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Large turnout of voters in Abuja amid tight security

By Bridget Onochie, Odita Sunday, Joke Falaju, Ameh Ochojila and Ajuluchukwu Brown, Abuja
26 February 2023   |   4:24 am
•Voters cry foul as INEC officials arrive late at polling centres Abuja, the seat of power, yesterday, recorded massive voter turnout for the Presidential and National Assembly elections, amidst tight security. The streets of Abuja were deserted, as Nigerians trooped out in their numbers to perform their civic responsibilities.   Except for a few areas,…

Abuja records impressive voter turn out

•Voters cry foul as INEC officials arrive late at polling centres
Abuja, the seat of power, yesterday, recorded massive voter turnout for the Presidential and National Assembly elections, amidst tight security.

The streets of Abuja were deserted, as Nigerians trooped out in their numbers to perform their civic responsibilities.
 
Except for a few areas, the exercise was generally peaceful in the Federal Capital Territory.

However, there were cases of late commencement of voting in certain area, leading to late voting.
As at 3.00p.m, some polling units were still voting in Karimu area while the exercise extended beyond that in other polling units under Bwari Area Council.

Election materials, especially ink, was in a short supply across polling centres, leading to dilution with water. Some electorates also volunteered to buy ink.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, earlier visited INEC Situation Room at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja.

The IGP, who monitored over five Polling Units in the FCT expressed satisfaction with the successful conduct of the elections.

The Commissioner of Police (CP) in charge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), CP Sadiq Abubakar, also lauded the performance of security personnel in the territory.

Abubakar gave the commendation when he led some heads of security agencies to monitor voting process in Bwari, Kubwa, Karsana, Dutse, Dawaki, Central Business District, Asokoro and other communities within Abuja.

The CP also commended the high turnout of voters and peaceful conduct of voting process in all the polling units visited in the territory.
“We have visited several polling centres in Bwari Area Council and the reports we are getting shows the process has been peaceful. We have also seen the enthusiasm in people waiting patiently to exercise their franchise.
“So far so good, security is in tact and the personnel doing their work with human faces,” he said.

There was an impressive turnout of voters in all the polling units visited in Bwari and Asokoro areas.

Security agencies were all at alert and there was no incident of violence was recorded within the FCT as at 3.00 pm.

However, despite the massive turn out of voters across polling units in Apo area of the Federal Capital Territory,  the late arrival of electoral officers and materials might leave several voters disenfranchised.

From  Wumba Field Polling Unit, to Dutse Alhaji, Damangaza and Pigbasama Lea Apo Mechanic, it was the same report of late arrival of election materials and the overwhelming situation due to the large turnout of voters.

At the Wumba Field Polling Unit, election materials arrived at about 11:30a.m. while voters. including septuagenarians, nursing mothers, the aged waited patiently under the scorching sun to cast their vote, several voters  became restless given the slow  electoral process.

At Dutse Alhaji, Apo,  it was a different ball game given the overwhelming crowd who waited impatiently to get accredited, while the INEC officials battle the situation.

A Gwari woman, Blessing Musa said:” I have being casting my vote at this polling unit since 2015, the situation has never been like this, saying usually the  INEC official was more coordinated as names are arranged alphabetically and voters can go to the booth where their name appears. Another voter, Sunday Isaac alleged that the late arrival of election materials was a deliberate attempt by the electoral umpire to scuttle election and ensure that a particular candidate with massive voters in
the area were disenfranchised.

At the Damangaza Polling Unit, the voting exercise was going smoothly although the Labor Party agents  said the late arrival of the election materials discouraged several people from participating in the exercise, saying voters were waiting for INEC officials since 7am. But materials did not arrive until 11:30 am.

At Pigbasama LEA primary school  Apo Mechanic there was a huge protest  by voters who stated that their polling unit was moved from the area without their knowledge.

A voter Yemi Moses lamented that he has not been able to vote as at 3;00pm despite arriving at the polling unit by 7:12am.

He said “ when I came in this morning we were told that there are two polling unit in the school 116 and 118, the first BVAS machine that arrived at about 11.45am was for 018 so the the INEC officials were attending to the voters whose PVC had 018 after 30minute they packed up their machine telling us that the two unit was collapsed together then people started protesting

Moses who said that he will really feel very bad if not allowed to exercise his franchise said “after waiting this long I will not be happy if am unable to vote”.

Another voter said he has been casting his vote in this polling unit since 2007, how will INEC migrate his polling unit without their knowledge saying their names appeared on the INEC register pasted at the polling unit but unfortunately the BVAS is rejecting their cards.

He said as at 3.15 most of them are yet to cast their ballot saying most of the voters there are non-indigenes alleging that the Gwari indigene have been moved to the polling unit at the chief palace to cast their vote.

He alleged that the malady was a deliberate effort by the non-indigene who are mostly from the South East to cast their vote.

The INEC supervisor in charge of Polling unit 116 said she was given polling units to supervise and polling unit 118 was not part of the unit she was given to supervise, she said the people have been agitating that this their polling unit, so I told them to queue up to see if their name will appear on the BVAS.

However, the voters said that of eventually their name does not appear on the polling unit 116 BVAS how do they cast their vote?

The incidence of prospective voters unable to identify their polling unit and failure of the BVAS machine characterize the voting process at Jikwoyi, Karu wards of FCT during  Presidential and National Assembly elections.

At some of the polling units visited at  Karu ward, Jikwoyi voters are seen lamenting disenfranchising due to their names not being found on the list of names displayed for voting.

Also one of the major challenges is that the BVAS  machine is not recognizing some people, especially the aged.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senatorial candidate for the FCT, Senator Philip Aduda, cast his votes in the Presidential and National Assembly elections at about 10:55 am at Polling Unit code 036 by Police Outpost, Old Chief Palace, Karu, Abuja.

Addressing journalists immediately after casting his vote, Aduda commended officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, saying that the elections have been peaceful so far.

He said that, though there have been complaints from different polling units, he is so far happy with the elections.

At Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), there was a large turnout of voters for the election,  the chair Christopher Maikalangu who cast his vote by 1.56 pm hailed the process, but called on INEC to increase the manpower for a faster voting process.