The Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the voting period in the ongoing Anambra State governorship election.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the centre observed that there were widespread cases of malfunctioning of voter accreditation devices.
However, it said it was aware of only one incident of violence, which occurred at Ogbaru Local Government Area “where gunshots were heard,” contrary to earlier fears of widespread violence that had characterised the electioneering process in the state.
“It is useful for the country’s election umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to note that there have been complaints in almost all Polling Units about utilising the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS).
“Voting is slow and stalled in some Polling Units because voters are not getting accredited quickly enough. Many officials and voters alike lay blame on the poor connection and inability of the devices to recognise biometric data.
“This has severely hampered the smooth running of the elections in many parts of the state,” the statement said.
It also said election officials arrived late at many polling units, while party agents flagrantly violated electoral guidelines on wearing of tags and other regalia that are associated with the polls.
“The 2021 Anambra Gubernatorial Elections have finally kicked off. As we draw closer to the midday point, here are some observations from the Election Analysis Centre for the Anambra State Governorship Election run by the Premium Times Centre Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
“The election has mostly been peaceful, contrary to prevalent fears. In the 9 LGAs where observers were deployed, only one incident of violence was observed in the Ogbaru Local Government Area where gunshots were heard. Apart from this, the LGAs monitored have been peaceful. There is a consistent presence of security personnel recorded in most Polling Units observed, which has helped to bolster feelings of safety amongst the electorate.
“Additionally, there have been complaints about staff lateness to their units and late deployment of materials. Though the elections were set to commence by 8:30 am, the Election Analysis Centre has observed that the average start time across observed Polling Units was 9:40 am.
“It was also observed that many Polling Units in the Ogbaru Local Government Area did not have their Registered Voters’ list posted on the walls, contrary to usual practice. Additionally, our observers noticed that most party agents were not wearing their tags and other regalia to aid identification.
“This goes against the INEC rules that require party agents to wear their pre-uploaded identification tags, which would help observers identify people who may be engaging in vote-buying activities.
“At the beginning of the elections, the turnout of voters was low, with a few people seen at most Polling Units observed by 10:00 a.m.
“However, reports from the observers have shown that there was an increased number of voters by mid-day. Concrete information on this will be given by the end of the elections. For now, however, it is looking positive. We advise that everyone observe all COVID-19 protocols and keep safe as they go about the elections.
“We join numerous voices on the matter to recommend an extension of the voting period to capture all votes. Section 13 of the 2019 INEC voting guidelines states that where there is a prolonged issue with the Smart Card reader (BVAS in this case), it should be changed. And where the BVAS cannot be changed, the voting should commence the next day,” the statement read.