March 3, 2023

Int’l observers score INEC below average in conduct of 2023 elections

Edo election


•Decry poor management of logistics, deployment of materials, electoral fraud

•Say excuses from INEC puerile, deficient

By Ezra Ukanwa

America’s Empowerment Institute, AEMPIN, one of the foreign observer groups that monitored last weekend’s presidential and National Assembly elections, has scored the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, below average in the conduct of the polls.

The institute, which has observed 59 elections in about 27 countries, expressed disappointment with the snail-pace deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in more than 50 per cent of the 176,606 polling units across the country, despite INEC’s top-notch preparations, prior to the general elections.

Briefing journalists on the findings of the over 2000 election observers deployed across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, yesterday, the Head, Observer Mission, AEMPIN, Emenike Umesi, also commended high turnout of voters during the election.

He, however, bemoaned the relocation of voters’ polling units at the eleventh hour of the election, adding that the relocation was a good idea to reduce crowd in polling units but done at the wrong time.

He said: “All polling units were supposed to open at 8am. We observed delays in the opening of some of the polling units due to late arrival of materials and INEC officials. In some polling units, voters started arriving as early as 7am. 

”This shows the level of enthusiasm about the election among the voters and their willingness to do all they can to ensure the polling was successful.

“INEC’s decision to further split existing polling units which registered voters exceeded the number recommended is highly commendable. It allowed for easy management of voters and efficiency in terms of the time it takes to accredit a voter. 

”As commendable as this is, some of the voters could not easily locate their new polling units either because they did not receive such communication from INEC, or they were simply unaware.

“Logistics failure has become perennial. In fact, one of the most persistent challenges INEC has not been able to address is the deployment of officials and materials to the various polling units across the country. This has made election administration difficult over time and even now.

“This logistics failure is also responsible for the postponement of some elections to the next day. This also affected the collation and transmission of results from the polling units to the local, state and national collation centres. It also includes the delay this logistics challenge causes and the anxiety the delays usually give rise to.

“With the BVAS, it was thought that electoral violence/malpractice was over in Nigeria. Despite this innovative device that seeks to ensure that electoral malpractice is eliminated from Nigeria’s electoral system, electoral violence/malpractices persisted. 

”There were also observed incidences of ballot box snatching and destruction. The swift response of the security forces saved the situations in most of the areas where this happened. There were no visible incidents of vote buying in most of the units where we observed the election.”

While cautioning agitated parties against violence, Umesi urged them to explore the new Electoral Act which empowered INEC to review its declarations.

Calling on INEC to subsiquently consider People With Disabilities, PWDs, when selecting the locations of polling units, he recommended that INEC, in other elections, made deliberate efforts to improve on its logistics and ensure that it adhered to the time scheduled for electoral processes.

He also stressed the need for the Federal Government to adopt e-voting or i-voting to reduce electioneering challenges of ballot snatching and mutilation of result sheets.