From: Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Although the governorship election in Anambra State has been won and lost, a preliminary report just released by the Nigerian Bar Association Election Working Group (NBA-EWG) claimed that money freely exchanged hands to buy over voters during the election.
The preliminary report which was made available to Daily Sun, in Kaduna, was jointly signed by the NBA-EWG Chairman and Secretary, Festus Okoye and Lema Sambo Wali.
The report also faulted the use of card readers for the Anambra gubernatorial election because of slow response to pick fingerprints of voters and complete failure to function in many places.
To this end, the NBA election monitors, have called for disuse of the cards in 2019 general elections.
However, the report commended security agencies and INEC’s adhoc staff for exhibiting professional conduct to ensuring orderliness of the Anambra State election.
According to NBA-EWG, the final report will be released in the coming days with some specifics and clear figures of what actually transpired during the election.
The preliminary report read in part, “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) accredited the NBA Election Working Group (NBA-EWG) to observe the Anambra Governorship Election.
“Influence of Money: Money played a significant role in the choice of voters during the election. Some of the political actors distributed money to the voters at the precinct of the polling units.
“NBA-EWG observed the inducement of voters at the precincts of the polling units and the brazen manner some political entrepreneurs carried out the exercise.
“NBA-EWG observed that although most of the polls in the polling units observed opened between 8am and 9.30 am and some others opened between 10am and 12noon there are still significant challenges with the movement of INEC personnel and materials to the various polling units resulting in frustration and anger by the electorates and the weaving of conspiracy theories behind the late commencement of polls in some areas.
“Voter turnout was low and episodic at the opening of the polls in some polling units observed. Turn out picked up significantly around 11am in the morning. In most of the polling units observed, there was a significant turn out of senior citizens, women and persons with disability. Some of the Presiding Officers allowed the Senior Citizens, nursing mothers and persons with disability to cast their votes before other voters.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission provided the requisite materials for the polling units. In all the polling units observed the Presiding Officers and the Supervisors confirmed that they received the full complement of their materials.
“The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) deployed Party Agents to most of the polling units observed.
“The Smart Card Readers continue to pose significant challenge to the electoral process. In some of the polling units observed by the NBA-EWG, the Smart Card Readers could not authenticate the finger print of some of the voters and they had to resort to the use of Incident Forms.
“In some of the polling units and voting points, only one Card Reader worked. In some other polling units, the Presiding Officers complained of network challenges and the slow response of Card Readers in relation to the pace of the elections.
“Although Technical Staff of INEC provided Technical Support in a cluster of polling units in the registration areas, some of the Presiding Officers simply resorted to the use of Incident Forms rather than wait on the slow response of the Smart Card Readers.
“The Nigerian Police Force provided adequate security for the polls. In most of the polling units observed by NBA-EWG, most of the Police personnel deployed to the polling units reported on time. Most of the polling units had adequate security as other security agencies complemented the efforts of the Nigerian Police Force. The Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police Force provided security at the entrance and exit to Anambra State as well as perimeter security for the election.
“Despite the pervading atmosphere of fear, anxiety and uncertainty occasioned by the activities of separatist agitators that urged a boycott of the elections, the people of Anambra State went out in significant numbers to the polling units to cast their votes. Most of the voters understood the electoral process and conducted themselves very well as this accounts for the moderate voter turnout recorded during the election.
“NBA-EWG observed that the use of public schools as multiple Polling Units led to ‘crowding’ of voters and the security agencies had a hectic time controlling the crowd in some of the polling units.
“NBA-EWG Observers reported challenges with the use of the Smart Card Readers. Some of the Smart Card Readers malfunctioned, some failed to authenticate finger prints and some failed and or worked epileptically on account of network challenges. Some of the problems being experienced have become the norm and nothing significant has been done since the challenges were identified with the 2015 elections and subsequent stand alone Governorship Election in Edo State and the National and State Assembly Elections. The problems with the Card Readers led to widespread use of Incident Forms for the election.
“The NBA-EWG observed uneven distribution of the Smart Card Readers wherein some polling units with lower number of polling units had two Smart Card Readers and others with a higher number of voters had one.
“NBA-EWG observed a marked improvement in the conduct and disposition of the security agencies on election duty in Anambra State. Most of them were courteous and did not interfere with the electoral process.
“NBA-EWG observed that the mattresses and mats at the “Super Racks” have suffered significant wear and tear and are no longer usable for any purpose whatsoever”
Apparently worried by this development, the NBA-EWG suggested that, “The Independent National Electoral Commission should reevaluate the current Smart Card Reader Technology in use. A more advanced and user friendly version of the Smart Card Readers should be introduced and used for the 2019 elections.
“The widespread use of Incident Forms compromises the quality control which the Smart Card Readers are meant to ensure and should be discouraged.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission should develop clear and concise criteria for the distribution of the Smart Card Readers to the various polling units especially those with significant number of voters.
“INEC should put in place an accountability mechanism that rewards diligence and sanctions negligence. INEC should also post experienced, courageous and knowledgeable supervisors to the wards and Local Governments to assist in tackling logistics challenges in a way that does not undermine the electoral process.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission should urgently replace the mattresses and mats procured for the use of electoral officers and personnel camped at the “Super Racks”. They have suffered significant wear and tear and are no longer usable for any purpose whatsoever.
“The Independent National Election Commission should issue an advisory to the Nigerian Police Force directing them to arrest anybody that induces voters at the precincts of the polling units without waiting for directives from the Presiding Officers.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission should audit the polling units in Nigeria and propose the creation of additional polling units in more of the schools contiguous to the existing polling units.
Meanwhile, NBA-EWG commended the people of Anambra State for standing firm with democracy and a united Nigeria.
“On the average, the election was successful and recorded modest turn out in spite of the initial anxiety, fear and apprehension of the people about intimidation and violence.
“NBA-EWG commends the Nigerian Police Force and the other security agencies that provided security for the elections. Most of the security agents were courteous and professional in carrying out their duties.
“We commend the Independent National Electoral Commission for its efforts at delivering acceptable elections in an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and apprehension.
“We commend members of the National Youth Service Corp that patriotically marshaled out to the various polling Units as Presiding Officers and poll workers and performed the task given to them to the best of their ability.
“The Final Report of the NBA-EWG will be released in the coming days and it will attain some specificity as we will illustrate our findings with clear figures including how many polling stations we monitored, the specific times voting commenced and ended and how many Smart Cards Readers failed to function etc”.