February 12, 2022

FCT Polls: Yiaga Africa reports operational deficiencies, other challenges

Decries logistics hiccups, late arrival of security agents in AMAC

As INEC’s BVAS machines fail again

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As Area Councils elections continue in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, an election observer, Yiaga Africa, Saturday, released its report pointing out operational deficiencies, security challenges and abysmal voter turnout in the electoral process.

This made known in the report with subject ‘Midday Situational Statement on the 2022 FCT Area Council Elections’, read by Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, and Board Member of Yiaga Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu, during a media conference.

According to them, from preliminary findings as of 1:00pm on Election Day received from Watching The Vote, WTV, observers roving in the six Area Councils there was; Late opening of polling stations due to poor logistics and election security problems; BVAS machines failed to authenticate both the fingerprints and facial biometrics of voters, and other issues.

READ ALSO: FCT Polls: Yiaga Africa calls on INEC, security agents, and electorates on preparedness for credible elections

However, they said Yiaga Africa did not deploy the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for the FCT Area Council Election.
The report reads in part, “Yiaga Africa deployed trained and accredited roving observers to observe the 12th February 2022 FCT Area Council elections in the six Area Councils of the FCT. Yiaga Africa observers deployed by 7:30am and they visited polling units within the sixty-two wards of the FCT. The observers will remain deployed until the close of polls and results are announced at the polling units. At the close of polls, Yiaga Africa Collation Observers will deploy to the Area Council results collation centres to observe and send in reports on the collation process.

“The Yiaga Africa’s Watching the Vote Midday situational statement is based on reports received from the WTV observers highlighting findings on seven process-related issues. They include; the opening of polling units and the presence of polling officials and election materials; the presence of security personnel, the commencement of accreditation and voting; deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS); and presence of party agents. It also highlights critical incidents that may threaten the credibility of the election.

“Preliminary findings; these are preliminary findings as of 1:00 pm on election day with reports received from WTV observers roving in the six Area Councils.

“Late opening of polling stations due to poor logistics and election security problems: While polling officials arrived early in some polling stations, Yiaga Africa observers reported late commencement of polls in several polling stations due to logistics issues.

“Polling officials encountered difficulty in locating assigned polling units. The logistics hiccups were exacerbated with the late arrival of police officers at the Registration Area Centers. For instance, several polling units in Abuja Municipal Area Council especially Gwarinpa and Orozo ward opened late as polling officials couldn’t deploy without security protection. On average, accreditation and voting commenced at 10:00 am in most polling units observed.

“The functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System: In line with the election guidelines, the BVAS was deployed in all polling units observed. In some polling units observed, INEC deployed two BVAS machines to the polling units; some others with over 1000 registered voters had only one BVAS. In addition, the BVAS machines failed to authenticate both the fingerprints and facial biometrics of voters in some polling units visited, causing further delay to the process of accreditation of voters.

“Voter disenfranchisement: Yiaga Africa observers reported disenfranchisement of voters as a result of missing names on the voter register that was deployed to the polling unit. In the centres where the disenfranchisement occurred, the voters were holders of valid Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) assigned to those polling units. For such voters, INEC’s online voter verification portal verified their registration status.

“Imbalance in Distribution of Voters to new polling units: Yiaga Africa observed that the imbalance in the distribution of voters to new polling units affected the effective management of polling units with over 1000 registered voters. This led to overcrowding in some polling units observed.

“The observation revealed that some polling units had as many as 2500 registered voters while others had less than 5 voters within the same location. Yiaga Africa notes that these inconsistencies question the reliability and accuracy of the Commission’s framework for the expansion of polling units.

“Inconsistent communication on election security: Yiaga Africa notes with dismay the confusion created by the irregularity in the information from the security agencies on the restriction of movement. Yiaga Africa notes that the inconsistent communication from security agencies undermines public confidence in the transparency and objectivity of security agencies during elections.

However, Yiaga recommended that INEC should extend the voting time to 4:30 pm especially in pollings with a high turnout of voters based on late opening of polls and glitches with the BVAS machines; The operational deficiencies noted in this election provide a compelling need for a comprehensive audit of the voter register, BVAS technology, elections logistics and distribution of voters to polling units.

INEC officials should act in the utmost sense of integrity, transparency and professionalism in the collation and declaration of election results.

Security Agencies; Security agencies should ensure that their personnel acts in utmost professionalism and remain impartial throughout the conduct of this election.

Political Parties; Yiaga Africa calls on political parties, candidates and their supporters to refrain from disrupting the process and attempts to undermine the elections.

In conclusion, Yiaga Africa WTV assured its commitment to providing accurate and credible information on the process and will continue to watch the process until the end of voting and the posting of results.

“In addition, Yiaga Africa observers will be at the result collation centers to observe the process and provide information on the results collation. Yiaga Africa will be observing the INEC results portal to track the efficiency of the portal.

“We call on all those participating in the process, especially the voters not to be deterred by the challenges but rather remain patient until they cast their votes.

“We call on all citizens, political parties and candidates, INEC and the security agencies to play their parts to ensure a peaceful, credible and conclusive process.

“The Watching The Vote project is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”, it assured.

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