As Nigerians await the final results of last Saturday’s presidential election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is on top of the troubling issues and is committed to delivering credible results of the polls.
The Commission acknowledged the challenges and confusion that characterised the voting process in some areas, and assured Nigerians and the international community that the issues would be addressed and the results announced will be the true reflection of the will of the people.
At a press briefing at the INEC headquarters in Abuja last Saturday, the Commission chairman, Chief Mahmood Yakubu, apologised for the delays in voting at some areas and explained that it was the first time they were using the electronic system and some of them did not perform optimally.
He said the election day was largely peaceful but there were reports of violence and ballot boxes being snatched by thugs while some voters complained of being attacked and chased away from polling stations.
The INEC Chief also announced that at least in five states, voting in some places did not begin until around 18:00 local time – one-and-a-half hours after polls were due to close, as a result of which voting was extended to ensure that all eligible voters had the chance to exercise their franchise.
He said there were also reports of tension in parts of Rivers and Lagos states, where some political parties asked their members to go to the centres where votes were being collated over fears that they were being manipulated.
Mr Yakubu said armed men had also attacked some polling units in the southern state of Delta and the northern state of Katsina, where six of the voter-card verification machines were taken away by thugs and the security managed to recover three. he added that efforts were being made to recover the remaining three.
He said two other Biometric Voter Accreditation System machines that were stolen by thugs, together with the three machines, were subsequently replaced and security boosted to allow voting to take place.
In the north-eastern state of Borno, Mr Yakubu said militant Islamists opened fire on electoral officers from a mountain top in the Gwoza area, injuring a number of officials.
Chief Yakubu said there was a clear omission of a candidate on the ballot paper so that election had been reschedule for March 11.
Counting of votes is still underway in the presidential election, widely thought to be the tightest since military rule ended in Africa’s most populous country in 1999.
Nigerians came out in their numbers to cast their ballots, with many of the youth who were first-time voters being the earliest to arrive at the polling units to cast their ballots.
There were long delays at some polling stations while reports of ballot box snatching and attacks by armed men were rife.
Many voters who had to endure the stress from malfunctioning electronic voting systems accused electoral officials of refusing to upload the results at the polling units as they were supposed to.
However, in areas where voting went smoothly, officials started posting results outside individual polling units, while the results from tens of thousands of polling stations around the country were being collated and sent to the electoral headquarters in the capital Abuja.
He also acknowledged the presence of Ghana’s Electoral Commission Chairperson, Jean Mensa, and other electoral commission chairpersons from South Africa, Liberia, Tanzania, Niger, Namibia and Sierra Leone, among others.