Despite hitches, massive turnout as Nigerians elect new leaders
• Tinubu, Atiku, Obi, Kwankwaso commend process, express confidence in winning
• INEC commences results upload, over 5000 up on IREV Portal by 12:10 am
• Voting continues today in Bakassi, Qua Island
• Reports of violence, voter suppression worrisome – CDD
• Situation Room scores commission low on election materials deployment, decries voters intimidation
• CSO alleges vote-buying in dollars
After months of anxiety, Nigerians, yesterday, turned out en masse to elect a new set of leaders to steer affairs of the country, particularly the President and the Federal lawmakers.
Though there were complaints of delayed start of voting exercise, non-functional Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and pockets of violence in parts of the country, major stakeholders in the election described the process as peaceful while commending the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the INEC, describing the election as “good, smooth and fair.”
Tinubu cast his vote at Ward 85, polling unit 047 at Alausa in Ikeja, Lagos State at exactly 10:28 am. The presidential hopeful, who walked about 500 meters from his family house to the polling unit was accompanied by his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu and his daughter, Iyaloja General of Nigeria, Mrs Folasade Tinubu-Ojo as well as hundreds of newsmen.
Speaking on the late arrival of INEC officials to his polling unit, Tinubu said he had no issues with INEC while also expressing the hope that the election will be free and fair.
When asked if he will accept defeat in the event that the outcome of the election did not favour him, he said, “I attended Town Hall meetings and campaigns than other candidates. I will win.”
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, also commended INEC for a smooth conduct of the election as well as security agents for providing effective security. Atiku, who cast his vote at exactly 9:08 am at his Ajia polling units 012, expressed confidence in winning the election.
Labour Party Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, speaking shortly after casting his vote at his Amantutu ward 2, polling unit 19, in Agulu, Aniocha local council of Anambra State, said only God will determine the winner of the election.
Obi, who voted at the polling unit at about 11:57a.m. alongside his wife, Margret, said: “Everything I have been in life is by the will of God. It is only God that will determine the winner of this election and whatever becomes of this process, I will remain grateful to God.
“Winning election is a responsibility. It is not an easy thing because it is a burden. It is a burden because you are going to hold the people’s trust and if God wants you to carry the burden, you will,” he said.
He expressed satisfaction with the level of the exercise in his community, urging other electorate across the country to emulate his people’s conduct as general election continues.
Earlier, at about 10:20 am, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had arrived the Amantutu Ward 2, led by a senior official. They moved round the polling unit and interfaced with INEC officials on duty. The team lead, who refused to disclose his identity, later told journalists that they were “moving round to ensure a hitch-free exercise.”
Presidential Candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Rabi’u Kwankwaso, also expressed confidence in emerging winner in the poll.
He stated this after casting his votes at his Tandu 1 Polling Unit of Kano State, noting that the massive turnout of his home supporters without much presence of security is an indication that the Kano people are lovers of peace.
According to reports, Kwankwaso, on his arrival at his polling unit located in a secondary school, toured different polling units as there were about six polling units on the premises. He was later redirected by an INEC staff to the right PU where he voted.
Meanwhile, INEC began uploading some early election results on its Result Viewing (IReV) Portal late yesterday. A check on the Commission’s IReV portal by The Guardian in the early hours today showed that the electoral body had uploaded 5356 results on the portal as of 12:10 am.
The IREV is a platform, which enables the people to view election results real time from various polling units across the country.There had been anxiety, late yesterday, among Nigerians over INEC’s failure to upload presidential results from some parts of the country on the portal inspite of voting having ended in some polling units.
In another development, INEC announced the extension to today (Sunday, February 26, 2023), voting period for the Presidential and National Assembly Elections in polling units in Cross River State where election did not take place. These include polling units and wards in Bakassi Local Council; and Dayspring 1 & 2, Qua Island.
“Voting in the affected areas will resume by 8:00 am till 12:00 pm on Sunday, February 26. All stakeholders…should be guided accordingly,” the Commission said in a statement by its Head, Voters Education and Publicity, Anthonia Nwobi. The Commission reassured eligible voters that no one would be disenfranchised.
Following some reports of delayed voting and malfunctioning Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in parts of the country, Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the BVAS deployed for the elections were functioning optimally.
