Residents of Katsina State who participated in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) mock accreditation for voters have expressed optimism of a hitch-free presidential and national assembly elections on 25 February.
The voters also said that they they have faith that election will not be rigged.
The Chairman of INEC, Mahmoud Yakubu, had said the mock accreditation would afford the commission the opportunity to test the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) ahead of its deployment for the actual voting in February and March this year.
A PREMIUM TIMES reporter monitored the exercise in two polling units in the state from 08:57 a.m. to 01:27 p.m.
This reporter observed that there was provision of security agents in the polling units where the mock exercises were conducted in Katsina Local Government Area and the INEC officials were at the designated points on time.
While three Hilux vans belonging to the police and the customs were stationed at the Shinkafi A Gezawa unit, this reporter saw four Hilux vans of police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in Sabuwar Bakuru, Katsina local government area.
The exercise was scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. nationwide and in the two places visited, this reporter gathered from the residents that the INEC officials were there at the designated time though they didn’t commence the exercise until after 9 a.m.
In those two units, 170 people were successfully accredited while 12 were not captured as of 1:25 p.m. while some of them had facial issues, others had thumbprint issues.
Umar Shehu, a resident of Shinkafi, said he was surprised by the efficiency of the system.
“I’ve been participating in the voting process since 2003 and I’ll tell you this is the first time the machine has captured me without wasting much time,” the 41 year old commercial motorcyclist said.
“It didn’t take me two minutes to finish the whole process.”
Mr Shehu, who said he was happy to have participated in the mock exercise, said he hoped it would be this simple during the elections.
Tumba Ali, another resident, also commended the ‘fastness’ of the exercise.
“I’m happy with how it turned out. I thought I’ll spend a lot of time here when I left home. But I can see that it’s very easy,” she said.
A community leader in Sabuwar Bakuru community, Bello Abdullahi, called on the INEC to ensure that the same process is reflected during the general elections.
“We give thanks to God because voting is a civic duty and this exercise will give our people the chance to know whether they will be participating in the election or not. Some of the people here are participating for the first time so we believe this is a good thing to come and practice the process,” he said.
Mr Abdullahi said they were informed by “government” that the purpose is to try the “machine” to avoid malpractice.
“We want the machine to be used in the elections so that our votes will be counted. Let them not come during the main elections and start using some other things and not the machine we saw today.”
Nasiru Shehu, a youth leader in Shinkafi A Gezawa, re-echoed the hope of other residents by praying that the process is reflected in the general elections.
An aged woman, who gave her name as Indo, was not captured by the BVAS and she told PREMIUM TIMES it saddened her.
“But the boy (INEC official) said I should go and come back after thirty minutes to try and capture me again. He said my fingers were dirty or I’ve applied henna. The camera also refused to capture me, but I’ve the card. Look at it,” she said.
Katsina INEC speaks
The Director, Voter Education and Publicity at the Katsina State INEC office, Shehu Sa’idu, said the BVAS would be used for two major purposes in the general elections.
He said the system would be used to accredit voters and transmit results to the main server.
“This system will be used in the general elections just as we did today. We conducted this mock accreditation to prepare voters and make further tests of the system. The system (BVAS) will be used for voter accreditation after which a voter is given his ballot paper. We’ll also use it for electronic transmission of results after the process. This is to ensure that no result is manipulated,” he said.
Mr Sa’idu called on residents to cooperate with officials before, during and after the voting process to ensure efficiency.
Domestic Observer, analyst speak
A domestic observer, who is also the state coordinator of Transmission Monitoring Group (TMG) Kamaludeen Kabir, commended the process.
He said the situation room at the state capital had not received any major issues from observers posted to other areas.
Mr Kabir, who monitored the exercise in Katsina and Shinkafi, however, called on INEC to use trained ad-hoc staff during the general elections.
“The process is very efficient but it could also be… because the officials being used for the mock accreditation are INEC staff. In most of the places, it takes ninety seconds to accredit a voter. But when it’s the general elections, they have to use ad-hoc staff which may delay the process because they’re not like the staff. So, we want them to use only well trained ad-hoc staff to achieve the desired goals,” he said.
A political analyst, Saifullahi kuraye, said it’s too early for anyone to commend INEC because the mock accreditation was well prepared and not done in all the polling units.
“We have to wait for the main elections to pass a verdict. For example, when you talk of security presence in the polling units, did you take into consideration that the exercise is done in some selected units which means more security will be deployed in that particular unit? When it’s the general elections, you’ll see two or three policemen in polling units.
“We also have to wait and see the people that will do the work. Some of the ad-hoc staff may turn out to be not well trained. So, they should have used some of the ad-hoc staff in this exercise to also test their efficiency,” Mr Kuraye said.
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