A group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that voluntarily came together and established a Situation Room to observe the presidential and National Assembly elections in Kaduna have revealed what they saw, recommending the country should embrace electronic voting in future elections.
The brains behind the CSOs include Emmanuel Bonet, of Aid Foundation, Imam Sani and Reverend Dangiwa of Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC), Abdul Usman Bako of Campaign for Democracy (CD), Egbe Brown Uche of Empowering Women for Excellence Initiative, Patrick Katuka of Community Trust Health Foundation, and Hajiya Amina Kazaure of Women Interfaith Council.
According to them, the reason for a preliminary statement on their findings from the Kaduna Situation Room was to encourage citizens to vote peacefully, curb fake news, link security agencies with trouble spots and refer INEC to areas with concerns.
Their findings were segmented. Setting up, according to the group, a few of the polling units were set up early, while several others across the state started very late having an average of about 11:30am with extreme cases reaching 4:00pm before setting up commenced.
“This is in spite of the initial postponement by INEC with assurance that they will perfect logistics and have all polling units commence at the same time. Voters did not have information about what was going on or if they were going to even cast their votes, making them apprehensive and prone to fake news. There were reports of some level of compliance by INEC officials even though many centers also recorded lack of adherence to some other provisions of the Electoral Act like none placement of form EC30 at polling units which was meant to aid voters in locating their polling units without any confusion. Other violations recorded across the state included; INEC officials refusal to remove or tear off posters of political parties that were pasted around and within the polling units, absence of stamp pads, inks and high cases of incomplete ballot papers with extreme cases being reported of no ballot paper for the senatorial elections from Ungwan Boro, Mando and Giwa. There were no voting cubicles for voting secrecy in some polling units. Some polling units had their ballot papers and other materials taken to a different polling unit causing a lot of confusion and mistrust in the process.
Party agents of some political parties especially APC and PDP were present in most polling units,” the observers said.
Voting, according to the group, was conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner in most polling units across the state. The group was however quick to add that there were reports of violence at Ungwan Ali along Abuja Road in Rigasa, Magajin Gari and Kuyello in Birnin Gwari and Kufana.
The observers say“INEC officials were seen sensitizing the electorate on voting procedures in many centers across the state but did very little in enforcing the use of phones at the polling booth. Party agents in many polling units in Igabi, Kachia, Kaduna South, Kaduna North and Soba were reported to have been carrying their registers and checking their list which is in defiance to what the INEC chairman said. Polling officials conducted themselves in a civilised manner in most parts of the state and hardly interfered with the process except in some cases like in Gure in Lere LGA, Arak in Sanga, Kawo in Kaduna North where communities insisted on voting without the use of the card reader either because it failed or because they did not want to be accredited. There was general complaint about the card reader not working, malfunction or not available in some centers and several calls had to be made to resolve it.”
Counting Started at 2pm in just a few centers that began elections early, while majority went deep into the evening with extreme case being 2:00am of the following day, the group said. The group however said “it was impressive that electorate waited for their votes to be counted before dispersing. Results were properly recorded in appropriate forms and publicly declared in most of the polling units with party agents of major political parties and security agents present. But over 90 percent of the polling units did not paste their results written on form EC8A in the polling unit as demanded by the Electoral Act causing observers to scramble and beg party agents to take a picture of the results.
Conduct of Security Agencies
The security agencies, the observers noted conducted themselves in an appropriate manner in most polling units. They however said there was also absence of security agents in a few polling units.
In the light of its monitoring activities, the group among other things is recommending that “Nigeria need to move to an electronic form of voting to curb filling of multiple forms, multiple voting and the cumbersome nature of collation that give room for manipulation. There should be a set benchmark for political parties willing to contest National and state elections like political party that do not have candidates should not future on ballot papers. INEC must establish a ‘Think Tank’ made up of civil society, logistics experts, media, traditional and religious leaders among others to support them in the planning process of election.
“INEC must device a means of ensuring that those trained are the ones deployed to the field. The training and deployment of Ad hoc staff should be early enough.Political parties should endeavor to sensitise and educate the electorate on thuggery. The use of technology in mapping and tracking logistics and materials must be enhanced. INEC officials should be provided with necessary mobility so that they will not have any reason to be compromised when electorate offer to assist.
“On our part as civil society organisations we will continue to support citizens’ participation in governance process in which election is one. The people have asked that their voices be heard-we will do everything that we can to make sure Nigeria moves to its well-deserved position in the community of democrats”.