Speaking at a media briefing on the ongoing election at the national collation centre in Abuja, Yakubu blamed perennial logistics problems and insecurity for the late arrival of machines and materials.
He said: “The BVAS accreditation system deployed nationwide for the first time has been functioning optimally in most parts of the country and we hear actually less and less of complaints about the functionality of the BVAS.
“So based on the reports that we have received from the various states of the Federation, and in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), some challenges were identified, one of which is the inability of the Commission in a number of places to open the polling units at the appointed time.
“Some of the polling units opened late but in line with our policy, any Nigerian who is on the queue will have opportunity to vote no matter how long it takes, at least until the last person on the queue before 2:30 pm votes.
“Some of the reasons we couldn’t open the polling units on time was, first, the perennial problem of logistics in spite of our best effort. But I think we conquered the challenge of getting election materials to various locations this year.
Yes, there may be complaints here and there, but generally speaking, we were able to deliver hundreds of millions of ballot papers and sheets that were supposed to be delivered for the election. Another contributing factor to the late opening of the polling units is actually the perennial insecurity in the country.”
An election monitoring group, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) noted that the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines were deployed in about 98 per cent of polling units nationwide.
This is as the organisation said some reports of violence and voter suppression that occurred in some states were worrisome.
In a preliminary statement from its Election Analysis Centre (EAC), the organisation said its observer data indicated late arrival of poll officials to their respective polling units across the country on Election Day.
The statement, signed by the chairperson of the CDD-EAC centre, Professor Adele Jinadu, said across the country, almost 50 per cent of INEC poll officials arrived on time for the commencement of the process. It, however, said the
South East and South South recorded the lowest percentage of poll officials arriving on time.
It said: “In the South East, only 10 per cent of poll officials arrived their respective polling units on time and in the South South, it was 27 per cent. In the North East, 42 per cent of poll officials got to their polling units on time whilst in the North West, North Central and South West, the figure was over 50 per cent.
“However, Lagos, the state with the highest number of registered voters, recorded just 18 per cent in terms of timely arrival of INEC officials. The average opening time across the country was 9:25 am; that is a clear one hour after polling was scheduled to start.
“On average, CDD-EAC observation showed INEC officials arrived for set up and commencement of the process between 9:30 am and 10:30 am in the polling units observed. In the South East, the average time for opening of polls was 10:56 am; CDD-EAC observers have also been reporting several instances of polls not opening, even at 12:30 pm. In several cases, observer findings reported security officials arriving at the polling stations, while INEC officials had not arrived to open the polls.”
On BVAS, the CDD said there had been various glitches during the accreditation process, which contributed to delays in voting in places such as Borno State.
It said: “There have been some reports of violence and voter suppression in some parts of the country. We have asked our observers in the field to gather more information about these issues. On the whole, we commend Nigerians on their participation and peaceful conduct so far, although we note growing reports of voters frustrated by the speed of the voting process.
“We commend Nigerians on their determination to vote and encourage them to remain patient as they cast their ballot and to prevent people who want to try and disrupt the process.”
Meanwhile the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room has berated INEC for late deployment of election materials across the country.
Presenting the group’s interim statement on the election yesterday in Abuja, Situation Room Convener, Ene Obi said reports from its network of observers and partners revealed that the process commenced late in more than 30 percent of polling units across the country.
She said: “States where polls opened around 8.30 am include Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ekiti, Gombe and Jigawa. However, in Enugu, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers, Kaduna and FCT, there were significant delays in commencement of polls, with many polling units yet to open as at 11.30 am.
“In most states, deployment of election officials and materials to the RACs commenced early hours of this morning, making it extremely difficult for the election to commence on time.
“In some states, many ad hoc staff could not find their names on the staff list, even after participating in the training exercise, causing further delays. There were reports of deployment of election materials to the wrong polling units in parts of North West and North East states.”
Obi said the room was hopeful that INEC and other election stakeholders will resolve existing and emerging challenges relating to deployment of electoral officials and materials, prompt commencement of polls, and accreditation and voting and called on voters to eschew violence and be law-abiding as they perform their civic duty.
According to the Convener, the body is concerned about the tendency to use violence to intimidate opposition and suppress voters, as was observed in Kogi and Rivers states.
“Specifically, in Anyigba ward of Dekina local council of Kogi State, thugs are reportedly going round destroying election materials and dispersing voters. The Situation Room calls on security agencies to intervene and arrest the escalating violence,” she said.
