The residents of Victoria Garden City (VGC), Lagos, have accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of voter intimidation and setting up of “illegal” polling units without informing the estate.
As of 2:30 p.m., PREMIUM TIMES observed that voting had not commenced in the area, as the residents lamented the impromptu relocation of the 10 polling units meant for the community. The polling units were reportedly transferred outside the community.
INEC later postponed the election in the 10 polling units in the estate till Sunday.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES before the postponement, the former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) president, Olumide Akpata, decried the delay in the electoral process at the VGC, noting that it was not safe for the voters who are over 6,000.
Mr Akpata said INEC never gave any prior notice of redesignation and the officials insisted in the morning that “whether we like it or not, the election will hold outside” but nobody voted.
Popular Nollywood actress, Omoli Oboli; the Governorship Candidate of the Action Democratic Congress (ADC), Olufunsho Doherty; Chairman of VGC, Gihan Mbelu and other residents also decried the impromptu arrangement and insisted voting will not hold outside.
‘It is illegal’
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, Mrs Oboli said INEC never informed anyone that voting would hold outside the estate. She said such action is illegal and the Bimodal Voter Authentication System (BIVAS) uses geotagging.
“This is a development that happened this morning, we are all set up in there. If you check the BVAS, there is geotagging, if you follow the geotagging it will take you inside the estate.
“Is it even a legal polling station outside? The last election went quite peacefully. I was there live and there was no violence whatsoever.
“I have been voting inside VGC every four years for as long as I can remember, there was no violence,” she said.
Another resident who simply identified herself as Mrs Helen said: “We can’t vote here, it’s an illegal polling unit. This is serious voter intimidation. We are over 6000 voters inside and we can’t accept this.”
‘Residents have been disenfranchised’
Also, the ADC candidate, Olufunsho Doherty, said that “given the time that this is 2 p.m., it is obvious that some people have been disenfranchised” due to the development.
He said INEC should have communicated with the estate on the change of plans.
“People understand that this is the official polling unit confirmed by INEC, so if there is going to be any change, it should be made official,” he said.
Mr Doherty disclosed that after their discussion with the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), he proposed that the election should commence at 2 p.m. and end by 7 p.m.
“I have asked the REC personally if the election can continue tomorrow but he said no. He told me 2 to 7 p.m. Nothing has happened and by that 7 p.m. so many people wouldn’t have voted, they would be disenfranchised,” he said.
The VGC Chairman also confirmed that INEC REC had agreed election will begin at 2 p.m. but he insisted it would end at 7 p.m.
“I would assume that the right thing to do would be to do this election on a different day to ensure that our residents are fully represented because I can imagine that a lot of people are going to leave here dissatisfied.
“So, we asked the INEC REC directly if tomorrow is an option, and the answer we got was no,” Mr Mbelu said.
INEC accuses estate of abduction
Mr Mbelu noted that INEC may have relocated the polling units outside due to an allegation that INEC ad-hoc staff were held hostage in the 25 February presidential elections.
“Some of the allegations that were made informally is that the INEC staff during the presidential elections were adopted here. But I received no such security report, usually, I would.
“So, we are calling it an allegation. Of course, we were told also that INEC officials tried to gain access to this place but they couldn’t.
“We have security protocols and they were called ahead but there was no way we would stop INEC officials from entering the community. So, those are the reasons given for the polling unit being put outside.”
Explaining the reasons for the allegation, the former NBA boss said it is false.
He recounted that the INEC official at the polling unit 120 in VGC during the 25 February Presidential elections was not allowed to leave as a result of the discrepancy between the ballots in the box and the number of accredited voters.
“The INEC official admitted and tried to leave, then we told him he can’t leave until he resolves the issue.
“Due to no fault of ours, there is the potential of this entire polling unit being invalidated, so we said to the guy to give us an incident sheet and ID card and he does have one.
“Then we asked him to write an email to the Chairman to say that it is not the fault of the voters but the discrepancy between what BVAS is saying and the ballot papers,” Mr Akpata said.
INEC postpones election at VGC
To resolve the issues, the residents of the estate took the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, upon his arrival, to the PUs set up inside the estate for inspection.
He asked about the security of the INEC officers due to the allegations from the last presidential election.
The residents assured the REC that the security of the INEC officials is guaranteed.
However, at 4:30 p.m., INEC postponed the elections in the 10 polling units to 8 a.m. on Sunday.
The REC said that eight polling units will remain inside the estate, while two will be posted outside with the same voting process.
He assured the residents that the electoral officers will be at the estate early tomorrow for the election and it will end by 3:30 p.m.
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