• REC rules out inconclusive poll
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Senator Iroegbu, Damilola Oyedele, Jaiyeola Andrew, and James Emejo in Abuja
Elections in the six Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) took place yesterday amidst poor turn-out of the electorate in almost all parts of the capital city of Abuja, with voter apathy evident in almost all the areas visited by THISDAY.
While monitoring the election in the FCT, it was observed that most voters stayed away from the polling units with only a few number coming in trickles to perform their civic duty.
The reason for the low turnout of eligible voters recorded in almost all the polling units varied from poor sensitisation, lack of interest in the governance at the third tier, the biting fuel scarcity as well as disenchantment by the populace over the state of affairs of the country.
The situation was further compounded by a heavy downpour which started in the afternoon thereby preventing the voters who would have trekked to their polling units from exercising their franchise.
At the same time, fuel crisis continued to take its toll on the social lives and activities in the FCT, with many residents defying the order restricting movement to besiege petrol stations in search of fuel to buy. Although, the petrol stations did not open for business until the end of voting by 4 pm, but motorists considered it more important to queue at the stations waiting for the time than to go and cast their votes.
Howver, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the FCT, Prof. Jacob Jatau, has reassured stakeholders that from the way things transpired so far, there may not be issue of inconclusiveness elections as was witnessed in elections in other states like Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers state.
Speaking to journalists in an interview in Abuja shortly after voting got underway, Jatau said the election has been very peaceful and violence-free.
“I don’t think we are the one to avoid re-run. We want to urge every voter to be peaceful and I believe that is what actually lead to re-run, when there is violence and you have to cancel some polling units, then there is possibility of re-run but if everybody is peaceful and we work together properly I believe there won’t be any re-run or inconclusiveness.
But I want to warn people who want to forment trouble that if you do you will cause us to have re-run. Ideally, INEC itself doesn’t want a re-run issue.”
On the reports of low turn-out of voters across the area councils, Jatau said: “The low turn-out will always be there especially when it is local government election like this, however, we feel that people may still turn out en-mass. We don’t expect that it may be as heated as the National Assembly or Presidential elections that we had last year.”
He also confirmed that with the reports he was getting from all the identified flash-points “everything is peaceful.”
Jatau said: “It is not new, we have already used it in the re-run we have had, and we believe we will have a very good turn-out with that because when you come and you are accredited and vote, we will feel that people will not think we are wasting their time. The elections are going on and we are able to open polling units and so far we are going on with the elections. The few challenges we have had with card readers we have been able to correct it.”
The REC however, cautioned that if there are violence during the election that such could lead to conciliation of some polling units, and may result in re-run.
Meanwhile, the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has commended the residents of the FCT for the peaceful manner they conducted themselves during the election.
The minister who monitored the election exercise at the Gwarinpa I District (Life-Camp), Kubwa satellite town and Jiwa polling stations, lauded the residents for the matured way they queued up to observe their civic responsibility. Bello urged them to keep the peace as they await the outcome of the exercise.
The minister also paid tribute to the security agencies in FCT for the proactive and professional way they handled the entire exercise from the beginning to the end.
At the polling unit located at Phase 3, Kubwa, near the government secondary school, poll officials arrived early but it was not until an hour later that some voters came on to perform their civic responsibility. As at noon yesterday, only very few voters have cast their vote for the candidate of their choice.
The same situation was recorded at another polling unit in Kubwa, the Living Water by PW Road where officials of INEC were seen waiting for voters to come who’s engaging in discussion. One of voters who spoke to THISDAY, Shuaibu blamed the apparent low turn-out of voters to disillusionment and apathy caused by many years of inaction by administrations at the local council level.
At the LEA Primary School polling unit in Utako, accreditation and elections were yet to start at 9.04 am when THISDAY arrived. INEC ad hoc staff members had however received the voting materials, and were in the process of accrediting the few voters who were waiting. Our reporter counted just about 23 eligible voters who were waiting for the process to start.
Despite the restricted movement order, a lively game of football was going on at the football field located inside the school where the polling unit was, with supporters cheering their teams on.
At the Junior Secondary School in Zone 2 with three polling units, the situation was the same; low voter turnout. Voting was already in progress and was orderly when THISDAY arrived at 10.43 am, with policemen on hand to provide security.
At one of the polling unit on popular Aminu Kano crescent close to Banex Plaza, there was no single voter as at10.57am. The INEC staff members were sitting at their desks, waiting patiently for voters to turn up. Similarly, at the FCDA Quarters, Wuse 2 polling unit and Rockview Hotel polling, eligible voters were waiting patiently to vote, and voting was already in progress by 11.02am and 11.11am.
The polling unit located near AP Plaza in Wuse 2, also did not have a single voter when THISDAY visited at 11.23 pm, although our reporter observed that there were already some ballot papers in the transparent ballot boxes.
Also our reporter who monitored voting in all the polling units at Wuse Zone 1, 2, 3 and 4 reports that most of the Presiding Officers and Ad hoc staff employed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were sitting with no one to attend to.
At Wuse Zone 1, it was learnt that only few people came out to vote and later went home immediately since accreditation and voting was done simultaneously. The situation was even worse at the Zone 4 where all the Presiding officers and Ad hoc Staff were bored with no voter to attend to except 50 people.
Some of the ad hoc staff who volunteered comments to THISDAY but refused to be named said the turn-out was so poor that they had to wait for voters to stroll in one after the other.
The chairmanship and councillorship elections in Bwari Local Government Council yesterday was largely free, fair and peaceful, though with little challenges.
The challenges were those of initial delays in the take off of the exercise due to late arrival of materials; Data capture machine’s delay in reading finger prints as well as voters who had their names missing from the registers even though they have their voter cards.
There was huge turnout of voters at the Bwari voting units as 12 noon and voting and accreditation went smoothly. There were about seven polling booths in each centre visited and adequate electoral officials to accommodate the large number of voters.
But voters who had their names missing expressed frustration over the exercise. As at the time of filling this report voting was ongoing at the centers after a heavy and but rainfall which forced voters to scamper for shelter before returning to exercise their voting rights.
On the whole, yesterday’s council elections were generally peaceful with appreciable security presence in most of the locations. THISDAY observed that several motorists queued up at fuel stations even though they were closed for business.
Policemen had barricaded several major roads, and only allowed vehicles bearing persons on election related duty, to pass through. Residents were however able to walk around freely.
There was no incident except a minor altercation in Wuse Zone 2, where one of the electorate insisted on voting with his torn voter’s card despite being rejected by the card reader. He insisted he must vote and was not even patient enough to be given the incident form. There were also minor hiccups caused by card readers failure this did not constitute a problem because it was later resolved.
In Kubwa which is in Bwari Area Council, the electorates were seen conducting themselves in a peaceful manner. Although there was heavy shower of rain which started some minutes past 1pm, it did not deter the electorate from exercising their franchise.
The low turnout contributed largely to the relaxed mood of the police and civil defence corps stationed at the polling booths, as they had little or nothing to do. Also, at the polling booths visited in Kubwa, there was no reported case of card reader failure.