NigeriaDecides2019: NBA Alleges Violence, Voters Intimidation, Card Reader Problems

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Sunday released its first preliminary report on the February 23, Presidential and National Assembly elections conducted across states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The report signed by the Chairman of the NBA Election Working Group (EWG), Mazi Afam Osigwe, said the election was characterised by violence in some states, voter intimidation, harrassment, poor logistics, including failure of card readers in most polling units across the country.
While the report on one hand commended the presence of security personnel in and around the various polling units, it however alleged that the security personnel stood aloof or were complacent in some of the violence that marred the person.
“There were several reports and live feeds of electoral violence from all over the country. Party thugs and hoodlums had a field day invading voting centers to harass, molest and intimidate voters and, in some instances, INEC officials.
“Strangely, in places where these despicable acts were recorded or registered, security agents were either complacent or complicit. Rivers, Lagos and Kogi states were notorious in this regard”, the report stated.
The report also confirmed that voters were prevented, hindered or inhibited from performing their civic responsibilities on the suspicion that their votes had the potential to produce an outcomes that were undesirable to or unintended outcome by those it described as illegal “enforcers” and “gatekeepers”.
According to the report, Akwa Ibom, Niger, Lagos, Imo, Kogi and Benue ranked high among states where voters were chased away and forced to return to their homes.
“Cases of supervised or guided voting were also reported in parts of Kano State.
“Additionally, the ENBA-EWG situation room was inundated with widespread reports confirming the manipulation of election processes by INEC officials aided by party thugs and security agents”, the report added.
The NBA-EWG also stated that despite the postponement of the election by one week due to logistics challenges, the elections recorded some noticeable but avoidable lapses associated with the same ‘logistical challenges’.
It said it observed that polls did not commence at the scheduled time of 8 am in most polling units nationwide. It said the drawback was, however, more manifest in the States comprising of the South- South, South- East, South-West and North-oCentral regions of the country.
“In a number of polling units across the country, election materials, especially ballot papers, were either over-supplied (i.e. in excess of the registered voters in the polling unit) or under-supplied. From reports available to us at this time, this situation was prevalent in the South-South and South-East sub-regions, particularly in Edo, Akwa Ibom, Imo and Enugu States respectively”.
On the issue of the card reader, the report alleged that the performance of the card readers, although not generally unsatisfactory, raised concerns and provided sufficient basis for anxiety among the voting populace.
“The Working Group reports also that in most units and concerning the malfunctioned card readers, presiding officers commendably resorted to manual accreditation to enable registered voters to cast their ballots. However, this was not devoid of the associated issue suspicion by the voters of possible abuse or suspicion thereof of such discretion by the polling officials.
“The NBA-EWG reports again also that in some polling units in Abuja covered, smart card readers recognized voters’ cards but produced unintended outputs, particularly in cases where, for example, the physical facial features of the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) holder were inexplicably different from those displayed on the card reader device. In such cases, the discretion whether the affected voter proceeds with the voting process or he should be disenfranchised at that point rested with the presiding officer. It was reported that in most of such peculiar cases, such discretion was exercised against the registered voters.
“By and large, the preponderance of opinion from the NBA-EWG, 2019 is that the smart card device although it may not have totally failed the integrity test, created appreciable anxiety among the voting populace consequent upon the reported cases of malfunctioned and/or outright performance failure of the device created appreciable anxiety among the voting populace”, the report said in part.

Author: News Editor

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