As part of efforts to ensure peaceful and credible elections in the country, Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson on Tuesday reiterated his call on the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and law enforcement agencies to take decisive action against electoral offenders,
Governor Dickson made the call during a Peace Summit in Yenagoa jointly organised by INEC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where almost all the candidates contesting the December 5 governorship poll in the State, including Chief Timipre Sylva of the All Progressives Congress (APC), signed an undertaking to keep the peace before, during and after the election.
The governor, who urged security agencies to always live up to their responsibility, noted that a situation where appropriate actions are not taken on reported cases of violence and other electoral malpractices would encourage a culture of impunity that negatively affect the outcome of elections.
While commending the INEC and its partners for organising the event, Governor Dickson restated that his administration and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, would continue to maintain a non violent approach in its campaigns as they go round the state to mobilise Bayelsans to support the Dickson/Jonah reelection bid.
Stressing the importance of peace, he therefore, called on other candidates to show true commitment to the peace pact by engaging in issues-based campaigns and prevail on their supporters not to do anything that would compromise the credibility of the forthcoming election in the state.
His words, “But for this peace process that we have all endorsed to be effectual, all of us have roles to play. Security agencies and INEC who are doing their best also have a role to play clearly. Where there are reported infractions irrespective of the political affiliation of the offender, decisive steps must be taken, so that we don’t breed a culture of impunity, because that is what results into breakdown of law and order.
“There are cases where you need to caution people. There are some where you take other law enforcement mechanisms. But at all times, once there is a report of a criminal act in the guise of politics, the law enforcement agencies must stand up to it because that is when we all would have given meaning to what we have signed here today.
“My party and I are irrevocably committed to peaceful election. And so, we are happy that the organisers have brought all parties and candidates together, particularly the candidates that have shown predisposition to violence and they have all signed up to peace and it is our expectation that they will all live up to that obligation.”
In his remarks, the new Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu assured all the political parties and other stakeholders in the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections of the Commission’s preparedness to provide a level playing ground to ensure that the outcome of the polls are peaceful and credible.
The Chairman, who was represented by the immediate past Acting Chairman and now National Commissioner of INEC, Hajia Amina Zakari, also indicated readiness to work closely with security agencies to enforce law and order in the two states as no election conducted in any environment that is bereft of peace can be credible and fair.
Speaking earlier, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Baritor Kpagih said the December 5 election would be conducted based on the guidelines recently used for the 2015 general elections, including the use of the smart card readers for accreditation.
Kpagih, who disclosed that information available to the Commission suggests that, a number of fake permanent voter cards are circulating in the state, warned holders of such cards of the dire consequences awaiting them, including arrest when caught.
He ruled out the option of using manual accreditation, emphasising that only genuine PVCs duly verified by the Commission’s smart card readers would be allowed for voting.
In their separate goodwill messages, a representative of the United Nations Development Programme, Mr Matthew Alao and the State Commissioner of Police, CP Nasiru Oti enjoined the signatories and all stakeholders in the forthcoming election to observe the spirit of sportsmanship and the provisions of the 2015 Electoral Act as amended and the Yenagoa Peace Accord by encouraging peaceful conducts in all their activities.