From Akombo Aondona, Benue (With Agency Reports)
A mixture of order and disruption trailed the presidential, senatorial and House of Representative elections held across Nigeria on Saturday, 25 February 2023.
While the exercise went smoothly in many part of the country, there were pockets of disturbance which stalled the elections in some areas in a number of states.
The disruption, in part, was also caused by human errors such as late arrival of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) personnel and materials, tech malfunction, or act of God like road mishap as men and materials were spirited to thousands of polling units nationwide by electoral officials.
Voting is expected to resume on Sunday 26 February, 2023 in areas where it was disrupted even as the presidential election results would start to trickle to the INEC National Situation Room at the International Conference Centre, Abuja for collation and announcement on Sunday 26 February, 2023.
In Benue state, voters turned out early in the morning to vote and conducted themselves peacefully in most polling units visited by our correspondent. Polling units visited included those located in Ushongo, Vandeikya, Gwer West, Kwande, Konshisha local governments.
The results returned in these areas (The Dream Daily Newspaper withholds all results of the 2023 General Elections as stipulated by the Electoral Act 2022, which authorises INEC only to release election results) showed varied voting patterns in party preferences.
Voters who spoke with The Dream Daily Newspaper thank expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the poll even as they observed that some INEC ad hoc staff struggled with handling the Bi-modal Voters Accreditation Machine System (BIVAS).
Some of the Benue voters thanked the National Assembly for amending the Electoral Act last year and President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act into law, saying this had improved the electoral process this year.
In Niger State, voters turnout was impressive in the areas monitored and BIVAS worked as envisaged by INEC. For instance, in Polling Unit 025 Kwankwashe Primary School, Suleja Local Government accreditation via BIVAS was very smooth with only one unsuccessful attempt at of nearly 400 voters who turned up at the unit. This aided the voting process, which started at 10.09am and ended at 4.37pm. Collation, counting, announcement of results commenced immediately and end at about 915pm in the centre.
Late arrival of INEC officials and materials delayed voting in some areas monitored in Sabon-Garin Local Government, Zaria Kaduna State, even as voting was immediately resumed after these arrived and all went on smoothly thereafter.
There were reports of skirmishes in Zuba area of the Federal Capital Territory which delayed voting in some polling units.
Also, absence of INEC stamp stalled voting in some polling units in Aleyita in Kabusa ward, Abuja Area Council of the FCT.
When the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) visited Aleyita Health Centre polling unit 107, it was observed that voting was not in progress.
The Presiding Officer, Caleb Yashim, told NAN that they could not start the voting process because they did not come to the unit with INEC stamp to authenticate the ballot papers.
Yashim said that the stamp was part of the reasons they arrived late to the polling unit, adding that efforts were being made to get the stamp.
Generally, as against the 8:30 a.m. stipulated by INEC, the election commenced at noon in most of the polling units in Chika and Aleyita area of Kabusa ward.
NAN had earlier reported the absence of officials at the polling units.
However, election officials arrived between 10:50 and 11.30 a.m. in the various units.
In Aleyita polling unit, election officials arrived at about 11:30 a.m. and were still setting up as at the time of filing this report.
There was an impressive turnout of voters in all the polling units visited, who were getting agitated about the delay in commencement of the exercise.
A voter, Mr Dominic Fater, said he came to the polling unit as early as 7.30 a.m. only for INEC officials to show up at noon.
Fater said he was disappointed that the election officials had to come to the unit without a stamp.
He called on INEC to ensure that they were not disenfranchised.
INEC Cancels Elections
Meanwhile, INEC has cancelled elections in 141 polling units in Bayelsa State after the process was disrupted in Wards 4, 6, 8 and 14.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this at a news conference, yesterday.
According to him, the decision was taken following the omission of a party logo on the ballot paper.
Prof. Yakubu said; “I will also like to say that in Edo State, we have a situation that we handled yesterday. One of the parties whose acronym is on the results sheets but the logo is not on the ballot paper in a federal constituency, after a meeting with the stakeholders, the decision was taken, since the materials are intact, to countermand the election.
“So, I have suspended the election for Esan North/Esan South/Igueben
The ballot papers will be reprinted and the election will now hold along with the state constituency elections on March 11, that is in the next two weeks. We are determined that no Nigerian should and would be disenfranchised. We have been responding to some of the situations as they arise and we are going to do so overnight.
