Late arrival of voting materials and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, started off the 2015 elections on Saturday but the polls were generally peaceful across the country.
The exercise which has been commended by many Nigerians also witnessed challenges with card readers used in voter authentication, many of which malfunctioned in several polling units across the nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who cast his vote in his home town, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, urged Nigerians to be patient with the electoral body despite the issues with the card reader reported at some polling units.
The president had experienced challenges with accreditation as the card reader failed to read his fingerprint and hence had to fill an incidence form after about 30 minutes of trying to scan his finger print.
“Let me again use this unique opportunity to congratulate our dear country Nigeria and everyone in Nigeria. We appreciate the patience of everyone,” Jonathan stated.
“INEC wants to use the card reader to make sure that electoral process is credible and acceptable by international electoral observers. I believe that at the end of the day we all will be happy.
“INEC has the responsibility to talk about their functions. There are complaints that the card readers are not working in some poling units. INEC has given a go ahead that where card readers are not working, they should be done manually,” President Jonathan said after casting his votes.
Vice President Namadi Sambo on his part commended INEC for resorting to the use of manual accreditation of voters following the challenges associated with the use of the card reader.
Sambo, who made the remark after he and his wife, Amina, voted at their Police College polling unit in Kaduna, however, urged the commission to make changes whenever required to ensure that no eligible voter is disenfranchised.
The Vice President, alongside his wife, was accredited at about 11:20am local time, after which he described the process as successful and expressed optimism that the election would be free and fair.
The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, also expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the polls elections nationwide.
Buhari said the hiccups experienced in few states over the card readers were not enough to cast aspersions on the election.
Speaking with journalists in his Daura home in Katsina State, Buhari said reports made available to him by his observers indicated that the election had been generally peaceful.
Buhari commended the Independent National Electoral Commission for extending the exercise in some polling units till Sunday.
The APC presidential candidate, however, appealed to all his supporters to remain calm no matter the outcome of the election.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, admitted that there were several challenges in the deployment of the card readers but insisted that the challenges were not significant enough to affect the overall success of the elections.
“From our general assessment, out of the 150,000 card readers which we have deployed, only about 450 were affected.
“But because we just wanted to ensure that Nigerians who have been patient in this process have an opportunity to exercise their rights and because the numbers are relatively insignificant, that’s why we thought it was necessary to do an addendum to the guidelines and allow those people to be able to vote once they can be physically authenticated and verified,’ he said.
The INEC boss, in an interview with Channels Television on Saturday night, also expressed happiness for the peaceful conduct of the polls also expressing appreciation to Nigerians who showed patience in the face of frustrations.
“Of course, man proposes and God disposes. We thought that this would be near perfect but regrettably there have been challenges,” he said.
“There were still cases of late distribution of materials and late arrivals in polling units but in spite of this we think it’s been very good also.
“We cannot but thank Nigerians for the passion they have shown, and the commitment to be able to vote in this general elections.”
Jega also expressed satisfaction with the peaceful conduct of the exercise in the north-east region of the country where there had been fears of insecurity.
The polls were not without violence in some regions across the nation.
In Rivers State, an unspecified number of people were reportedly killed during the conduct of the polls.
One of the victims, an APC member in Ward 3, Unit 2, Ogale-Eleme, was allegedly killed by a soldier attached to a prominent leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Eleme, Eleme local government area.
The deceased was among the APC members who had put up resistance to an attempt by the PDP chieftain to use soldiers guarding him to hijack electoral materials in the area.
The police removed the body, even as another soldier was shot dead at Wimpey-Port Harcourt.
Although his death was confirmed by the Commander, 2 Brigade of the Army, Bori Camp, Koko Essien, who supplied no information about the killings, eye witnesses said the deceased soldier was in a truck with his colleagues on Friday night when gunshots were unexpectedly fired at the vehicle, fatally hitting him.
The APC Rivers State chairman, Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, in a statement through his spokesman, Chukwuemeka Eze, blamed “armed militias working for the PDP” for the attacks.
“Scores have already been killed and several others marked for elimination. This morning (Saturday) in Kpite Town, Tai Ward 2 and other areas of the state, five people were shot dead by PDP’s armed militia, and that was before accreditation commenced,” Ikanya said in a statement.
He said PDP and its agents targeted APC strongholds and chieftains for attacks and killings, citing examples such as Chidiebere Okwuwolu, a former commissioner and currently an APC leader said to have been arrested by police and taken to Olu Obasanjo Police Station in Port Harcourt along with 99 other arrested APC members scattered in various police stations in the state.
