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Nigeria Electoral Body Reassures Public Over March Election

Nigerian State Vote is Test Case for April Presidential Elections

Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has reassured prospective voters that the elections now scheduled for March 28 will proceed as planned despite concerns the vote could be postponed again for security reasons.

The general election, originally set for February 14, was postponed by the INEC, which cited security challenges in parts of the country's north, where Boko Haram militants often attack civilians.

Nick Dazang, INEC's deputy director for public affairs, said the electoral body is using the postponement period to strengthen systems to ensure a transparent, credible, free and fair election.

Opposition concerns

Dazang spoke after opposition groups including the All Progressives Congress led by retired General Muhammadu Buhari said they will not accept another "unconstitutional" postponement of the election.

Dazang said it is unlikely the March 28 election would be postponed again.

"We have used the period of extension to further perfect the processes we have put in place," he said.

"For us, we want to restate that as of now, we are ready for the elections in terms of the materials we have deployed, in terms of training, in terms of even the psychology and motivation of adhoc staff.We are ready for that and we expect all stakeholders in the process to play their roles in such a manner that we will have elections that are superior to the ones that we conducted in 2011," he added.

Dazang said the INEC has distributed both sensitive and non-sensitive voter materials across the country in the run-up to the election.

"Already ballot boxes have been distributed to the states.The card readers that we intend to use for the accreditation of voters on Election Day have also been distributed to the states," he said.

"Sensitive materials, which are ballot papers, which we collected from the vendors and contractors since February 12 have also been distributed to the states and are at the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria in each of the states awaiting distribution on Election Day,"Dazang added.

Election readiness

Dazang said the electoral commission is ready to administer the vote.

He added the commission is pleased with the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards, or PVCs, but urged people who have yet to collect their cards at commission offices to do so ahead of the March vote.

The PVC will enable a registered voter to cast a ballot during an election.

"In terms of the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards, we have reached a very comfortable level in the sense that we have distributed not less than 76. 98 percent of the Permanent Voter Cards nationwide as at [Tuesday]," said Dazang.

Dazang said INEC has stepped up training programs of its adhoc staff drawn mainly from university and other institutions.

He said the staff would be competently trained to use the electronic card readers that would be used to authenticate the identity of voters before they are allowed to cast ballots. Dazang said the commission has ordered 182,000 card readers for this process.

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