Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
Election observers representing six Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Kaduna state have said over 90% of the polling units did not paste their results written on ‘Form EC8A’ in the polling units in Kaduna as demanded by the Electoral Act.
The observer groups, spearheaded by Emmanuel Bonet, of Aid Foundation also stated that there were reports of some level of compliance by INEC officials by their observers, corroborating the PRP and Senator Shehu Sani’s earlier reports on massive elections irregularities in Kaduna.
An elaborate reports/findings jointly presented to journalists during press briefing in Kaduna, Tuesday, by Emmanuel Bonet of Aid Foundation, Imam Sani and Rev. Dangiwa of Interfaith Mediation Centre (IMC), Abdul Usman Bako of Campaign for Democracy (CD), Egbe Brown Uche of Empowering Women for Excellence Initiative, Patrick Katuka of Community Trust Health Foundation, Hajiya Amina Kazaure of Women Interfaith Council, respectively, stated that over 612 observers were deployed across 255 wards within the 23 LGAs of Kaduna state.
The purpose of the press conference, according to leaders of the observer groups, “is to make a preliminary statement on our findings from the Kaduna Situation Room that was set up with the aim of observing the presidential and gubernatorial elections in Kaduna to encourage citizens to vote peacefully, curb fake news, link security agencies with trouble spots and refer INEC to areas with concerns.
“We are Civil Society Organizations that have voluntarily come together to establish a Situation Room to observe the presidential and gubernatorial elections in Kaduna state.
“Counting started at 2pm in just a few centers that began elections early, while majority went deep into the evening with extreme cases being 2:00am of the following day. However, it was impressive that electorates waited for their votes to be counted before dispersing.
The observe group further stated that “Results were properly recorded in appropriate forms and publicly declared in most of the polling units with party agents of major political parties and security agents present, although over 90% of the polling units did not paste their results written on ‘Form EC8A’ in the polling unit as demanded by the Electoral Act, thereby causing observers to scramble and beg party agents to take a picture of the results.
“This partnership deployed over 612 (male & female, including PWD) observers across 255 wards within the 23 LGAs of Kaduna state. They observed the elections around 5 domains, which include: Setting Up, Voting Process, Counting Process, Conduct of Security Agencies, Declaration of Results at Polling Unit as well as Gender & Social Inclusion,” they said.
On the setting up, Mr. Bonet, who made the presentation on behalf of leaders of the observer group, said “A few of polling units set up early, while several others across the state started very late, having an average of about 11:30am with extreme cases reaching 4:00pm before setting up commenced.
“This is in spite of the initial postponement by INEC with assurance that they will perfect logistics and have all polling units commence at the same time. Voters did not have information about what was going on or if they were going to even cast their votes, making them apprehensive and prone to fake news.”
According to him, “There were reports of some level of compliance by INEC officials even though many centers also recorded lack of adherence to some other provisions of the Electoral Act like non-placement of ‘Form EC30’ at polling units, which was meant to aid voters in locating their polling units without any confusion.
“Other violations recorded across the state included: INEC officials’ refusal to remove or tear-off posters of political parties that were pasted around and within the polling units, absence of stamp pads, inks and high cases of incomplete ballot papers, with extreme cases being reported of no ballot papers for the senatorial elections from Ungwan Boro, Mando and Giwa.
“There were no voting cubicles for voting secrecy in some polling units. Some polling units had their ballot papers and other materials taken to a different polling unit, causing a lot of confusion and mistrust in the process. Party agents of some political parties, especially APC and PDP, were present in most polling units.”
They, however, observed that “Voting process was conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner in most polling units across the state, even though there were reports of violence at Ungwan Ali, along Abuja Road in Rigasa, Magajin Gari and Kuyello in Birnin Gwari and Kufana.
“INEC officials were seen sensitizing the electorate on voting procedures in many centers across the state but did very little in enforcing the use of phones at the polling booths. Party agents in many polling units in Igabi, Kachia, Kaduna South, Kaduna North and Soba were reported to have been carrying their registers and checking their lists – which is in defiance to what the INEC chairman said.
“Polling officials conducted themselves in a civilized manner in most parts of the states and hardly interfered with the process, except in some cases like in Gure in Lere LGA, Arak in Sanga, Kawo in Kaduna North where communities insisted on voting without the use of the Card Reader, either because it failed or because they did not want to be accredited.
“There was general complaining about the Card Reader not working, malfunction or not available in some centers and several calls had to be made to resolve it.”
On Conduct of Security Agencies, the CSO noted that security agencies conducted themselves in an appropriate manner in most polling units they were seen to be present. However, there were also reports of no security agents in a few polling units.
They equally observed that women, persons with special needs and the elderly were given special treatments in most centers as reported. However, there are a few cases in Kawo and Chikun Town where women were intimidated, even as, according to them, “Most of our observers did not get copies of ‘Form EC8A,’ which was supposed to capture the result that should have been pasted at the polling unit to enable us triangulate the results.”
They, therefore, recommended that there is need to move to an electronic form of voting to curb filling of multiple forms, multiple voting and the cumbersome nature of collation that give room for manipulation.
“There should be a set benchmark for political parties willing to contest National and State elections, e.g., political parties that do not have candidates should not feature on ballot papers. INEC must establish a ‘Think Tank’ made up of civil society, logistics experts, media, traditional and religious leaders, etc., to support them in the planning process of elections.
“INEC must device a means of ensuring that those trained are the ones deployed to the field. The training and deployment of adhoc staff should be early enough. Political parties should endeavor to sensitize and educate the electorate on thuggery. The use of technology in mapping and tracking logistics and materials must be enhanced. INEC officials should be provided with necessary mobility so that they will not have any reason to be compromised when electorates offer to assist,” they stated.