The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State, Prof. Charles Soludo; his counterpart in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Valentine Ozigbo; governorship candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, yesterday protested the widespread glitches that characterised the governorship election across the state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has however disclosed that it was investigating the reason the accreditation devices – Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), did not work perfectly in some polling units.
INEC, which also extended the period for opening and closing of the poll from 8.30 a.m. to 4 p.m., further reiterated that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the accreditation and voting for the affected polling units would continue today or at another time determined by the commission.
The electoral body also disclosed that the collation of results from local government areas will begin today by 10 a.m.
Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji, who briefed journalists at the commission’s headquarters yesterday afternoon, had explained that the extension of time arose out of several field reports that voters had problems with accreditation.
“The commission is currently investigating the reason the accreditation devices, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), have worked perfectly in some polling units, but not in others. In some of the cases, it would seem that this resulted from software glitches. Our technicians have already built an update to the device software to prevent further challenges. The update is currently being installed in the concerned BVAS and we request voters, candidates, and agents to be patient and allow our technical staff to solve the problem.
“The commission wishes to reiterate that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected polling units shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the commission,” he explained.
He explained that the commission faced transportation challenges in some locations.
“It must be noted that on account of security concerns, some of the transporters that were mobilised and collected 50 per cent of their sign-on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving some of our ad-hoc staff stranded. Also, some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment. The commission is on top of these challenges and extant regulations and guidelines will be applied on a case by case basis. Consequently, we are harvesting areas where voting will realistically no longer take place today, including places where substantial disruption has occurred, to enable a possible recommencement of voting at another time, in line with extant laws and the regulations and guidelines of the commission,” Orji said.
In another press briefing held last night at the commission’s headquarters in Awka, Orji said the commission was satisfied with the progress of the election, despite the earlier glitches posed by the BVAS machine.
He said: “I’m happy to report to you that the technical glitches we experienced with our BVAS were largely solved. We thank the voters and candidates for patiently waiting for the problem with the device to be resolved.
“The report we got from our field officers and independent observers, convinced us that most voters were able to vote with the BVAS, following the extension of the voting period to 4 pm and our regulation that any voter on the queue at the time must be allowed to vote.”
Orji reiterated that the election would continue today in any polling unit where there was a consistent malfunction of the BVAS, and the voters in the unit were unable to vote.
“We are yet to receive reports of any location where the sustained malfunction of the BVAS led to no election at all. Still, we shall continue to receive reports through our usual channels, particularly from the collation of the Form EC40G, which is the official document for recording polling units where elections did not hold or were cancelled,” Orji said.
He added that: “The election is by no means over; we have now entered a critical stage of the process, namely collation of results. We have made adequate arrangements for the collation of results at the registration area, local government areas, and the state level.
“Results for polling units are already being uploaded in our IRev portal and registration area and the registration area collation has been progressing well.
“I’m glad to announce that state collation will commence tomorrow (today) at the state collation centre. I invite those who are entitled to be present to come to witness it.”
Despite the initial threat of violence by separatist groups, the governorship election was held across the 21 local government areas under a peaceful atmosphere.
However, in an isolated incident, hoodlums allegedly took away ballot boxes from two polling centres at the Immaculate Heart Catholic Church and the St. Faith Catholic Church in Fegge, Onitsha.
The assailants, numbering about six, stormed the St Faith Catholic Church by Mbonu Ejike/Basden Junction in an unmarked L300 bus.
They shot indiscriminately to scare the voters and security operatives.
Another set of gunmen stormed the polling unit at the Immaculate Heart Church along Zik’s Avenue, also in Onitsha, snatching a ballot box.
The electoral commission also suspended the governorship election in Ihiala LGA of the state, following the outbreak of violence in various polling units in the area.
INEC officials reported being attacked by hoodlums in different communities across the LGA.
Hoodlums reportedly disrupted the election and claimed they were enforcing the sit-at-home order earlier imposed by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), despite the fact that the sit-at-home directive had been suspended by IPOB before the election.
The widely reported failure of BVAS, according to the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, has
rigged out over 70 per cent of the courageous voters who came out to be electronically captured to vote.
A statement by the group signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi and Chidinma Udegbunam read in part,
“We have gathered from many, if not most of the polling booths in the state and across the state’s three senatorial districts, 326 wards and 5,720 polling centres that failure of the BVAS machines is widespread and has forced over 70 per cent of the voters not to be captured; thereby rubbishing the popularity and credibility of the entire exercise and paving way for the long rumoured rigging and preparation of the ground for declaration and imposition of an unpopular and unacceptable candidate as the next ‘Anambra Governor-elect.’
The group called on INEC to sack its ICT National Director and repeat the poll to give the same the credibility and popularity it deserves.
It also urged INEC to reverse this high-tech rigging and find alternatives to the massive failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System so that voters in the state can vote massively and conscientiously.
The group commended the Anambra voters who doggedly and courageously defied the security threats all over the state’s political and electoral spaces to come out to vote the candidates of their choice only to be massively failed and disappointed by the commission.
On its part, the election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, also criticised the deployment and non-functionality of BVAS, saying it had received reports of the BVAS failure to authenticate voters’ fingerprints and photos even where voter’s details were confirmed on the voter’s register.
Meanwhile, the candidate of the APC, Senator Andy Uba, has won his polling unit in the governorship election.
INEC officials, who announced the results yesterday, said Uba had 80 votes in Ward 16, Polling Unit 17 in Uga, Aguata Local Government Area.