“But we have a situation in Bayelsa State, particularly in the capital in Yenagoa, where in four wards – ward 4, 6, 8 and 14 involving 141 polling units, the process was disrupted.
“We remobilized security, the situation is calm for us to proceed, but the Youth Corps members expressed some apprehension of going back. So we met with the security agencies, and we have decided that voting in these 141 polling units where the materials are actually intact will take place tomorrow morning (Sunday).
Loss of BIVAS
INEC also recorded some loss of BIVAS in some states.
Prof. Yakubu stated:“Unfortunately, we continue to lose some of the BVAS devices. I reported in the morning, the loss of devices in Delta and in Safana local government area of Katsina State.
“But unfortunately, we also lost three BVAS machines in Ayamelu in Anambra State, but we have recovered from all these losses because we have contingency arrangements to respond to any such attack.”
Buhari Votes Tinubu, Flashes Ballot Paper
President Muhammadu Buhari who voted in his country home, Daura, Katsina State, displayed his ballot paper, with thumb print for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, saying after campaigning for the political leader in many parts of the country, he had reaffirmed his preferred successor.
Buhari, who voted alongside his wife, Aisha, and other family members, at Ward A, Sarkin Yara Polling Unit, 003, according to a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, assured that he had always supported the candidature of Tinubu, and the show of his ballot paper to the media and the public further showed his commitment to the party and Tinubu.
The President said: “I am very impressed because I have seen how the people turned up. I am very impressed and very happy. Well, the candidate I voted for I have already mentioned him in many states in Nasarawa, Katsina and Sokoto. All over the places I mentioned my favourite candidate, Asiwaju Tinubu, and I believe my constituency will elect him 100 percent. Nigerians should make sure that they are respected; that means that the candidate they want to vote for they are allowed to vote for him.”
Meanwhile , the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has raised the alarm over cases of violence and late arrival of electoral materials.
The NLC, in a statement by its President, Joe Ajaero, said: “As Nigerians went to the polls to elect a new President and members of the National Assembly, we had high hopes that this election cycle will be far better than the previous ones given the huge lessons learnt from past elections by INEC but thus far, we are far from being convinced.
“The NLC had hoped that the ills of electioneering in Nigeria would have been largely dealt with and corrected in this year’s election so that we can have a more credible and valid election.
“The experiences of yesterday ought to have prepared INEC to conduct a better election this year. We had hoped that voting materials would reach their destinations on time so that the various time frames would be strictly adhered to prevent the disenfranchisement of potential voters. Report reaching us paints a rather frightening picture that in many areas around the country, as late as 12 noon; voting materials were yet to get to the polling units.
“We are worried of the reports of manifest incidences of violence in some polling units and areas where activities of thugs are pronounced even in the presence of Security agencies. INEC ought to ensure that voters perform their rights in secrecy to avoid exposing them to the violence that has been reported.
“The sanctity of the ballot must be protected and this will not be the case if the Police and INEC officials fail to perform their duties to Nigerians.”
‘Stop Posting Unverified Election Results’, FG Tells Nigerians
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, has admonished Nigerians to resist the temptation of posting or sharing unverified election results on social media.
The minister gave the admonition on Saturday in his home town, Oro, near Ilorin after casting his vote in the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the minister voted at Polling Unit 006, Oro Ward 2 in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara.
Mohammed who arrived at the polling unit at about 10.05 a.m. joined the queue, waited till about 11.15 a.m. (about one hour thirty minutes) before exercising his franchise.
Speaking with newsmen after voting, the minister appealed to media houses to act responsibly in publishing or broadcasting election results.
“You don’t have to post election results without checking the source and the best way and most authentic is to hear from INEC
“The media houses should abide by the National Broadcasting Commission’s regulations regarding the announcement of election results.
‘Open i-Rev Platform’, Nigerians Urge INEC
Meanwhile, anxious voters who wanted to follow national results on the official INEC i-rev portal on Saturday were disappointed as the electoral commission temporarily suspended new registration on the platform because of the on-going election, which has increased traffic to the portal.
Voters in Niger State and Abuja who tried to register on the i-rev portal and met a brickwall urged INEC to open it up for them to view results as they uploaded from each polling unit via BIVAS.