The Presidential and National Assembly Elections held nationwide, yesterday, were largely peaceful, even as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), shot into an early lead in the South West. In most parts of the region visited by our correspondents, the retired General was seen coasting home to victory.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), however, eventually had to extend the polls, which were marred by shortage of materials. The slow pace of the process warranted former President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Goodluck Jonathan and Senate President, David Mark, among other prominent citizens, to plead for the electorates’ patience and understanding on the general electoral procedure.
Mark said the elections were generally peaceful, as no incidence of violence had been reported, and commended the electorates for their good conduct. INEC, yesterday, also denied reports that it had admitted that the card reader failed nationwide.
Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Kayode Idowu, in a telephone interview said: “I am not aware of nationwide card reader failure. I am aware there is problem in certain areas, and INEC has resorted to normal accreditation.” But the All Progressives Congress (APC) warned against the resort to manual accreditation, saying it was against electoral guidelines.
In a statement issued in Lagos by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said, “People must continue to be patient until the card reader works. The card reader is a novel tool in our elections and naturally there will be some initial hiccups. “We understand that the delays were due to the failure to remove the protective films on the lenses of many card readers, the poor network of some of the sim cards in the card readers and the effect of jamming devices on the card readers.”
The APC, therefore, asked INEC to extend the time for accreditation and voting to make up for the delay being experienced across the country by the use of card readers. INEC eventually yielded, and extended voting in the polls, citing hitches by card readers. The chairman of INEC Committee on Information and Voters’ Education, Mr. Chris Iyimoga, who addressed the Press at the Media Centre of the National Collation Centre in Abuja, yesterday, said, with hitches in some parts of the country, there was no way the Presidential and National Assembly Elections could be concluded yesterday.
He disclosed that manual authentication would also be used in areas where the card readers malfunctioned, and that those whose names appeared on voters’ lists would not be turned back from voting. He added that “Even though the Guidelines for the Conduct of the 2015 general elections provide that where card readers fail to work and cannot be replaced, elections in such polling units will be postponed to the following day, the scale of the challenge we have observed today has necessitated a reconsideration of this provision of the Guidelines.
The Commission has, therefore, decided as part of the Guidelines for the Conduct of the 2015 general elections, that in polling units where card readers have so failed to work, the Presiding Officer shall manually accredit voters by marking the register of voters, upon being satisfied that the person presenting a Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) is the legitimate holder of the card.” Iyimoga stressed that “The above notwithstanding, in polling units where accreditation was suspended to the following day in accordance with the existing Guidelines, arrangements will be made for voters to vote tomorrow, subject to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).”
He further stated that “The Commission reassures the voting public that it will thoroughly investigate what happened, while it remains committed to the delivery of free, fair and credible elections in spite of the challenges.” Aside the voter card hitch, voters generally turned out impressively and experienced peaceful polls. At the Abuja LEA primary school polling centre, in Wuse zone 6 which had about 7 polling units, voter’s complained that the process started behind schedule; apparently, polling officials were overwhelmed with turnout of voters.
Specifically, polling unit 001, at Junior Secondary School, Area 10, Garki caused confusion, as the place it was gathered was now being used as INEC material distribution centre, hence voters who had obtained their PVCs from the place were asked to go and look for where to vote. Abdul Yusuf, a holder of PVC 001 said, “I came all the way from Gudu this morning, and have not found where to vote.”
Meanwhile, voter turnout within the Abuja city centre was impressive though with pockets of complains here and there. Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais, was among people who voted at Asokoro unit 011, yesterday. In the same vein, US Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, was among Foreign Diplomats who witnessed the voting process at polling unit 011 in front of New Capital School, Asokoro, the ambassador who breezed in at 2.30pm left the polling booth at 3.05pm.
As at the time of filling this report voting was on-going in virtually all the places monitored within AMAC. At the Regal Secondary School Nri, Anaocha LGA of Anambra State, the polling unit of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, member representing Anaocha, Dunukofia and Njikoka Federal Constituency, election materials did not arrive until at about 12 noon.
At Amatututu ward one, Agulu, former Governor Peter Obi’s ward, election materials had not arrived until at about 1pm as well as Aguluzigbo Civic Centre, the polling booth of Chief Victor Umeh, National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the senatorial candidate of the party, where materials arrived promptly, but the card reader failed. In some places where accreditation had commenced including the Uruekwo polling unit in Enugu Ukwu, the country home of the deputy governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, there were also reports of card reader failure in one of two polling units.
An enthusiastic electorate came out in large numbers at various polling centres across Oyo State for the presidential and National Assembly elections, which were generally peaceful. Reports from Ibadan metropolis and Oke Ogun as well as Ibarapa areas of Oyo State indicated that there was a good turnout of voters and the election was peaceful though accreditation started slightly late.
At Igboho, Saki East, Saki West, Otu, Iseyin and some other towns in the outskirts of Ibadan, both accreditations and elections were conducted in a peaceful manner though with minor hiccups with card readers.
At Igboho, Professor Dibu Ojerinde, the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), commended INEC for the card reader innovation. As at 8am, people were already turning out for accreditation at the centre. INEC officials and materials arrived at polling units 30 minutes later.
Elections, however, would not take place in 20 polling units in six local government areas due to missing data of the electorate in the affected units. Voters turnout was impressive in Minna, while at Bida, Suleja, Lapai, Mokwa and Kontagora recorded early and massive turn out of voters.