The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos State on Tuesday reeled out electoral offences and penalties and sought support of traditional rulers in educating their subjects to be law abiding.
The electoral body met with the traditional rulers in the state as part of efforts to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for the conduct of the forthcoming elections.
Mr Olusegun Agbaje, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos State, who urged royal fathers to caution their subjects against violence, appealed them to help mobilise eligible voters in their domains to come out en masse to vote on Feb. 25 and March 11.
“The Commission has continued to work round the clock towards ensuring that no stone is left unturned for the creation of very conducive electoral environment for an all inclusive participation of all stakeholders.
“Every Nigerian with a valid voter’s card is eligible to vote in an election. However, he/she must do so in accordance with the relevant rules guiding the electoral process.
“Whoever runs contrary to these rules is liable on conviction to be penalised accordingly,” Agbaje said.
He highlighted some of the offences to include being in possession of more the one valid voter card, buying and selling of votes, impersonation, conduct prohibited at political campaigns among others.
He said that consequences of not getting the forthcoming elections right would be too grave, and should not even be contemplated, hence the need for all relevant stakeholders to join hands together with INEC.
He said that no resident should lose his or her life in the conduct of the elections.
According to him, the role of royal fathers in the consolidation of peace and mobilisation of the citizenry for better participation in the electoral process cannot be overemphasised.
He said that apart from providing spiritual leadership to their various kingdoms, traditional rulers had the responsibility to always ensure that there was peaceful co-existence among their subjects.
“This will no doubt reduce the level of apathy that characterised past elections in Lagos State. With over seven (7) million registered voters, the highest in the country, Lagos State cannot afford to sit on the fence.
“As the custodian of the people’s culture and history, traditional rulers have a duty to always let their subjects especially the youth and the politicians among them know that violence, malpractice, thuggery, vote buying, snatching of ballot boxes and all other election-related vices are not only crimes, but evil acts.
“We should let them know that these acts are not in the characters of our ancestors and constitute wicked forces that hinder the progress of the democratic process.
” Furthermore, our royal fathers must continue to use their strategic positions to render useful advice to the Political Party leaders and contestants to change their “win at all cost” attitudes to good conduct in politics as the General Election draws nearer.
“This will go a long way in creating the much needed peaceful environment for the conduct of the General Election in the State,” he said.
Assuring the royal fathers of INEC’s resolve to remain unbiased and make votes count, Agbaje urged all stakeholders to continue to positively play their respective roles in accordance with the relevant laws.
According to him, so far, a total of 6,608,900 PVCs have been collected by their owners out of 7,637,402 PVCs received in the State between 2011 and 2023.
The INEC boss, who noted that 1,028,502 PVCs had yet to be collected by their owners in the state, urged all registered voters to collect their cards before the end of the collection exercise on Feb. 5.
He said that INEC had also introduced different technologies like the Electronic Voter Register, INEC Voter Enrollment Device (IVED), Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Result Viewing Portal to improve the credibility of elections in Nigeria.
In his remarks, Oba Kabir Shotobi, the Ayangburen of Ikorodu, who noted that the state had more than 200 Obas, said that the number invited to the meeting was lower, considering the messages to pass to subjects.
The Oba, who also noted that seven million registered voters in a state with about 25 million population was too low, assured INEC of support from traditional rulers.
He said that traditional rulers had contributed a lot in mobilising registered voters to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
“We are promising you that we will do all the needful to encourage our people to come out and perform their civic responsibility.
“We are assuming you as Obas in Lagos State, we are distancing ourselves from violence, we don’t encourage such.
“We are not meant for violence, we are socialites. We will do the needful to support INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
Also speaking, Oba Kabiru Agbabiaka, the Osolo of Isolo, urged INEC to perfect issues around logistics, security, arrival of materials and personnel.and other shortcomings that could bring arguments and fights at polling units.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event had in attendance several traditional rulers in Lagos. (NAN)