Ikanya alleged that at Ubima, the home town of governor Rotimi Amaechi, the INEC results sheets were in the possession of Nyesome Wike, the gubernatorial candidate of PDP in Rivers State.
He said further that in Andoni local government area, “hell has been let loose; electoral materials have been hijacked by PDP agents in connivance with the army that has been threatening to arrest and kill any APC chieftains in sight.”
He also alleged that the caretaker committee chairman of Andoni local government area, Esuku Esuku, was “ordered out of Ngo, headquarters of local government, by the Joint Task Force, JTF, /army personnel deployed to Ngo, or be killed.”
Ikanya also alleged that PDP stalwarts were “openly parading bundles of PVC cards in their possession while one of them accompanied by police and PDP thugs armed with guns, went round chasing away APC members from doing accreditation”.
Amaechi refused to be accredited in his Ubima hometown after discovering that INEC officials were withholding result sheets for the elections.
The state’s commissioner for Information Ibim Semenitari told reporters that Amaechi took the decision because “he could not subject himself to accreditation when the required election material meant for his unit could not be accounted for.”
According to Semenitari, the same trend was reported from all parts of the state.
Reports also show that thugs in Gombe state snatched ballot boxes at Shehu Manzo 005 polling unit in Gombe metropolis where governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo voted.
It was gathered that the thugs were aided by armed policemen men on patrol in the polling unit area.
Before the incident, votes for the Senate and House of representatives were already counted and the APC candidates won both. Nasiru Shehu Ali Sidi Manzo, an eye witness, said they noticed thugs patrolling the area and reported to policemen on patrol that thugs were disrupting the peaceful conduct of voting at the polling unit, but were ignored by the police.
“We are aware of plans to destabilise the smooth conduct of the voting at this polling unit because APC is going to win but we ignored the rumour.
“So, on sighting the thugs carrying all sorts of weapons, voters started running away but that did not deter us. Some people remain and chase them away.
“After the voting when counting started and APC was leading, suddenly the policemen tear-gassed the area and forced the electoral officials into their vehicle,” said Manzo, APC’s agent at the polling unit.
He said the thugs assisted by the police came when counting of the votes for the presidential election started at the polling unit and snatched the box.
A police officer, Fwaje Atajiri, a deputy superintendent of police, DSP, however dismissed the allegation saying that it was the work of mischief makers who only wanted to cause trouble.
He, however, revealed that gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram sect also launched separate attacks on voters in Gombe and Yobe states, killing 10 people including an All Progressives Congress, APC, member seeking re-election into the Gombe State House of Assembly, and a policeman.
“There was an attack on the outskirts of Nafada in attempt to disrupt the elections. A joint team of military and police officer promptly moved to Dukku and pushed the insurgents to the bush,” Atajiri said.
The APC candidate, Umar Aminu, and at least five voters were killed by the suspected terrorists.
Eyewitnesses reported that the terrorists shouted: ‘Didn’t we warn you about staying away from (the) election?” as they pulled the triggers.
Three people including a policeman were killed in Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani villages in Nafada Local government area of the Gombe State.
The insurgents had apparently crossed into the state from Yobe State after a similar attack in Ngalda in which the state police commissioner Danladi Marcus said one person was killed.
In Yobe State, the governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, expressed satisfaction with the election and praised INEC and security agencies among other stakeholders for the success of the exercise in the state
Speaking to journalists after casting his votes at Bukarti town in Yunusari local government area of the state, Gaidam also expressed satisfaction with the performance of the card reader despite fears that they would malfunction.
In Edo State, the national chairman of the APC, John Oyegun, like the Rivers State governor, refused to cast his vote after electoral officials said that they did not have result sheets in their possession.
Oyegun, who was about to be issued ballot papers to cast his vote, asked INEC officials if they had the result sheet in their procession and was alarmed to be told that they were yet to be issued with result sheets in the two units in Ward 2.
“We don’t have it with us yet. We have sent for them over three hours ago, but we are yet to receive them,” the ad-hoc staff told the bewildered APC national chairman.
Following this discovery, Chief Oyegun insisted that there would be no voting if the result sheets are not with them.
“Where will they write the result if the result sheets are not here? We can’t vote without result sheet,” Oyegun insisted, after which other voters joined the chorus of “we can’t vote without result sheet.”
Oyegu, however, went ahead and got accredited and voted around 4.00pm after result sheets were provided in his polling unit.
The elections are scheduled to continue on Sunday in some places where the exercise was not concluded on Saturday.
Collation of results have commenced across the states and results are expected to start later today or on Monday