Soludo scored 10 votes while the candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Uba, polled five votes.
Ozigbo of the PDP got two votes.
Speaking during a press interview when he arrived at his Uga Ward 1 to cast his vote at polling unit 17, the APC candidate commended INEC on the smooth conduct of the election.
Soludo also won his Isuofia ward, Polling Unit 2 of Aguata LGA with 126 votes while Ozigbo and APC scored five and three votes, respectively.
While YPP scored three votes, ZLP and LP got one vote each.
Ozigbo also scored 75 votes in his polling unit 010 Social Centre, Ward 005, of Aguata LGA, to beat his closest rival, Soludo, who got eight votes.
APC got two votes, while Labour Party and Accord Party got one vote each.
However, the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Nkem Okeke, who defected to the APC, lost his Umueze Awozu, Enugwu-Ukwu Ward 3, Polling Unit 005, to APGA.
While APGA got 82 votes, APC scored 61 votes.
PDP scored four votes; YPP, two votes; AAC, LP, and PRP scored one vote each.
Soludo, Ozigbo, Ngige Kick over Malfunctioning of Machines
Speaking on the malfunction of the BVAS, the governorship candidate for APGA, Soludo stated that although he wants to be governor of Anambra State, he wants it to be done legitimately.
Soludo, who voted after about five hours in his Ward in Aguata LGA, lamented that many people had not voted despite arriving at the polling unit early.
“In my stronghold, the thing seems to have packed up literally as it were but again, as I said in the morning, I am a die-hard optimist and I want to believe that the system will deliver. If they are extending that till tomorrow, I am sure these people will be back here to vote; whenever they extend it to, these people will be back here because they want to vote and we want technology that enables all the eligible voters to vote. I want to be governor but I want to be elected legitimately with the votes of the people.
“Even if you put electricity here, at the rate at which the machine is going, maybe one person per hour, will be able to vote. I am not sure we will even finish by tomorrow. It is quite concerning, quite frankly, and what is happening in my polling booth here seems to represent largely the pool of the reports that I have got around the state. A few places, I understand, they said worked relatively well but in a vast majority of the places around the state, it just has not worked well. I understand that some people have now, over the last 30 minutes, in some few polling units randomly.
“I am in touch with them all although I have not left here since 11:30 am and I have to cast my vote but I will not jump the queue. I cannot jump the queue and be one of those privileged 20 that will be able to vote. No! These elderly people have been here since morning and they cannot get to vote. Several have left, I have seen hundreds of them walk away because they cannot sit here all day. So, I have just seen the release by the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner talking about the extension; namely, that if we are here till 4 pm, you would still be allowed to cast your vote. That is fair enough, and there is also implicit in it, in my understanding, that there is a possibility of extending the voting time till tomorrow, possibly. I want to believe that this is one of those places that the voting time must be extended.
On his part, the governorship candidate of the PDP, Ozigbo, appealed to INEC to extend the duration of the exercise owing to reported glitches with the BVAS.
“We recognise the peculiarities in the election; what that means is that if we need to extend the voting time, so we don’t allow people who are eligible not to cast their vote, it would be unfortunate,” he said.
“So, I’m not only commenting on the situation, but I’m also by this appealing to INEC and all the stakeholders to exercise patience and ensure the right people who have all the authentication cast their votes.
“That’s the only way we can truly ensure that this election is by the people; by the greater Nigerians. We need more people to get their votes in.
“I’m by this appealing to the chairman of INEC that you reach out to your team in the various 21 local governments. Check where we have issues because right now there is no more instance form. There is nowhere to complain,” Ozigbo explained.
Also speaking at his Alor Ward Polling Unit in the Idemili South Local Government Area, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Ngige urged INEC to resort to manual accreditation to allow people to exercise their franchise.
He said: “I have been here for over an hour without success. I’m not impressed.”
Ngige said, “That the machines are failing is understandable, and we all know that it is a human machine, so it is prone to such malfunctioning.
“However, I think that the INEC would have put the BVAS machine to a mock election in another state before bringing it to Anambra to ensure that it works efficiently. I also suggest that the machines should not be dumped after this election, else by 2023 when we go for the general election, it would still be the same case.”
Also, the governorship candidate of ZLP, Okonkwo said poor functioning of the machines and the late commencement of polls would adversely affect the process.
Okonkwo, who voted at his polling unit, Ogidi Town Hall, Polling Unit 009, Ogidi Ward 2, said many voters would be disenfranchised due to the poor functioning of the machines.
The member representing Anaocha, Njikoka, and Dunukofia in the Federal House of Representatives,
Hon. Dozie Nwankwo accused INEC of what he termed systematic rigging, following the failure of the BVAS machines at his ward, Enuagu Enugwu Ukwu Ward One, Units 003 and 004. The ward has two polling centres and 1,466 registered voters but only 23 voters had been able to vote as of 11:50 a.m.
Apart from the malfunctioning of the machines, the election was also characterised by a poor turnout of voters at the initial stages.
At Polling Unit in No.04 07 02 002 located at Community Primary School in Amawbia in Awka, elderly people were allowed to do accreditation and later voted for the candidates of their choice.
At the Agu Awka Ward 2, (Aroma Junction) as at 11 a.m., voting had not started due to poor internet network.
At the Obinagu. Ward 04 in Awka south, votes buying was observed. Some political parties were offering between N7,000 to N10,000.