…Commission hails turnout in Delta as Edo REC expresses confidence

From Romanus Ugwu (Abuja), Paul Osuyi (Asaba) and Ighomuaye Lucky (Benin)

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, has expressed satisfaction over the performance of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) during the mock accreditation exercise held across the country yesterday.

He expressed optimism over the performance of the accreditation technology after visiting some polling units in the two area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja to monitor the functionality of the BVAS machine ahead of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly election.

The electoral umpire equally explained that INEC used the mock accreditation to ensure that the machines function optimally before the main election date.

Fielding questions from newsmen, Yakubu said: “We are satisfied with the test carried out in our office, but we need to test them again on the field in order to give Nigerians confidence on what we are doing to ensure that the elections are going to be free, fair and credible.

“We identified 437 polling units nationwide to test-run the BVAS machines. This is on the basis of two for senatorial district and four for each local government area while all in all per state is 16.

“We are happy to see voters being accredited and authenticated with the BVAS machines working accurately.

“There is no problem of any kind in the two area councils we have visited. Again, the results we are getting from the exercise nationwide gave us joy and hope that everything is going on well.

“Our staff are on ground to attend to any machine failure in case of unforeseen circumstances but thank God, we have not heard of any failure so far,” he noted with enthusiasm.”

In a related development, INEC yesterday hailed the turnout of prospective voters in Delta State during the mock accreditation with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in-charge of the state, Monday Udoh-Tom, gave the commendation while monitoring the exercise in selected polling units.

Udoh-Tom said the commission was encouraged by the experience, adding that the people were now believing that their votes will count.

“The one man, one vote is coming to pass on the 25th of this month. What INEC has been preaching about has come to stay. It is going to be one man, one vote,” Udoh-Tom said.

He assured the people of the validity of the 2011 voter cards, noting that some of the cards “have been tested and they are working. The cards you have picked up newly are also working.’’

Speaking further, he told eligible voters in the state to come out enmasse to cast their votes during the forthcoming election, saying, “on that day of election, do not sit back at home; come out and vote whoever is your choice candidate. ‘I also assure you that there won’t be problem of network failure during accreditation. We don’t use network for accreditation or voting. We only use network for uploading and sending results.”

In some of the units visited, the exercise was successful as the BVAS functioned maximally. At Ekou Primary School (ward 09, unit 01) in Ika North-East Local Government Area, a total of 30 persons were accredited as at 10:00am.

Also, 20 persons were accredited at Omi Primary School (ward 2, units 1) in the same locality, as at 9.50am

One of the prospective voters who participated in the exercise, Kennedy Asha, commended INEC for the outcome of the exercise.

Asha said: “I came here for my accreditation and within five minutes, I was accredited. I must commend INEC for this initiative, they should keep it up.”

In Edo State, the INEC office, yesterday, said the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) deployed for the mock accreditation exercise functioned perfectly well in the state.

The Edo Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Obo Efanga, made this known while monitoring the exercise in designated polling units in the state. He said the exercise was for INEC to test the BVAS ahead of deployment for the actual elections.

“We have been using BVAS in the last two years in other states. The mock accreditation is to let people know how it works and to be sure that the BVAS is working and for people to see how it works.

“In Edo, we have not used BVAS before and this is an opportunity for people to see how it actually works and we hope that it will boost confidence in the system. This is the third polling unit we are visiting and the mock accreditation is going on smoothly.

“It is also an opportunity for people to identify their new polling units so that when they come on election day, they know where to go. Because in the last three months, we have been migrating people from one polling unit to another.

“Some polling units are so large while others are very few. So what we have done is to move people from large polling units to those that have few registered voters so that there would be even spread of voters on election day and election would be completed on time.

“The good thing is that we migrated people to new polling units within the same ward,” Efanga said.

Speaking on the low turnout of voters for the mock accreditation exercise, Efanga said, “It is not compulsory that everybody must come out to do this. But the few that will come, wẹ use them to test that the system is working well. I cannot say I am satisfied for now, because it started at 8:30 and it will continue until 2:30pm.

“It is only at 2.30 pm when we would have stopped the exercise that we can give the total number of people that turned up for the exercise.

“The most important thing is that the BVAS is working well, it accredited each person within few minutes in all the polling unit we visited,” he added.

He said the mock accreditation was a good exercise, noting that it took place in six local government areas and in 12 polling units in the state.

Speaking on the exercise, the PDP chairman for Ward 7, Hon. Meg Otoide, who was on ground for the exercise regretted the low turn out of prospective voters and the confusion among voters over the migration of voters from their previous units to new units by INEC.

According to Otoide, “The idea of being in one unit and migrating to other units by INEC is causing a lot of confusion right now.

“I just discovered that I have been moved from  unit 13  to unit 49. If I had not come here today, I wouldn’t have known my new unit. Many women came here today and they were surprised that they were moved to other units. So, it is really causing a lot of confusion among voters,” Otoide said.

She further disclosed that when she asked the INEC REC about the situation, he said the commission could not do anything about it now.