Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC, has acknowledged challenges that dented last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.
Chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, at a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners on Saturday, acknowledged the challenges but said it would work harder to overcome them in the coming gubernatorial and States Houses of assembly elections scheduled for 11 March.
The logistical challenge, which included the late arrival of voting materials to polling units and failure of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine to upload results of the election were widespread during the election last week, resulting in Nigerians questioning the credibility of the polls.
Three of the four major political parties in the presidential election –the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) – have rejected the results and called for the conduct of another election under a new electoral chair.
Only the All Progressive Congress (APC) whose candidate, Bola Tinubu, was declared winner, commended the process.
The PDP and LP have already been granted access to inspect all materials used for the election as they prepare to challenge the conduct of the elections and Mr Tinubu’s victory in court.
Preliminary observations reports of several observer groups have also noted that the commission performed below citizen expectations.
BVAS to be deployed, IREV uncertain
While Mr Yakubu stated that the BVAS would be deployed for next Saturday’s gubernatorial elections, he avoided the mention of whether the results will immediately be transmitted to the INEC elections viewing (IReV) portal before collation of results.
INEC’s failure to upload the results on IReV before it continued with the collation of results was 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.
The PDP Agent, Dino Melaye, said the commission had on multiple occasions promised Nigerians an electronic transmission of results.
Mr Yakubu only told the RECs that the deployment of BVAS has sanitised voter accreditation as seen from the result of recent elections.
“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 the commission planned well for the election but the implementation “came with challenges, some of them unforeseen.”
He added, “The issues of logistics, election technology, behaviour of some election personnel at different levels, attitude of some party agents and supporters added to the extremely challenging environment in which elections are usually held in Nigeria.
“A lot of lessons have been learnt. Of immediate concern to the Commission is how the identified challenges can be addressed as we approach the concluding phase of the General Election involving the largest number of constituencies i.e. 28 State Governorship elections and 993 State Houses of Assembly seats.”
The INEC Chairman has, therefore, directed that all election logistics must be handled by the electoral officers at the local government levels, and must be finalised a day before the elections.
He said while that has been the commission’s standard practice, centralising the process in some states resulted in delayed deployment of personnel and materials and late commencement of polls.
Mr Yakubu said RECs will be held responsible for any tardy arrangement or the failure to deploy electric power generators to collation centres or polling units where such facilities are needed.
“The Commission has enough facilities in all the states of the federation. Failure to deploy them is simply inexcusable,” 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 be acceptable to 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 immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established.”
Mr Yakubu appreciated Nigerians and election observers for their support, saying he looks forward to receiving their comprehensive reports on the election.