Independent Nigeria electoral commission, INEC has acknowledged the challenges that hampered last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.
At a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners on Saturday, the commission’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, acknowledged the challenges but stated that the commission would work harder to overcome them in the upcoming gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections on March 11.
The logistical challenges, which included the late arrival of voting materials to polling units and the failure of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine to upload election results, were widespread during the election last week, leaving Nigerians skeptical of the polls’ credibility.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP), and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), three of the four major political parties in the presidential election, have all rejected the results and called for a new election to be held under a new electoral chair.
Only the All Progressives Congress (APC), whose candidate, Bola Tinubu, was declared winner, praised the election process.
The PDP and LP have already been granted access to inspect all election materials as they prepare to challenge the election’s conduct and Mr Tinubu’s victory in court.
Several observer groups’ preliminary observations reports also noted that the commission performed below citizen expectations.
BVAS to be used
While Mr Yakubu stated that the BVAS would be used in the gubernatorial elections next Saturday, he avoided mentioning whether the results would be immediately transmitted to the INEC elections viewing (IReV) portal before collation of results.
The first alleged breach noticed by agents of the PDP and LP who later staged a walk out of the collation centre in Abuja on Monday was INEC’s failure to upload the results on IReV before continuing with the collation of results.
Dino Melaye, the PDP’s agent, stated that the commission had repeatedly promised Nigerians electronic transmission of results.
Mr Yakubu only told the RECs that the deployment of BVAS has sanitized voter accreditation, as evidenced by recent election results.
“Since last week, the Commission has intensified the review of the technology to ensure that glitches experienced, particularly with the upload of results are rectified. We are confident that going forward the system will run optimally,” he said.
Mr Yakubu also claimed that while the commission planned well for the election, its execution “came with challenges, some of them unforeseen.”
“The issues of logistics, election technology, the behavior of some election personnel at various levels, and the attitude of some party agents and supporters added to the extremely difficult environment in which elections are usually held in Nigeria,” he added.
“Many lessons have been learned. The Commission’s immediate concern is how the identified challenges can be addressed as we approach the final phase of the General Election involving the most constituencies, namely 28 State Governorship elections and 993 State Houses of Assembly seats.”
As a result, the INEC Chairman has directed that all election logistics be handled by electoral officers at the local government level and be completed a day before the elections.
While this has been the commission’s standard practice, he claims that centralizing the process in some states has resulted in delayed deployment of personnel and materials, as well as a delay in the start of polls.
Mr Yakubu stated that RECs will be held accountable for any delays or failure to deploy electric power generators to collation centers or polling units where such facilities are required.
“The Commission has adequate facilities in all of the federation’s states. “It is simply inexcusable not to deploy them,” he said.
“As we approach the Governorship and State Assembly elections, we must work harder to overcome the challenges experienced in the last election. Nothing else will suffice for Nigerians.
“All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including Collation and Returning Officers, must not be involved in forthcoming elections. RECs must also initiate disciplinary action as soon as prima facie evidence of wrongdoing is established.”
Mr Yakubu thanked Nigerians and election observers for their assistance, saying he looks forward to receiving comprehensive election reports.
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