Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room commends the dedication and orderliness of Nigerians during the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on 28 March 2015. The diligence and sacrifice of Nigerians during the elections is a reflection and testimony of their deep commitment to democratic governance. We commend the courage of voters in Gombe state who persisted in participating in the election despite the terrorist attack. The Situation Room notes that the voters endured severe difficulties during the elections as a result of several operational and logistical lapses by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In this regard, the Situation Room wishes to draw urgent attention to three critical areas of challenges: (1) late commencement of elections; (2) challenges with accreditation process; (3) performance of the security agencies; (4) use of social media.
Late commencement of elections
The Situation Room considers as unacceptable the inability of INEC to deploy its officials and election materials on time to allow for a timely commencement of polls. Reports received by the Situation Room indicate that officials and materials did not reach significant number of polling stations by the time of poll opening. This delayed accreditation and voting led to continuation of polls till late into the night in many places. INEC’s delays in commencement and closing of polls subjected the voters, some of whom arrived very early at the polling stations, to untoward experiences. The Situation Room insists that the experience of late commencement of polling will not recur and that INEC will not stretch the patience of the Nigerian voter beyond tolerable level in future elections.
Challenges with accreditation process
The Situation Room fully supports the transition from manual to biometric accreditation of voters introduced by INEC. However, we are concerned by reports of challenges with the accreditation process resulting in the suspension of the use of card readers and reversal to manual accreditation. This failure has undermined the full benefit anticipated by the use of biometric technology and imposed unnecessary hardship on Nigerians. We call on INEC to make clear what guidelines will govern the accreditation process during the 11 April 2015 elections. We urge the Commission to make a clear and definitive statement on these elections taken into account needs to correct its own deficiencies and inform the Nigerian public as to what to expect. We also call on INEC to intensify its outreach to the public providing full information on situations as they develop and guidelines for the conduct of the remaining aspects of the elections.
Performance of security agencies
The Situation Room is deeply concerned about the reports of interference in the electoral process in some states, especially Rivers and Imo States. Also, reports of failure by security agencies to prevent havoc by non-state groups in some polling units were received. These developments raise concern that the collation of results may be compromised if appropriate actions are not taken to safeguard the credibility of the exercise. We appeal to political parties and politicians to exercise restraint and desist from the use of violence in the electoral process. We urge the security agencies and officials to conduct themselves according to established standards of professional conduct.
Use of social media
The Situation Room notes with deep concern the growing use of hate and dangerous speech in the social media. At a time when INEC is carrying out the delicate task of collation of results, unrestrained comments and spread of hate in the social media can only trigger needless tension and anxiety across the country. We urge Nigerians to exercise restraint in their comments and desist from making comments that are capable of creating disaffection. We wish to reiterate that individuals who by their comments trigger violence or unrest will be held accountable
The Situation Room calls on the public to remain patient and maintain a high level of commitment to participating in the remaining aspects of the electoral process. We urge all Nigerians to remain orderly and law abiding and to refrain from any actions that may further challenge the electoral process. We urge the public to cooperate with the relevant authorities and to report any action capable of undermining the electoral process to the appropriate authorities and civic organizations.