Disclosing that Situation Room received reports indicating attempts by political actors to engage in vote buying, Obi commended the security agencies for the swift action they took by apprehending suspected perpetrators of vote buying.
She called for a thorough investigation of the cases and advocated for more vigilance against those who may still be harboring such intentions.
“The Situation Room urges INEC to take note of the observed challenges and implement swift measures to ensure that all eligible voters are given opportunity to vote and that the voting process proceeds without further delays.
On another hand, a non-governmental organization, Connected Development (CODE) alleged that politicians bought votes in US Dollars and called on security agencies to be on red alert.
Speaking to newsmen in Abuja, the Chief Executive Officer of the group, Lawal Hamzat, said: “In the South East, some of the key issues bother around delay in voting as INEC staff arrived late and voting commenced late.
“On security, in the North East (Borno precisely), we have reports that electoral violence disrupted elections. Reports showed that one person had been confirmed dead and another injured in Gwoza Council, in Gwoza town ward, at Polling unit 005.
The group noted that in the South West, there were several reports of voting materials malfunctioning and party agents disrupting elections.
“In Kogi precisely, as at 11:35 am, voting was disrupted after a fight erupted and voters were attacked. Ballot papers were torn and destroyed. And no voting is happening. This is at Dekina local council, in Udaba Dekina polling unit.
“In the South South region, we have reported cases of vote buying in Cross River and Akwa Ibom, especially in Obot Akara local council in Akwa Ibom,” it said.
There were also incidences of slow process occasioned by the shortage of adhoc staff, and malfunctioning BVAS in several parts of Lagos such as Eti-Osa, Lekki Phase 1, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ojodu, and Ogba.
Big Brother Naija host, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu told The Guardian that, for instance, the largest polling unit in Eti-Osa with over 1200 registered voters had just three adhoc staff, which reduced the pace of the voting exercise.
“We have about 1200 voters on the queue, as at 1:30 pm, and about 110 people had voted, the exercise is seamless but extremely slow. I wish it could be faster,” he said.
A 72-year-old, Mary Sowale described the electoral process at ward K1, Eti-Osa as calm and smooth compared to past elections. She told The Guardian that the electoral process was slow over shortage of BVAS.
“The crowd here is much but there is only two BVAS working, which made the process very slow,” she said.
Late arrival of staff of INEC and election materials almost marred voting process in Ifako-Ijaiye local council, Ojodu-Berger and some parts of Ogba, as accreditation and voting did not commence until around 10:30 am and 11:00 am.
Many of the voters, who expressed dissatisfaction with the development, said the electoral body fell short of expectation in terms of timely commencement of voting and distribution of logistics for the elections.
Specifically, in most of the polling units visited by The Guardian in the councils, voting did not start until 11:00 am while INEC staff arrived polling units in some parts of Ogba at 11:00 am.
The Labour Party has, however, accused INEC of refusing to upload results of Lagos, Delta Presidential polls.
National Chairman of the Labour Party, Barrister Julius Abure accused the Commission of deliberately refusing to upload results of Lagos Presidential polls at various polling units in the state unto the central server.
According to Abure, officials of INEC in connivance with security agencies were claiming that the BVAS have suddenly developed fault and therefore could not function.
The chairman said that information from the party’s field men had it that in places like Agege, Kosofe, Oshodi-Isolo, Surulere, and Ibeju Lekki, amongst others, where results showed that Labour Party won convincingly, INEC officials claimed that the BVAS suddenly developed fault when it concerned uploading results of the presidential election.
According to him, “Information reaching me has it that in Lagos, they have refused to upload the results for the presidential election, they have uploaded that of the Senate and House of Representatives but for the presidential, they have refused. And they are using the police to drive our agents and supporters out of the place. And they said that they have firm instruction from INEC headquarters not to upload.
“For example, in Kosofe, they put the collation centre in a Local Council headquarter. The place is surrounded by members of APC and people are afraid for their life. They are not uploading; they said that they have been given instruction to insist that the BVAS is faulty. And most of the places we won, but they have refused to upload.
Abure said that a similar situation is playing out across the collation centres in Delta State. He, however, called on INEC to ensure that only genuine and verifiable results generated from the various polling units should be uploaded.