An election observer group, Connected Development (CODE), has urged Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use the opportunity of the March 11 Governorship and State Assembly elections to redeem its battered image, and earn the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral process.
According to the organisation, INEC must also ensure that many challenges that marred the credibility of last Saturday’s presidential election are reviewed.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, Executive Officer of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, said the 2023 presidential and National Assembly election failed to meet the basic threshold of a credible poll, as it fell short of citizen’s expectations, INEC’s assurances, and benchmark of international best practices.
Lawal maintained that the refusal of INEC to upload results, a timely, soiled the credibility of the exercise.
“Through the deployment of 20,000 observers, CODE and her media and civil society organisation partners observed the process and conduct of elections in polling units across 774 local councils of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“Our findings raise several concerns about the management of the presidential and National Assembly elections by INEC. Following recent events, this interim statement will bring to light some of the discrepancies observed,” Lawal said.
He explained: “We observed late deployment of INEC staff and election materials, which led to the late opening of polls in 64 percent of the polling units we observed, which saw many polling units close before exhausting the six hours of voting time, citing nightfall as an excuse.
“We also observed that INEC in many polling units failed to adhere to its guidelines, stipulating that where an election fails to hold because of the late opening of polls or failure of the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), INEC shall conduct elections in such polling units the next day.
“In the lead-up to this election, we had praised INEC for being very responsive in communication. However on election day, when INEC was needed the most, to communicate timely and clearly, INEC was mum.
“The deployment of BVAS and INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) were presented to Nigerians as game changers in the 2023 general election. We observed that citizens found it difficult to log in to the IReV until late in the day of the election.”
Consequently, Lawal advised: “As Nigerians prepare to go to the polls for the governorship and State House of Assembly elections on March 11, 2023, CODE and her partners appeal to INEC to ensure that the many challenges that marred the credibility of the presidential election are handled.”
He asked the Commission to “ensure swift deployment and early opening of polls, professional conduct of security personnel, and INEC’s strict adherence to the use of BVAS for biometric accreditation, and electronic transmission of results from polling unit, as stipulated by the Electoral Act 2022 and INEC 2023 Election guidelines for the conduct of the election.”
He added: “The governorship and State Assembly election is yet another opportunity for INEC to redeem her now battered image, and earn the trust and confidence of the electorate in our electoral process.”
Also, the Americas Empowerment Institute (AEMPIN) scored the presidential and National Assembly below average.
It said the conduct of the poll was above average but the process between collation and declaration of results was below average.
AEMPIN, which has participated in 59 election missions in 23 countries, called on Nigeria to adopt electronic or i-voting, to reduce cases of ballot snatching and mutilation of result sheets.
Head Observer, Emenike Umesi, while presenting the Institute’s observation to the media in Abuja, noted that the most challenging period in an election is not its conduct but rather the collation, sorting, counting, and transmission of results.
He noted further that slow transmission of the presidential election results, coupled with the fact that the results were not transmitted electronically, made some opposition parties allege malpractices and stage a walkout.
MEANWHILE, the civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), demanded immediate resignation and arrest of the entire INEC management for allegedly wasting N355 billion on an election, that some Nigerians and international observers have described as flawed.
HURIWA, in a statement by National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the results by INEC showed “monumental disparities” between what party agents signed and what INEC officials announced in Abuja.
Onwubiko said: “There is no doubting the fact that INEC, under Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, failed the entire Nigerian people by promising us what he couldn’t deliver”.
Many Nigerians, especially youths, for the first time, had faith in the electoral process and came out to vote. But Yakubu and his co-travelers squashed the hopes of the masses and wasted the N355 billion budgeted for the polls.
“It is essential to note that the decision of INEC to resort to the manual transmission of results compromised the integrity of the entire electoral process.
“But instead of Yakubu heeding the voice of reason by opposition parties, who called his attention to it during the national collation of results in Abuja, the INEC chairman vehemently refused, and in defiance went ahead to announce the sham results. How pathetic!”