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INEC’s failures undermine large turnout of voters in Anambra

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MASS FAILURE of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) marred the governorship election in Anambra State on November 6.

INEC’s shoddy performance undermined the unexpectedly large turnout of voters in the election, which was also peaceful, against all expectations.

The BVAS malfunctioned in several polling units, making it impossible for registered voters to cast their votes.

As a result of the development, so many voters were disenfranchised.

Some candidates, including the standard bearer of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Chukwuma Soludo, were affected by the development.

Minister of Labour and Productivity Chris Ngige was also among voters who were frustrated by the malfunctioning BVAS.

Ngige, who expressed dissatisfaction at the development after trying repeatedly to vote without success at his polling unit in Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area, said he got reports that the BVAS had a failure rate of about 35 per cent.

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The minister noted that the rate was unsatisfactory.

Insisting that he would hang around the polling unit until he was able to exercise his franchise, Ngige said INEC should have tested the BVAS to ascertain their workability before election day.

“INEC should have tried these machines by conducting a mock election before bringing them down here,” he said.

Ngige had to resign himself to a long, endless wait alongside many other voters, most of whom were elderly.

Besides failing to accredit voters, the BVAS was also slow in most instances, leading to delay in the voting process.

The ICIR’s correspondent, who monitored the election in Anambra, observed that in several polling units, voters had to undergo several attempts before the device could recognise their fingerprints or faces.

At a polling unit in Idemili South LGA, voters, who had been waiting for several hours, protested angrily after just a few persons had voted.

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The electoral officials had to placate the irate voters.

“This is frustrating, we turned out in large numbers to vote and now this is happening,” an angry voter Okey Madu said when approached for comments by The ICIR.

The technological hitches were responsible for late commencement of voting in several polling units as INEC ad-hoc staff, mostly National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, struggled to set up and effectively operate the devices.

APGA candidate Soludo described the BVAS technology as ‘a complete failure.’

“By 12.30 in the day, voting is yet to start in most of the polling units in the state,” he said at his ward in Ifiyi Isuofia, in Aguata LGA.

An Anambra-based coalition of civil society organisations, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, described the mass failure of the BVAS as a form of ‘hi-tech rigging.’

The group, in a statement by Emeka Udeagbalasi and Chidinma Udegbunam, called for the immediate sack of INEC’s National Director for ICT Chidi Nwafor for allegedly conniving with mobile network operators to engage in the alleged rigging.

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“The mass daily of the BVAs has rigged out over 70 per cent of the courageous voters that had come out to be electronically captured to vote,” the statement said.

INEC was forced to extend the voting time to enable voters who were having difficulties with the BVAS to vote.

Late arrival of electoral officers and voting materials in several centres also affected the election.

INEC, in a statement by Resident Electoral Commissioner Nkwachukwu Orji, explained that transportation challenges affected deployment in some locations.

According to him, due to security concerns, some of the transporters that had been mobilised with 50 per cent of their sign-on fees backed out at the last moment, leaving ad-hoc staff stranded.

He also disclosed that some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment.

“Consequently, we are harvesting areas where voting will realistically no longer take place today (November 6), including places where substantial disruption has occurred, to enable a possible recommencement of voting at another time, in line with extant laws and the regulations and guidelines of the Commission,” the REC said.

* Election defies predictions with large voter turnout, no incidents of violence

Security concerns surrounding the election had led to predictions of voter apathy and violence.

Pro-Biafra agitators had declared that the Nigerian government would not be allowed to conduct elections in territories of the defunct Republic of Biafra, which included Anambra and other states in the South-East.

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) also threatened the election with a seven-day sit-at-home order, which was called off just 48 hours to the election.

Also, Anambra and other states in the South-East had been rocked by violence in the days leading to the poll, with several persons losing their lives.

Fears of violence during the election led to several residents fleeing the state before election day.

Concerns over voter apathy had heightened on the eve of the election after residents stayed indoors even after IPOB cancelled the sit-at-home order.

But, surprisingly, voters turned out in large numbers on the day of the voting.

The election was also violence-free as the expected bloody clashes between separatists and security agents did not happen.

Also, voters and electoral officials were not attacked as feared.

Heavily armed security soldiers, policemen and other security agents who patrolled the state did not engage in the anticipated face-off with secessionists.

Rather, contrary to expectations that violence and voter apathy would mar the election, the exercise was marred by poor preparation on the part of INEC.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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