The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced final distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive voting materials on Friday. As of Friday night, almost all registration area centres (RACs) had received or were about to receive voting materials, PREMIUM TIMES and Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) found in separate observations from some states across the country.
The commission said it was fully prepared to host the exercise, despite concerns that some of the issues that played out during the presidential and National Assembly elections on February 23 had not been addressed.
The welfare of electoral officers, especially members of the National Youth Service Corps specially deployed for the elections, appears to have been largely addressed, although PREMIUM TIMES still noted pockets of irregularities in this aspect as of Friday night.
Polls are expected to open by 8:00 a.m. Saturday in all but seven of the 36 states of the federation. Area council elections at the Federal Capital Territory will also hold on Saturday.
PREMIUM TIMES and CDD observers surveyed the following states on Friday evening to assess the broadness of INEC’s preparedness hours before polls open. Although our findings showed an overall improvement over February 23 exercise, delays in delivering materials to some RACs as of 11:00 p.m. Friday could cause delays in the opening time for some polling units.
As of 7:05 p.m. on Friday, all major activities were moved from the INEC headquarters in Makurdi, the state capital, to the various RACs.
A visit to some of the RACs indicates a high level of preparedness by the electoral umpires.
All sensitive and non-sensitive materials were arranged according to various polling units and most ad-hoc staff were already waiting at the centres for distribution.
The Benue Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Nentawe Yiltwada, told PREMIUM TIMES another training for ad-hoc staff will be conducted before distribution of materials.
“We are re-training the ad-hoc staff tonight before the distribution,” he said.
He added that the training and distribution would not exceed 9:00 p.m. on Friday night.
Corps members serving as ad-hoc staff in an interview said they did not have a decent place to pass the night.
A corps member, Samuel Bulus, said they were only given mats to find a place to sleep in the vicinity of the RAC.
Mr Yiltwada, however, said there were arrangements between the commission and NYSC to distribute mattresses to the corps members.
At a RAC in Ikosi Senior High School, Ikosi-Ketu, Kosofe Local Government Area, INEC regular staff and ad-hoc officials arrived with election materials ahead of the elections on Saturday.
Security personnel also arrived as the supervisory presiding officers (SPOs) were seen sorting sensitive materials for the election as of Friday evening.
But there appeared to be no improvement with regard to the provision of welfare for ad-hoc staff, especially as many of them are likely to pass the night in classrooms and other unkempt spots in the neighbourhood.
Some ad-hoc officers also complained about non-payment of the presidential election stipend from two weeks ago, even though many of their colleagues had been paid. One SPO promised that all issues around remuneration for the officials will be addressed on time.
A list containing names of those who volunteered as ad-hoc INEC staff was unveiled for verification of identities ahead of the payments.
A hitch-free distribution of election materials was underway at the INEC office at the secretariat of Bauchi Local Government Area as of 9:00 p.m. on Friday.
Almost all sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials, as well as ad-hoc staff, left the local government secretariat for their respective wards as of the same time.
Materials arrived the nearby Baba Sidi Collation Centre for Makama/Sarkin Bakin Ward, which is the biggest precinct in the metropolis. However, the sorting of the materials was expected to start at 10:00 p.m.
The Bauchi metropolis was busier than when it was a on February 22, a day to presidential election, indicating that people are up and ready for tomorrow’s poll.
INEC ad hoc staff were better treated than they were during the presidential and National Assembly elections, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
As of 6:00 p.m. on Friday, INEC office at Miango Junction in Jos, the state capital, was busy with activities ahead of Saturday’s election, and everything appeared to be in order.
In Jos South, there was similarly a high level of preparedness and all materials were said to have been distributed to RACs.
Jide Bis, the state’s REC, told PREMIUM TIMES that the ad-hoc staff started receiving their allowances.
He also said the corps members were provided buckets and toiletries.
He, however, said they were not given mattresses to sleep, but only mats were available and had been distributed, an arrangement many of the corps members found uncomfortable.
As of Friday afternoon, local government areas had started coordinating logistics ahead of Saturday’s election, according to the spokesperson for INEC in Rivers State, Edwin Enabor.
Activities have also intensified at INEC office in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area as of Friday evening, especially with the deployment of materials and personnel to the various RACs in the area.
As of 7:00 p.m., mattresses and buckets were being taken to the RACs ahead of the arrival of the staff.
“This is an improvement,” according to George, an ad-hoc staffer deployed in Ward 9 of the LGA. “We were already at RACs before mattresses and buckets were brought in the previous elections on February 23.”
PREMIUM TIMES observed that the RACs were equipped with power generating set.
“I have my extension box here; we are able to charge there,” George ahead. He did not immediately provide a second name.
Materials left INEC headquarters in Kaduna, the state capital, to dozens of wards across the states as early as 1:00 p.m. on Friday.
Shortly after the distribution, the state REC, Abdullahi Kaugama, said the commission was ready for the election and promised that ad-hoc staff would be at polling units as early as 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
A RAC in Chikun LEA Primary School, Chikun Local Government Area, was open to ad-hoc staff as of 6:00 p.m.
PREMIUM TIMES observed during a visit Friday evening that corps members and other ad-hoc officers would sleep in three blocks of classrooms at the school without power. They were, however, given mattresses.
A RAC in Owerri Municipal Local Government Area at Emmanuel College, New Owerri, was without security agents as of 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
About 15 INEC ad-hoc staff including corps members, who had arrived the centre as of 6:00 p.m., said they were surprised the materials were available, yet without security officers.
They also complained that they had been waiting for the INEC officials to address them, but neither the electoral officer for the local government nor any of his representatives was on the ground to offer clarifications.
Only one of the classrooms where ad-hoc staff had been waiting for senior INEC officials was illuminated. Still, some of them stayed outside, expressing fears that there were no security personnel nearby to protect them.
Still, they said the atmosphere was better than their experience during the presidential and federal parliamentary elections on February 23.
“By this time during the last election, there was not a single material at the RAC,” an ad-hoc official said. “The materials came in very late into the night and we could not finish sharing until around 9: a.m on the day of the election.”
A spokesperson for INEC in the state did not immediately return requests for comments about the situation Friday night.
Preparations for Saturday’s election were in order across major RACs in Sokoto.
PREMIUM TIMES and CDD observed that ad-hoc officials had gathered at different centres in anticipation of distribution of materials.
At 9:00 p.m. when PREMIUM TIMES visited a RAC in Arkilla, officials were seen receiving some of the materials.
An ad-hoc official told this newspaper that the non-sensitive materials had been distributed, but they were awaiting the distribution of sensitive materials.
A female corps member who declined to be identified said the sensitive materials would be distributed by midnight.
“The distribution (of sensitive materials) is expected to begin by 3:00 a.m.,” she said.
The atmosphere in Sokoto metro area was calm as of Friday night. Although the election is expected to be keenly contested, many residents moved around without hindrances.