Complaints of malfunctioned card readers trailed the governorship election of Kogi State on Saturday.
Though the election was adjudged to be peaceful by stakeholders in many areas of the state, accreditation of voters and actual voting were delayed in some parts of the state.
Other major contenders in the election, in which 22 political parties and their candidates contested, included the candidate of the Labour Party, Dr. Phillip Salawu, who is a former deputy governor of the state, and the candidate of the Progressives Peoples Alliance, Mr. Enesi Ozigi.
The areas affected, according to available reports, included Dekina, Wada’s local government area, Okenne, Okehi, Agali and Adavi.
Reports from several parts of the state indicated that the turnout of voters was impressive and peaceful.
The election was also characterised by heavy deployment of security operatives from the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Army and Nigerian Navy, who mounted roadblocks to prevent break down of law and order.
There were also personnel of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps on some roads.
Wada, who expressed shock over the malfunctioning of card readers even in his ward, ward 001, Odu-Ogboyaga, Dekina LGA, said he was sad and disappointed by the challenge.
He also said he had reports of fake soldiers, policemen and some other security agencies who, he alleged, intimidated voters.
Halima, Wada’s wife, fails electronic capturing
Wada, whose wife’s (Halima) details could not be electronically captured during the accreditation, said it was worrisome that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, later resorted to manual accreditation, though Halima’s name was on the voter register.
A visibly angry Wada, after his accreditation, said he was shocked that in spite of assurances from the electoral body of credible election, there were reports of some alleged electoral malpractices.
He also alleged that soldiers beat up some people in some areas of the state, adding that he would report the alleged malpractices to the Resident Electoral Commissioner.
An unnamed presiding officer in Wada’s ward confirmed that there were some logistics problems. He added that the card reader malfunctioned when some voters came for accreditation.
He further said he would soon open incidence register for the voters that had problems with the card reader or other logistics challenge.
Wada arrived at the accreditation centre around 11.20am and finished accreditation about 15 minutes later.
The accreditation was extended at Wada’s ward till about 3.30pm, when the governor came and urged the INEC officials to start the process of voting.
Wada, who was visibly upset that voting did not also start on time, cautioned INEC officials against delaying the commencement of voting deliberately.
He said, “Why are you (INEC officials) signing the ballot papers now? Since after accreditation, I have been waiting, waiting in my house. What is going on? Honestly, it is bad.
“At my level you cannot treat me like this. Sign it! Sign it! I will not accept it! You should have organised yourselves and you are slowing down the process. This is a deliberate attempt.”
In an interview with journalists after casting his vote around 3.45pm, Wada said though there was appreciable turnout of voters, the malfunctioning of card readers and the alleged presence of fake security operatives were worrisome, making the process appear to him as not very free and fair.
Wada said, “I think this is a deliberate attempt to frustrate all these people that have come to exercise their civic responsibility. I am not happy about this.”
The governor added, “State wide, I am hearing report of ballot box snatching in some local government areas such as Okota and Iyanu ward; snatching of ballot boxed and stuffing them with thump-printed ballot papers.
“These are going to be documented and pursued with INEC because after all the voter education, it will really be sad for our country when such things are allowed to happen. It should be a free, fair competition. I do not know why people are doing this. We will pursue it with INEC at the right time.
“There were cases of fake soldiers and policemen that were brought, intimidating people at the point of voting. I am not suspecting involvement of the Federal Government. This is a local arrangement in Kogi State. We will collate the reports from all the local government areas and the national leadership of our party will take a position. I am impressed by the general turnout of voters.”
The APC Governorship candidate Prince Abubakar Audu, however, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the election
Audu who spoke with journalist shortly after voting at unit 010, Ogbonicha in Ofu local Government Area of the state said apart from some cases of destruction of electoral materials in Eti-Aja and Ojetachi streets in Ayangba, the election was relatively peaceful.
Audu expresses satisfaction
The APC candidate had earlier arrived for accreditation at exactly 12.18 and was accredited without any hitch and returned at 13.40 for the voting proper.
However,10 voters could not vote because they could not be accredited.
Also incident forms were not available for them to fill.
Security was beefed up along the routes leading to and out of Igalaland where both Audu and Wada, hail from.
Trucks travelling through the area were ordered to park along the major road while occupants of smaller vehicles were ordered out of for screening.
