*Observer group insists electoral body conducted peaceful polls
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
International civil society organisation, ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), has released the initial reports from its observation of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, which were held across the country at the weekend.
In the report, the AAN stated that it deployed 510 observers of the trained 650 to Lagos, Kano, Enugu, Rivers Jigawa, Kaduna, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Niger, Delta, Ekiti, Kwara, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe states.
According to AAN, to facilitate the processing from the field, it established a technical room that fed into the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room with processed data.
Part of the observations included cases of evidence of late arrival of INEC staff and election materials, arrival of INEC staff at polling units without security personnel and reported cases of disruption and violence in some polling units in Kogi, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, and Enugu states, and the FCT.
Although the group commended INEC for its one-day extension of the presidential and national assembly polls in some affected areas that had voting challenges, it called on the electoral body to critically examine the challenges, to avoid a repeat during the state’s elections, which are only weeks away.
The report read in part, “Our field observation reveals the following: Evidence of late arrival of INEC staff and election materials in many polling units, with some polling stations opening as late as 11.30am such as in Rivers State, Ward 17 under Obio/Akpor LGA and Okumagba II in Warri South, Olodi Primary School, Delta State at 2.30pm.
“INEC staff arrived at some polling units with sensitive materials without security personnel. Evidence of unsealed election materials with some already thumb-printed ballot papers (e.g. LEA primary school, Saburi, a suburb of DeiDei in FCT).
“Some polling units continued voting till the early morning of Sunday 26th while others, especially women may be disenfranchised because of the late-night voting. This is evident in Gwarinpa Estate 2, Tipper Garage polling unit, SunnyVale Estate, and Lugbe Ako, all in FCT.
“This may lead to fatigue and stress on INEC officials and subsequently irreversible errors and omissions during the voting, sorting, and counting processes. The extension of voting hours into the early hours of Sunday has also contributed to a delay in uploading results on INEC portal. The security of both INEC staff, Voters and voting materials could be compromised because of late-night voting.
“Reported cases of disruptions and violence in Dekina LGA, Kogi state, and in Ikpanya Ward in Ibio Ibom LGA of Akwa Ibom where thugs disrupt and destroy electoral materials. Ballot boxes in two polling units in Mafoluku by Ijaiye area, Lagos were reportedly burnt, and some INEC’s ad-hoc staff were assaulted for reportedly being involved in some electoral offences, leading to disruptions in some polling units in places like Abakpa, Enugu State and Lugbe in FCT.”
The report added: “ActionAid commends INEC for extending the Presidential and Senate election by a day in some locations with voting challenges. This largesse needs to be extended to more locations across Nigeria where voting commenced late and all registered voters at the polling unit are yet to vote.
“Nevertheless, we enjoin INEC to critically examine the challenges experienced today so that a repeat of the same at the state level elections are avoided. And the locations where elections continue today or may be combined with the gubernatorial elections should be made public”
Meanwhile, an accredited election observer and member of Voters Awareness Initiative (VAI), has commended INEC, stressing that the umpire conducted a successful and credible presidential and national assembly election.
In a press statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its president, Wale Ogunade the group lauded what it termed the resilience and perseverance of eligible Nigerians voters for coming out on election day to cast their votes for candidates of their choice.
“We are thrilled by the peaceful conduct of the election in most of the polling stations across states of the federation, save for the pockets of disturbances in some selected polling stations in some states which is condemnable. But it is not enough to undermine the success and credibility of the election,” it maintained.
However, the group noted that from its observation of the election through the deployment of over 100 observers across states in the six geopolitical zones and reports monitored via other observer groups and the media, there were late arrivals of INEC personnel and materials at some polling stations.
It also highlighted that there were BVAS machine hitches, but explained that on the overall assessment of the process based on observation, the hiccups were too insignificant to taint the credibility of the election.
It also commended the security agencies for their professionalism, dedication, unbiased conduct and scientific deployment of security apparatus which contributed in no small measure to the success, credibility and peaceful conduct of the election.
In addition, it congratulated the local and international observer groups for a job well done in the objective and professional discharge of their functions in the conduct of the election.
The media was also appreciated for its professional and objective coverage and reportage of the election which it said was a great contributory factor to the successful conduct of the election.
In addition, VAI said the party agents were peaceful and responsible in their conduct, which it noted was a radical departure from the past and contributed to the peace, success and credibility of the election.
“Unfortunately, anti-democratic elements and agents of destabilization have unleashed an avalanche of fake news, fake election results, doctored audio and videos into the public space with a view to misleading and inciting public unrest.
“VAI uses this press statement to call on the security agencies to investigate the sources of the fake news, results, audios and videos with a view to bringing the full weight of the law on these agents.
“VaI is saddened and condemns in the strongest terms, the anti-democratic calls from expected quarters for the cancellation of an election whose results have not been officially announced even when incontrovertible evidence on ground point to the fact that it has been conducted in substantial compliance with provisions of the electoral Act,” it said.
As Nigerians await the official final declaration of results, the group called on INEC not to be distracted by the campaign of ‘blackmail and calumny’, but to remain focused and resolute in the discharge of its functions in accordance with the provisions of the electoral Act.