Saturday’s governorship election in Kogi State and the Kogi West senatorial rerun may not commence early in many polling units as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) due to poor logistics observed across many of the state’s 21 local government areas.
Except in Lokoja, the state capital; Koton Karfe, its neighbouring local government, and also Okehi, Okene and Adavi in the central senatorial district, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm difficulties experienced late into Friday night by electoral officers across various local governments in their efforts to convey voting materials to their registration area centres (RACs).
As at 10 p.m. on Friday in some of the local governments especially in Kogi East Senatorial District, regarded as the stronghold of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), materials were yet to arrive the RACs.
Challenges such as difficulties in sorting of materials, non-availability of vehicles and drivers, worsened by poor road networks were observed by our correspondents who visited many of the local government areas.
For instance, as at 7 p.m. on Friday in Dekina Local Government Area, where the candidate of the PDP, Musa Wada, hails from, materials had been fully sorted but there were no drivers to take the electoral officers and the materials to their various destinations.
The local government area, regarded as one of the largest in the country, also has the largest population of voters in the state, but since communities comprising it are far-flung, assessing them may be difficult.
As at 10 p.m, at Our Lady of Schools in Ayingba, one of the busiest communities in the local government meant to serve as a RAC, was in complete darkness as a handful of people were seen hanging around, waiting for the officials.
Speaking with our reporter, the LGA’s electoral officer, Haliru Aruna, said materials for only four out of the local government’s 12 wards had been conveyed by 7 p.m.
He said; “As you can see, the vehicles are loaded already and the officers have been mobilised but we are awaiting drivers to drive the vehicles. They are on their way and would soon be here.”
Similarly, despite early arrival of materials to Idah local government in the same district, they were yet to be fully dispatched as at 9 p.m. on Friday.
The electoral officer for the LGA, David Sise, told this newspaper the materials arrived at the local government at about 4 p.m. on Thursday but that sorting had consumed more time.
“About the condition of our electoral officers including corps members, we have made adequate provisions. They have been provided with items such as buckets, mattresses and power generators, to ensure their smooth operation,” Mr Sise said.
At Igalamela/Odolu Local government area, electoral materials that were loaded into waiting vehicles were yet to be conveyed to respective RACs at about 8 p.m.
Due to delay in their dispatch, some presiding officers (POs) were already complaining, saying moving materials to their locations could be difficult at night.
One of the POs, a corps member, who identified herself simply as Nifemi, said her RAC is located across river and that it could be difficult assessing it late into the night.
At Ibaji Local government area of the district, flood had completely overtaken the INEC office. A hall belonging to the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) within the secretariat’s compound was used instead by INEC.
The LGA, according to the people, is already cut off from the mainland areas by River Niger with some of the ward’s separated from each other by a distance of as much as two hours of travelling time.
In Ofu LGA of the central senatorial district, the situation was more complicated. Officials had to search for vehicles to transport them to their RACs themselves.
However, experiences in some local government areas like Lokoja, Koton Karfe, Okehi, Okenne, Bassa, Olamaboro, and Ankpa were a bit different as materials were smoothly transported to the designated registration area centres.
At the Lokoja local government secretariat, electoral officers converged early enough to collect materials as distributions across the 10 registration areas in the LGA were without rancour, while officials also did not complain of any difficulties.
This may not be unconnected to the fact that the RACs in Lokoja were the closest to the INEC headquarters and the Central Bank of Nigeria where the materials were distributed.
For instance, at the Kabawa Primary School, the ad-hoc staff had settled in early enough and were sharing items such as ballot boxes, polling boots, among others on Friday night.
Also at the Adult Education Centre in Lokoja “D” as well as the Felele Primary School, the respective electoral officers took time to rehearse the processes of election accreditation using the card readers before the polling officials. They also simulated possible challenges that they might face on Saturday and tried to proffer solutions.
Apparently, due largely to their proximity to each other, materials were also seamlessly distributed across Okehi, Okenne and Adavi local government areas as distances to each other could be covered in minutes.
Meanwhile, contrary to earlier expectations, the atmosphere was generally peaceful across the states. The cities, including Lokoja, Okenne, Ayingba, and Idah, were, however, deserted as early as around 8:30 p.m.
The development might be as a response to the tension earlier generated by the series of conflicts, attacks and counter-attacks witnessed across the state in the build-up to the election.
The police earlier on Friday had continued their patrol, rending the air with sporadic gunshots across major towns and cities, especially those earlier tagged as trouble spots. Frightened residents had expressed reservations about the development, and urged the police to thread softly.
But the Police Deputy Inspector General (DIG) in charge of Operations, Abdulmajid Ali, had defended the shootings, saying they were not to scare voters, “but to challenge trouble makers who would attempt to disrupt the poll”.
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