Journalists were not spared from the screening exercise as they were also ordered out of their vehicles and subjected to thorough search.
LP candidate unrecognised by card reader
Also, there were reports of malfunctioned card readers at Salawu’s area.
One of our correspondent gathered that the card reader failed to recognise his finger prints for about four times until he was eventually accredited.
But the Kogi State Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi, who voted at Unit 2 in Ileteju Ward of Mopamuro LGA at 1.45pm, commended INEC for the logistics put in place.
He said with the reports he had got from across the local government area, commendation must be given to the security agencies who made the election peaceful.
Awoniyi also hailed the people of Mopamuro for their peaceful conduct and optimism in turning out en mass to vote the candidate of their choice.
The Deputy Commander General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Mr. Nnamdi Nwinyi, said the election was peaceful. He, however, said he could not confirm Wada’s allegations.
He stated that security operatives were professional in their operation, while urging Kogi residents to avoid violence after the announcement of the result.
Nwinyi said, “Did the governor mention any area? I do not know where he got his information from but on our own we have not had any issues and if he has mentioned the areas, security would have been beefed up in such areas to stop anything that will be an embarrassment to INEC.
“Nigerians should be getting more mature now; the awareness is high. Voter apathy has been removed. The politicians and National Orientation Agency still have more work to do in trying to educate Nigerians on issues of public conduct during elections. That is the only way we can get it right; when people have confidence in the results of INEC. But so far, I will give a pass mark to what I have seen on the field.”
In Lokoja, the state capital, the election was generally peaceful and without rancour, as voters trooped out to cast their votes.
As early as 8am, accreditation started in most of the polling units but with records of failure of card readers.
Manual accreditation to the rescue
At Polling Units A and B, Crowther Memorial College, Sabon Gari, Lokoja, accreditation of voters started at 8:15am.
The Presiding Officer, Odianose Abiebhode, said the exercise was going on well but added,”the only challenge is the area of finger print failure.” But he said there was no problem with the card reader.
At Amole Open space, the INEC’s Presiding Officer, Maryam Adamson, said thumb-printing and finger print failure were rampant, with over 50 cases recorded so far.
She said INEC officials had to resort to other means including manual accreditation of voters and filing of incident forms.
“If this happens, we fill incident form for them to be accredited manually”, she stated.
As of 10am, she said over 50 voters had been accredited.
The situation was similar at Cinema Hall, Angwa Polling Unit, even though accreditation started as early as 8:30am.
INEC Presiding Officer, Mr. Segun Adeniran, also complained of card reader failure. But in most of the polling units visited by SUNDAY PUNCH in Lokoja, the turnout was impressive and without trouble.
Political analysts attributed the peaceful scenario to the presence of armed riot police officers riding horses and parading the popular Ibrahim Taiwo Road and other major streets.
When our correspondent visited INEC’s state office, members of the NSCDC were sighted with no fewer than five Alsatian dogs.
Also, no fewer than 20 armed police officers were seen on the commission’s premises.
INEC hails exercise
The Independent National Electoral Commission has said the Kogi State governorship election on Saturday was an improvement on previous polls conducted in the state.
The Deputy Director of Publicity of INEC, Mr. Nick Dazang, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
He said although there were few challenges with regard to card readers’ performance in in the exercise, security, accreditation and voting processes were successful.
Dazang said there were some minor challenges, including card readers malfunctioning, but the mechanisms in place were deployed to correct them.
He said, “There was also an incident in Dekina where a ballot box was snatched even when voting had not started.
“There was also one ward, 27, at Anyigba, where ballot and result sheets were torn. Otherwise, I think the election went well.”
Dazang said the incidence of violence that was anticipated during the polls was not much, when compared with the cases in previous elections in the state.
“In the time past we had situations where our staff were abducted, people were killed. There is no incident of violence at that level; we have not heard about anybody’s death or abduction.
“There is an improvement compared to previous elections in the state which is considered to be volatile,” he said.
Dazang added that the efficiency of the card readers was above average on Saturday as the use of incident form was negligible.
He said, “There was one particular area in Dekina where our officials were not proficient in the use of card reader and we are investigating what happened.
“Otherwise, I think generally, the election went on well; we have technical teams in all the 239 wards and in all the wards; we have ICT staff moved in to troubleshoot any experienced challenges.”