- Thugs attack, snatch BVAS in Delta, Katsina
BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
The Independent National Electoral Commission has admitted the flaws characterizing the Presidential and National Assembly elections conducted across the country on Saturday, saying it could not open polling units in some places at the official time of 8:30am because of the perennial problem of logistics and insecurity.
INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who said this while briefing journalists on the situation across the country on the ongoing general elections assured Nigerians that they will not be disenfranchised provided they are on the queue as at 2:3pm.
The briefing was based on reports of the national situation room and the various states of the federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
Yakubu while admitting there were challenges, said INEC had conquered the challenges of getting election materials to various locations but there may be complaints here and there, but generally speaking, it has delivered hundreds of millions of ballot papers and result sheets the commission is supposed to deliver for the election.
He emphasized on the security challenge and added that the commission could not deploy early enough to Kanawa in Shiroro local government area of Niger State as bandits launched an attack, not necessarily on INEC officials but in the area.
“So, on the advice of security agencies, we tarried a while. But I am happy to say that we were able to deploy to Kanawa and voting in that location is ongoing as we speak.”
The INEC boss disclosed that thugs attacked and snatched Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines in Delta and Katsina States but the Commission had replaced or recovered and voting continues, noting that attention has now shifted from ballot papers snatching to BVAS.
“Oshimili LGA of Delta State, thugs attacked a polling unit and two BVAS machines were lost in the process. But again, determined that the election must continue we were able to replace the stolen BVAS machines, reinforce security agencies and voting continued in that location.
“Similarly, in Safana LGA of Katsina State, thugs attacked one of our voting locations and snatched six BVAS machines. But again, we were able to recover and use the spare BVAS machines and reinforce security for voting to continue in that location.
“Happily, security agencies have recovered three of the BVAS machines but three are still held by the thugs. So in these locations, the target of attack was actually the BVAS machines, no longer our ballot papers or ballot boxes.”
While giving clarification on the issue raised by some of the political parties that the logos of the political parties were on the ballot papers but the acronyms he said: “The process of producing the results sheets is more complicated than the production of the ballot papers.
“For results sheets at polling unit level, they are polling unit specific and they are in several carbonized copies that the commission would retain the first copy, the first two copies and then each polling unit agent would get a copy and then one copy goes to the police. The process of producing the results sheets is a lot more complicated than the production of the ballot papers.
“So what we did on the result sheets was to provide two additional blank rolls and the purpose is to accommodate any political party that we may be compelled to accommodate on the ballot papers by an eleventh hour judicial pronouncement.
“Those two additional rolls are supposed to take care of that eventuality. So, where you have a party on the ballot but the logo is not in any of the result sheets, this can actually be added to the result sheets for which rows have been provided accordingly and the Presiding Officers and Collation Agents are authorised to accept and certify and stamp the insertion of political parties where the situation arises.
“There are also other complaints we have. Some political parties complained about the shortage of polling agents’ tags. Nigerians may recall that for the first time we designed a portal and encouraged all political parties as required by law to nominate their polling agents.
“We did what we are supposed to do and if there are issues then definitely these issues will not be from the commission. But will also realise and that is why we created the portal but parties will like to issue their own cards bearing only the logos of the party and the word agent written across. In this case anybody can claim to be the agent of any political party resulting in commotion during collation.”
On the election security in the South East, the chairman said: “There are also unfolding situations in Abia and Imo States. In Abia, deployment is taking place late into the polling units. The Commission is aware but we are assuring voters in Abia State that no matter how late we deploy to the polling units, if voters are on the queue before 2:30pm, they will vote, no matter how long it takes. So, we are aware of the situation in Abia State.
“We are also aware of the situation in Imo State. Generally speaking, but specifically in respect of four local government areas including Okigwe, Orsu Oguta and Orlu LGAs. In the case of Orsu, we have issues in all the 11 wards. In the case of Orlu, in six out of 11 wards. In the case of Okigwe, it is 5 out of 11 wards and in the case of Oguta, it is more widespread.
“I had a discussion with the Inspector General of Police this morning as well as the military and our officials have been escorted to all the four locations. I take it that voting would have commenced in some of these difficult places but if it hasn’t, then I want to assure voters that elections would hold and they will not be disenfranchised.”
He said sporadic shootings and other violent activities of insurgents in Borno State led to the situation where the Vice Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Kashim Shettima left his polling unit for absence of poll staff.