Polls Peaceful, Card Reader Flops
• Polls Continue Today
• Violence In Rivers
• Hold Jega Responsible For Failure, Says PDP
Despite repeated assurances by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that card readers would function satisfactorily, President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, yesterday, waited patiently for more than an hour before they could be accredited.
At polling unit 039, ward 13 Otu Abara, Otuoke, Balyesa State, the card reader failed to recognise the PVCs of Jonathan and his wife Dame Patience.
The President, his wife, and mother, Eunice, arrived the polling unit at 9.20am for accreditation. The machine, however, could not be activated. A backup that was fetched to save the situation equally refused to work.
As the President waited, uncomplainingly, receiving a phone call in the process, INEC staff made frantic, but futile, efforts to bring the two card readers to life.
With arrival and subsequent intervention by State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Barito Kpagih, and another INEC official, Mr. Andrew Ibeh, one of the card readers woke up. Unfortunately, theleepy device still failed to recognise the data of the President and his wife, while making out the data of others, including Eunice. The President was, eventually, asked to go home and come back before 12pm.
Before leaving the polling unit, Jonathan urged Nigerians to exercise patience with the epileptic accreditation process.
He said he had received similar complaints in Edo and Jigawa States, stressing that the most important issue is for the country to have a free and fair election.
Meanwhile, at polling unit 16, ward 13, Otuoke, just a stone’s throw from the President’s unit, INEC staff could not conduct accreditation, as they complained of not having the voters register and card reader. As at 11am, the exercise had not yet started, drawing the ire of voters.
People of the community huddled together discussing the development. Some described the shoddy accreditation process as sabotage and an attempt to embarrass the President and his people.
Asked why the card reader failed to recognise the data of the President and his wife, the state INEC boss gave no lucid explanation. He, however, said he had been in touch with the Commission’s Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, on the matter.
At about 11.am, President Jonathan and his wife returned to the polling unit and were successfully accredited.
The President cast his vote alongside his wife and mother at 3.08 pm.
He also addressed journalists and urged all Nigerians to ensure they cast their votes, irrespective of hiccups associated with the card readers.
Asked his expectation on the election, he replied that he is hopeful of winning.
President Jonathan declined blaming INEC on problems with the card readers, saying he would not speak for the electoral body.
He said: “The good thing is that INEC has directed that where the card reader fails, manual accreditation should be used. The governors of Anambra and Delta have called me, complaining of the failure of card readers. I told them to exercise patience that the situation would be tackled.
“So, I am convinced that the card reader hiccups are not only in my ward or community. Such hiccups are expected, considering that we are using it for the first time.”
As though the card reader had a weird dislike for government officials and their wives, a baffled Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, expressed concern over its malfunction when the thing also failed to accredit him and his wife, Nwanneka.
The card reader deployed at Amachara Mpu ward 010 in Aninri Local Government Area recognised their Permanent Voter Cards, but the fingerprint authentication process failed despite several attempts.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Lagos State, Akin Orebiyi, yesterday, however, urged voters to bear with the glitches encountered in the voting process. He noted that the commission had made provision for backup where there were shortages.
Briefing journalists at INEC headquarters in the state, Orebiyi said, in order not to disenfranchise voters, the commission had to fall back on the use of voters’ register, where card readers failed, as directed by the commission’s chairman, Attahiru Jega, in Abuja.
He said: “Voting started in several places across Lagos State. In some places, we are aware that accreditation has ended. In several places, accreditation was carried out with the use of smart card readers, but we also had issues in other places, where the readers could not function properly.
“We have received direct order from Abuja to allow the use of the electronic voter register, which we have always announced as the fallback position for us should the smart card reader fail. So, it is being used now across the polling units.”
Accompanied by his wife, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential aspirant, retired General Muhammadu Buhari, was accredited in Kofar Baru ward 003 at 8.38am in Katsina State.
It took polling officials about 10 minutes to accredit him under the watchful eyes of local/international reporters and election monitors.
Attired in agbada and with a cap to match, Buhari alighted from an SUV to chants of Sai Buhari from supporters.
He said the outcome of the elections would be credible if voters were allowed to exercise their franchise.
Buhari, who cast his vote at 5pm, said calls for cancellation of the elections are misplaced.
Speaking to reporters shortly after casting his ballot, he said hitches recorded in a few states of the federation were not enough reasons to cancel the polls.
He cited how in spite of security challenges in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, elections still took place and the winners duly declared by the countries’ electoral bodies.
Acknowledging that the use of the card reader caused delays in various polling units across the country, he applauded INEC on the extension of the poll till today, saying it would surely enable those who couldn’t vote to exercise their franchise.
Despite complaints over poor performance of the card readers, Senate President David Mark urged Nigerians to be patient.
“As far as the card reader is concerned, it requires a lot of patience. You can see the number of times I had to try before it worked. So, we have to be patient with it,” Mark said.
He commended alternative measure provided by INEC for people who could not pass the card reader test, saying but for this, people would have been disenfranchised.
President of the South East and South South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN, Mr. Emeka Ogwu-Oju, yesterday said “there is no justifiable reason why voting should not have taken place simultaneously.” In a text message to The Guardian last night, Ugwu-Oju, who is also the convener of the Nigerian Professionals and Entrepreneurs Forum, added, “no extra personnel or security is required to achieve this objective.”