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BRIEFING BY THE CHAIRMAN, INDEPENDENT NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION (INEC), PROFESSOR MAHMOOD YAKUBU,   ON THE 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS, INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA, TUESDAY 19TH FEBRUARY 2019

1. Last Saturday, the Commission, after extensive review of our preparedness for the 2019 general elections, decided that if was necessary to reschedule the elections by one week. As I explained to stakeholders, we were constrained to shift the polls  due to  severe  challenges  and  lapses  we  experienced  with  arrival  and distribution  of  sensitive  materials,  as well  as the  fires that  gutted  some  of our offices in quick succession, destroying several election materials.

1. Last Saturday, the Commission, after extensive review of our preparedness for the 2019 general elections, decided that if was necessary to reschedule the elections by one week. As I explained to stakeholders, we were constrained to shift the polls  due to  severe  challenges  and  lapses  we  experienced  with  arrival  and distribution  of  sensitive  materials,  as well  as the  fires that  gutted  some  of our offices in quick succession, destroying several election materials.

2. Once more, let me express our deep and sincere regrets as a Commission for this turn of events. We take full responsibility and we' acknowledge the inconveniences and cost of the shin in dates to citizens, political parties and the community of election observers.  On behalf  of the  Commission,   I  thank  all stakeholders  for  their  understanding,  despite the  difficulties  occasioned   by  the change. We are' working extremely hard to ensure that the rescheduled elections are free, fair-and credible.

3. At my  last  briefing  to stakeholders,  I announced  an  adjusted  schedule  of activities that would lead to the elections on Saturday   23rd  March  2019. In order to actualise the new timetable, we identified 6 activities Covering three broad areas - deployment of materials, movement of personnel  and configuration  of the Smart Card Readers. Clear timelines were assigned to the activities which will lead to the opening of polls on Saturday.

4. Let me therefore present to you the level of implementation so far achieved as follows:

1. By 4pm yesterday, all issues relating to the delivery of the materials were identified .and virtually addressed.  Ballot papers, result sheets and a host of non-sensitive materials: are now in location across the 37 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

ii. Our State offices commenced the process of inviting stakeholders to the Central  Bank  of  Nigeria   to  examine   the  retrieved   materials deployed last week and to witness the batching of materials according to Local Government Areas (LGAs). This is ongoing at the moment and is expected to be completed today Tuesday 19th February 2019.

iii.   The movement of materials to LGAs for batching according to Wards and Polling Units shall take place on Wednesday 201hand Thursday 21st February 2019.

All Registration Area Centres (RACs) are to be activated by 9.00am on Friday 22nd February 2019.
Personnel and materials should be at the RACs by mid-day on Friday 22nd February 2019.
Refresher training for ad hoc personnel should take place at the RACs on Friday 2200 February 2019.
vii.     Personnel and materials must arrive at the Polling Units latest 7am on Saturday 23rd February 2019.

viii.    Opening of polls nationwide will take place at Sam on Saturday 23rd February 2019.

5. You would recall that in my address to stakeholders, I mentioned that we intended to reschedule the elections for just 24 hours to enable us to deliver the final batch of sensitive materials for the elections. However, our ICT team notified us that it would require more time to reconfigure the Smart Card Readers  in time for the  elections.  Let me explain why.  The Smart Card Readers (SCRs)   are configured to only open for use at Sam on election day, and to automatically  shut down by 10 pm. This is designed to forestall any illegal use of the SCRs before the appointed time of elections. There are roughly  180,000 SCRs to be deployed  for the elections and the ICT team said that they would require 5-6 days to complete the configuration. I am glad to say that as at today, about 98% of the SCRs have
been reconfigured  and we  are confident  that  by tomorrow  all would  be  ready, which is a day earlier than scheduled.

6. Following requests by some stakeholders last Saturday and after consultation with political  party  leaders,  the  Commission  has  approved  that  campaigns  by political  parties  and  candidates  can  resume  immediately   for  the  first  set  of elections.  Consequently,  campaigns  for the  Presidential  and  National  Assembly elections  shall  now  end  at  midnight  on  Thursday   21st   February   2019  while campaigns  for the Governorship,   State Assembly  and FCT Area Council  elections shall end at midnight  Thursday  7th March  2019.  Accordingly,  media  organizations are at liberty  to accept,  publish,  broadcast  and circulate  campaign  materials  until the specified  end of campaigns.

7. Preparations for  Governorship,    State  Assembly   and   FCT  Area  Council elections  are well underway.  Already,  the sensitive  materials  for the elections  have started  arriving- at various  locations  for onward  movement  to various Central  Bank branches  across  the country.  Indeed,  some of these materials  arriving  through  our airports   have  been  erroneously   construed   by  some  people  as  materials   for  the elections  holding  this weekend.  I want to reassure  you all that all materials  for the rescheduled    Presidential    and   National   Assembly   elections   next   Saturday   are already  in the States ready  for deployment  to LGAs,  Ward and Polling  Units. We have  learnt a lesson  from the preparations  for the elections  holding  this weekend. For  this  reason,  we  shall  start  the. movement  of materials  for the  next  elections early to ensure  that nothing  disrupts our process.

8. While we fully  understand  the disappointment  and even anger that  followed that rescheduling   of the elections  on  16th  February,  I wish to appeal to stakeholders to  be  more   dispassionate    and  circumspect   in  their  comments   in  order   not  to overheat  the polity.  The Commission  is focusing on the elections to be held on 23rd February   and  9th  March  2019  to ensure  that  they  are free,  fair  and  credible.  We urge   all   Nigerians    to   participate    fully   in  the  elections,   notwithstanding    the disappointment   of caused  by the rescheduling  of dates.

9. On a concluding note,  and  in the spirit of transparency,   we shall  be giving daily briefings  from today until we formally officially  declare the national  collation centre  open  for the  tallying  of Presidential   elections results  which  will  take  place here in this hall.

10. Thank you.