NBA: Despite Criticisms, 64.6% Voters Satisfied with Presidential, N’Assembly Elections

•Urges INEC to ensure glitches in BVAS fixed for governorship/Houses of Assembly poll

•Apex Muslim body cautions against inciting remarks, lauds INEC’s ‘professionalism’

Emmanuel Addeh and Alex Enumah in Abuja

Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), in its interim report on the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, yesterday, said despite criticisms of the elections, about 64.6 percent of voters were satisfied with the exercise.

NBA, however, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “ensure that all bugs or glitches in the BVAS machines and other election technology are fixed” before the conduct of the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.

At the same time, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the apex body overseeing Islam and Muslims in Nigeria, yesterday, cautioned against inciting statements, especially by clerics in the country, on the February 25 presidential election. NSCIA said INEC did a good and professional job.

NBA’s summary of the entire exercise was contained in its Interim Report on the recent presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25.

The election, which produced the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, as president-elect, has been widely condemned as below expectation by both local and international observers. Two of the contestants, Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), have already commenced the processes of challenging the outcome of the exercise.

In the interim report signed by NBA president, Mr Yakubu Maikyau, the association expressed “some satisfaction with the conduct of the election on February 25, 2023”. However, it said the body “also identified major challenges that should be addressed for future elections”.

The challenges, according to Maikyau, included the late arrival of INEC officials and ballot materials at the polling stations, malfunctioning BVAS machines, limited or non-transmission of the results from the polling units to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV), insecurity at some polling units, including violent attacks on voters and officials, voter intimidation, snatching and destruction of voting materials, significant cases of vote-buying, and limited access facilities for persons living with disabilities.

According to the NBA president, findings generally from the association’s observers “indicated that only a quarter of the electorate were excellently impressed with the conduct of the ballots (27.1%) while majority of the voters (64.6%) were somewhat satisfied, and that, only 8.2% rated the election poor or very poor.

“Stemming from these observations and in view of the impending governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections fixed for 11th March, 2023 (now shifted to March 18), the NBA urges INEC to ensure that all bugs or glitches in the BVAS machines and other election technology are fixed and improved and that INEC staff (including collation and returning officers) with proven cases of misconduct in the February 25, 2023 election are excluded from the March 11, 2023 (now March 18, 2023) election.

“The Inspector General of Police is also urged to ensure the timely deployment of police officers on duty for the elections. Political parties are equally advised to educate their members and supporters on the need to eschew all forms of actions in violation of the Electoral Act.

“In conclusion, the NBA commends Nigerians for their resilience and perseverance in carrying out their civic duties during the presidential and National Assembly elections and encourages citizens to show same values and resolve in the forthcoming governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections.”

On its part, NSCIA, in a statement jointly signed by Deputy Secretary General, Professor Salisu Shehu, and Director of Administration, Zubairu Haruna Usman-Ugwu, expressed worry over the high level of what it described as unsubstantiated claims, threats and incitements emanating from certain quarters of the country, especially, from people it said ought to be the preachers of peace.

NSCIA under the leadership of President-General and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Muhammad Sa-ad Abubakar, stated that it was constrained to, yet again, make a statement on developments from the recently concluded presidential and National Assembly elections of the February 25, 2023, following worrisome developments after the poll.

Commending the leadership and officials of INEC for their display of professionalism during the elections, despite the daunting challenges experienced, NSCIA noted the innovations introduced by the commission, especially, the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). It said the innovations not only improved the electoral process, but also added to the credibility of the results.

The Muslim organisation noted what it called an outpouring of commendations and plaudits for INEC from numerous governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as international observer missions on the conduct of the election.

NSCIA  stated, “However, the council has observed with serious concern the high level of unsubstantiated claims, threats and incitements emanating from certain quarters of the country, especially from people who ought to be the preachers of peace and serve as moral compass for the society, consequent to the declaration of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the 2023 presidential election.

“The level of unwarranted provocation and unnecessary heating up of the polity, which are capable of creating disunity and threatening the security of the Nigerian nation, is worrisome. Consequently, the council appeals to all Nigerians to exercise decorum, be peaceful, prayerful and law-abiding in the face of the current unwarranted provocations.”

It called on the security agencies to be proactive and rise up to their responsibility by decisively dealing with unlawful utterances and actions of such elements and individuals, no matter their status. The organisation alleged that such elements had continued to fan the embers of disunity and discord in the country.

The council called on politicians, who felt aggrieved by the outcome of the elections, to seek redress through appropriate legal channels, as provided for in the Electoral Act and the constitution of Nigeria, rather than resort to violence and unlawful acts.

NSCIA  said, “They should remember that Nigeria is the only country that we can call ours. Council once again calls on INEC to remain steadfast, committed and not be dissuaded in the discharge of its lawful duties.

“It should focus adequate attention on the conduct of the forthcoming gubernatorial and state assembly elections (now postponed to March 18). The commission should do everything within its powers to address the challenges it faced during the February 25 elections so as to prevent a reoccurrence.

“Council enjoins all well-meaning Nigerians, national and international organisations to join hands with and support INEC in the task of bringing about new leadership to administer the affairs of our dear country at different levels.”

The group urged dissatisfied persons to remember that instituting a legitimate leadership in the country is everybody’s business, stressing that any attempt to truncate the smooth transition of power on May 29, 2023 to the president-elect by any group of people, section or interest should be strongly resisted.

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