRs in the state and FCT area council polls.
“INEC hereby states categorically that the allegations are absolutely false and the speculations are without any basis whatsoever.
“The use of the smart card readers is not only mandatory but its deliberate non-use attracts the sanction of possible prosecution of erring officials in accordance with the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections.
“This is in addition to the voiding of any result emanating from such units or areas, as was done in the presidential and national assembly elections of February 23.
“The general public and all officials engaged for the elections are hereby informed that the commission is not reconsidering the use of these smart card readers which has greatly improved the credibility of our elections and instilled a high level of public trust in them.
“To clear any doubt or ambiguity, we wish to state that the deployment and mandatory use of SCRs in next Saturday’s elections will not only be uniformed but also universal, and the provisions of the regulations and guidelines will be strictly and vigorously enforced.
“All stakeholders are to note and be guided accordingly please,” Mr Okoye said.
In another development, Mr Okoye assured that there would be uniform timing in the commencement of Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly elections nationwide.
Speaking in Enugu, Mr Okoye said there would be full deployment of the smart card readers nationwide.
He said that the commission was ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections, adding that it had fine-tuned all the loose-ends encountered during the Presidential and National Assembly polls.
He said: “This time around, we want to ensure that each polling unit in the federation starts the process at 8 a.m. dot on the day of the elections.
“So we want to make sure that all our ad-hoc staff and materials got to the polling units before 7.30 a.m.
“And the usage of the smart card readers will be universal in all the polling units.
“Any polling unit where the people or political thugs did not allow the presiding officer to use the smart card reader will get zero vote.”
Mr Okoye advised presiding officers to remain calm in the face of any threats from any quarters at the polling units but score that polling unit zero vote at the collation centre.
He warned that the commission would no longer tolerate the killing, maiming or injuring of its ad hoc staff, who might be corps members serving their fatherland.
“We have discussed with the Inspector-General of Police “to ensure that all our staff members, including the ad-hoc staff, are given adequate protection from violent attacks during the polls.
“The commission will protect its own with every passion and means it can muster,’’ he said.
Mr Okoye further appealed to Nigerians to come out en mass to exercise their civic duty on March 9.