The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says 26 political parties will participate in Saturday’s governorship election in Cross River state.

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Frankland Briyai, disclosed this at a meeting with representatives of political parties, Civil Society Organisations and other interest groups in Calabar on Tuesday.

He said INEC regards every political party as equal, adding that as far as the commission is concerned, no party is bigger than the other.

The REC called on the leaders of political parties to caution their supporters against snatching of ballot boxes during the election, saying it is no longer fashionable.

“Please, I want you to advise your supporters to stop snatching or hijacking of ballot boxes because you will score zero in that polling booth,” he said.

“Any polling unit or polling booth where there is no voting as a result of either violence, snatching of ballot papers, or hijacking of election materials, that is zero votes.

“So, they will be doing you harm than good by performing any of those acts,” Briyai said.

He said that after a review of the recently conducted Presidential and National Assembly elections, INEC declared Cross River as one of the states with the best results and performed very well.

“That is why we are not going to have supplementary election on Saturday. There is no going to be any supplementary election in Cross River come Saturday,” he said.

He, however, promised to address all genuine complaints arising from the last elections as brought forward by the electorate during the Governorship and House of Assembly elections.

Mr Briyai threatened to punish INEC staff who collude with politicians to breach elections rules and guidelines.

The state Deputy Governor, Ivara Esu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), advised the commission to improve on its performance in the recent elections.

According to him, there were lots of irregularities during the conduct of the recent elections in Biase Local Government Area.

“We have 34 polling units in Biase and with a difficult terrain,” he said.

“There were serious problems during the elections including shortage of canoes; malfunctioning of card readers or inability of ad hoc staff to operate card reader machines; and inadequate policemen at polling units.

“All these led to massive cancellation of votes in the area and deprived people of their right to vote.

“There should be an improvement because we cannot claim to successfully conduct election when majority of the people are disenfranchised for no reason of theirs.

“We want that to be corrected in Saturday’s election,” he said.

Also speaking, the chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Paddy Ally, commended the commission for the successes in the last election and advised for improvement in the next election. (NAN)

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