Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega has confirmed that five persons, including INEC staff, have been arrested in connection with the illegal possession of three Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines in a hotel room in Ibadan, the Oyo State, and promised that they would not go scot-free.
Jega who fielded questions from members of civil society groups in Abuja, yesterday, explained that one of the suspects was a top staff of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Department of the commission.
Also, the commission has scheduled a meeting with the leaders of the 63 registered political parties for today to explain the planned voting procedure for the elections and display to them the specimen ballot papers and ballot boxes.
Speaking on the Oyo DDC machine saga, the INEC chairman said the commission was committed to prosecuting the offenders. In view of this, Jega announced that the IT staff had been replaced to restore confidence in the process.
“We have sent somebody to take over ICT in Ibadan and we have certified the voter register which makes the attempted manipulation difficult,” he explained, pointing out that this was because the present commission had made it clear from the beginning that it was no longer business as usual.
Describing the development as unfortunate, Jega said the ICT personnel acted without the consent of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Ayo Adakeja as the ICT official was said to have taken permission to go out.
By this ugly incident, the INEC chairman argued that it was clear that there were still a few bad eggs within the system whose conduct was bound to smear the image of the commission.
Said he: “What has happened in Ibadan is very unfortunate. The head of the ICT Unit in Ibadan was caught in a hotel room with four other people who are not INEC officials with six DDC machines.
“Obviously, they have been arrested; investigation is going on in trying to determine whether he was acting alone or whether he had partners who are his collaborators within INEC or outside.
“So, I think as I speak with you now the picture is not complete but the good thing is that you were trying to do something wrong and you were caught.
“We are doing our best now to investigate and determine the extent to which damage has been done with our data in Ibadan. I think that is all I can say for now. But obviously, we are committed to prosecuting any person who has committed any offence.”
Meanwhile, the Oyo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has stated that none if its members have been arrested in relation to the alleged doctoring of the voters’ register in the state.
In a statement signed by the party’s Director of Media and Strategy, Mr. Morohunkola Thomas, the party denied the reports alleging that some officials of the INEC in conjunction with some members of the PDP were caught doctoring the voters’ register in 27 out of the 33 local government areas in the state.
“And this is a very grievous offence we have taken decisions we have already sent somebody to take over as the head of ICT in Ibadan so that all these investigations can be done and the work also as we prepare for elections can continue.
“It is very unfortunate, I have said it before that there is no over emphasizing the fact that where ever you have thousands of people in an organization, there are bound to be those who are reckless, who are fraudulent and who in spite of whatever else you do they are still criminally minded and determined to perpetrate crimes.
“And the challenge for every organization is to have the capacity to apprehend such offenders in order to penalize them in accordance with the law. It’s a very unfortunate thing that has happened. What it has done is to further motivate us to further be very serious about the security and integrity of our data.”
Jega stated further that “I have started reading very uncomplimentary remarks about the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the papers. I want to say categorically, that from the information available to me as of now the officer acted without authority of the REC.
“In fact, he left people in the office who were still working over night producing the voter register to say he was going home around 8pm and left and evidently he left and went to the hotel to perpetrate whatever crime he was caught perpetrating.
“It is important that we await the outcome of investigations before casting aspersions on everybody.”
On the preparations of INEC, he disclosed that apart from the commission’s 530 Hilux Vans for the conduct of the elections, it will soon take delivery of another 100 vehicles and 60 Speed boats. Besides these, Jega noted that the Nigerian Air Force was willing to assist in the areas they can to make success of the elections.