In order to ensure a smooth election process, the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) has offered to train Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) employees.
In order to improve the conduct of future elections, particularly the upcoming March 11th Governorship and States Assembly elections, NIDO encouraged INEC and other crucial election stakeholders to take immediate action to remedy weaknesses revealed in the February 25, 2023 poll.
According to the organization, this would help to restore voter trust in the electoral process and INEC.
Dr. Bashir Obasekola, chairman of NIDO for Europe and America, highlighted INEC’s mistakes in the recently concluded election and blamed them in large part on the “tardiness of INEC officials.”
The organization’s submission on the February 23 election and its recommendations read:
NIDO Worldwide deployed observers to polling units in some selected towns and locations in different States and geopolitical zones of the country. These include Lagos, Ogun, Enugu, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Cross Rivers, Delta, and Edo
states, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Of the polling units observed nationwide, it was a mixture of punctuality and lateness at the opening and start of the voting exercise. The tardiness of INEC officials was largely responsible for the lateness in the commencement of voting in many of these places. At all the polling units we observed, polling officials and materials did not arrive at the scheduled commencement time of 8.30 AM.
For example, in Jos South and Bokkos LGAs of Jos, Plateau State, with the earliest recorded at 9:30 AM and the latest at 11:30 AM. The affected polling units include Takai 1 (002), Takai 2 (011), Primary School, Kunet (004), Mabel (011), and Bokkos Butura Government Girls College (015). Ditto for PU 025 in Oshimili LGA of Delta State opposite Asaba Specialist Hospital) where INEC officials showed up at 11:18 AM.
At Chevron 087 in Lekki, PU 105 (Carlton Estate), and PU 106 (Northern Foreshore) in Lagos State, INEC officials arrived between 10:10 AM and 12 noon. Our observers also reported that INEC officials arrived late at PU 060 at Mechanic Village near Redemption Camp and PU 11 at the palace of Olugbein Obafemi Owode Local Government, Ogun State, where voting did not commence until midday…
The organization’s statement added;
It was however observed that in Butura Ward 2, Bokkos, a substantial number of registered voters were transferred to another polling unit without their knowledge and they only discovered it on election day after arriving at the polling unit. The majority of them were transferred to polling units that were not within walking distance and there was no public transportation to convey them to their newly assigned polling units…
After the manual input of the results into BVAS, the Presiding INEC officer was expected to immediately transmit the data into the INEC Result Viewing portal (IReV) as stated in the Electoral Guidelines. However, this was not done in the polling units observed. This led to tension and suspicion amongst those who were still present at the unit. The INEC officials complained of glitches in the network and that the upload would be done later.
For example, at one of the PUs in Surulere, the voters present at the polling unit became agitated and demanded that the transmission must be done in their presence. This confrontation became very tense. Eventually, the presence of the Police saved the day and the INEC officers were allowed to go… We observed that the stipulated voting time (8.30 AM to 2.30 PM) is grossly inadequate for this exercise in view of the number of voters assigned to each voting unit.
This paucity of time is further compounded by the tardiness of polling officials and could become more unmanageable with higher voter turnout, especially among the elderly and persons living with disabilities. Therefore, we recommend that INEC should work on the punctuality of its officials and consider the elongation of voting time in future elections.
The statement continued;
As the number of political parties increases, so also the size of the ballot paper may increase. Therefore, the current ballot boxes will become inappropriate and inconvenient for the slotting of the ensuing lengthy ballot papers. We observed that one of the reasons
for the voiding of an enormous number of votes during the election was the staining of ballot papers which occurs when a voter struggles to squeeze the paper into the rather small boxes. This is also traceable to inadequate voter education.
We observed that the proficiency of the Ad-Hoc INEC staff on duty at some of the polling units fell short of expectations. They seemed to lack the knowledge base and skills required to handle the process and instrument deployed. The use of NYSC as Ad-Hoc staff during elections should be reviewed and more experienced personnel should be paired with them during elections.
The staff of INEC is the face of the Commission that appeals to the perception of the voters towards the Commission. Regardless of Ad-Hoc or Permanent status, they should be adequately trained and prepared for the exercise. Nigerians in the Diaspora Organization (NIDO) is willing to collaborate with INEC in this regard…
We observed that logistical failures do create tensions, while the late opening of polling locations creates overcrowding, disenfranchisement of some voters, voter frustration, and unintended errors that often undermine the secrecy of the ballot. NIDO acknowledges and commends INEC for the drive to improve the electoral process.
However, we are displeased with the systemic failure of the Commission to ensure instantaneous transmission of results to IReV at the conclusion of voting at polling units as originally planned. We advise that INEC and all pertinent stakeholders take urgent action to address the lapses identified in this report with a view to improving the conduct of subsequent elections, including the upcoming March 11th, 2023 Governorship, and States Assembly elections. This is imperative in order to restore confidence in our electoral system and INEC.