*INEC To Commence Collation Today, Says BVAS Issues Resolved
*Obiano, Uba, Ozigbo trade tackles over alleged rigging
*Monitors report vote-buying, late arrival of materials
*Soludo, Uba, Ozigbo all win respective polling units

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it has largely resolved the earlier challenges on the malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) across many Polling Units (PUs) for Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State.

Addressing newsmen yesterday night at the INEC State Headquarters Awka, the state capital the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji, said that collation of results of the election would commence on Sunday morning at the collation centre, INEC State Headquarters Awka, the state capital.

The commission had extended the accreditation and voting periods of the election from 2.30 pm to 4.00 pm local time over the BVAS challenge.

Orji said in his earlier briefings that this was due to the widespread malfunctioning of the BVAS across many Polling Units (PUs) in the state.

However, during the Saturday night briefing the Anambra REC, Dr. Orji, said the election has progressed generally well despite the initial challenges.

He expressed delight that an appreciable number of citizens of Anambra State turned out to exercise their civic duty of choosing their next governor, notwithstanding initial security concerns.

According to him, “I am happy to report that the technical glitches we experienced with our new BVAS were largely solved. We thank the voters and candidates for patiently waiting for the problem with the devices to be resolved.

“To be sure, these may not have been resolved perfectly everywhere, but the reports we got from our field officers and independent observers convince us that most voters were able to vote with the BVAS, following the extension of the voting period to 4.00 pm and our regulation that any voter on the queue at that time must be allowed to vote.

“As I said in my earlier briefing, any PU where there was a consistent malfunction of the BVAS, and therefore the voters in the Unit were unable to vote, the election will be continued tomorrow.”

Orji, however, said the commission was yet to receive reports of any location where the sustained malfunction of the BVAS led to no election at all.

“Still, we shall continue to receive reports through our usual channels, particularly from the collation of the Form EC40G, which is the official document for recording PUs where elections did not hold or were cancelled.”

He also said the election is by no means over. As it has now entered a critical stage of the process, being the collation of results.

He said INEC has made adequate arrangements for collation of the results at the Registration Areas, Local Government Areas, and the state level.

He said, “Results from PUs are already being uploaded to our INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal; the RA and LGA collation have been progressing well. I implore all stakeholders to be patient while this painstaking process progresses.

“I am glad to announce that the state collation will commence tomorrow at the state collation centre here in our state office at 10 am tomorrow morning.” Citing poor functioning of the Bimodal Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had earlier yesterday extended voting in the Anambra State governorship election till today.

The extension, according to the nation’s electoral body, was to allow voters who were unable to vote due to malfunctioning of the BVAS to do so.

Besides, while voting was originally meant to stop by 2:30 pm yesterday, poor turnout of voters and late arrival of voting materials at most polling units visited by one of our correspondents, were said to have marred the election, even though the election was largely peaceful.

BVAS is INEC’s new introduction to help eliminate voter’s impersonation for the election.

But addressing journalists in Awka yesterday, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Nkwachukwu Orji, said the extension of voting became necessary to enable more, if not all, eligible voters to cast their votes in the areas affected by the malfunctioning of the system.

Orji said the commission is determined to make all votes count, adding that the BVAS malfunctioned because of software glitches.

He also said that the commission was already working to rectify the problem and address complaints of poor functioning of BVAS machines.

He stated: “In line with existing regulations and guidelines of the commission, any intending voter who is on the queue by 4 pm shall be allowed to vote.

“The extension of time arose out of several field reports that voters have had problems with accreditation.”

Orji further said the commission is currently investigating the reason the accreditation devices BVAS have worked perfectly in some Polling Units, but not in others.

He continued: “In cases of malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the Commission.”

He also noted that deployment was adversely affected by transportation challenges in some locations.

Orji said, “It must be noted that on account of security concerns, some of the transporters that were mobilised and collected 50 per cent of their sign on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving some of our ad-hoc staff stranded.

“Also, some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment. The Commission is on top of these challenges and extant regulations and guidelines will be applied.”

The INEC official appealed to all voters, candidates, stakeholders and political parties to remain calm and law abiding.

In polling units visited by our correspondent Sunday in Anambra Central and Anambra South, complaints of poor functioning of BVAS were rife.

Former governor and vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 general election, Peter Obi, urged INEC to ensure that no eligible voter was denied the opportunity of voting.

Obi who spoke shortly after voting at his Umudimakasi polling unit 019, Agulu ward 1, Anaocha local government area at about 1:17pm, complained that the exercise was characterised generally by late arrival of voting materials and malfunctioning of the Bimodal gadget.

Accompanied by his wife, Margaret, Obi said, “I have been waiting since morning for the voting to start, and people have been calling me from across the state complaining of lack of arrival of voting materials at the polling units, and, when the voting started, the Bimodal machines are not working, which shouldn’t be.

“My appeal is that no eligible voter should be allowed to go without voting”.

He attributed the low voter turnout to the earlier threat to stop the governorship election from being held by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). He however noted that voter turnout improved later in the day.

Also, deputy director of media and publicity of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship campaign, Emeka Ozumba, lamented that at about 2.16pm a good number of voters could not vote at Enugwu-ward 4, Njikoka local government because the Bimodal gadgets were not functioning.

“We believe strongly that there is a deliberate strategy to frustrate voters from voting and voters here are getting restive. The security personnel here have all disappeared,” Ezumba lamented.

Earlier, the PDP candidate, Valentine Ozigbo, called for extension of time for voting to ensure that no eligible voter was denied the opportunity to vote due to the poor functioning of Bimodal voting machines.

He spoke after voting at his 010 Social Centre polling unit, Amesi ward, at about 11am where only 18 out of the 331 registered voters had voted as of 11:18am.

The polling centre recorded a large voter turnout. The presiding officer, Ben Obong said, “We would have gone far, but the Bimodal gadget is not working well. It took about 20 minutes for Ozigbo to get accredited and vote.”

Chairman of PDP in Aguata local government area, Umunne Sunny said he stood in the queue for about 45 minutes before he was able to vote at his 011 polling in Uga Boys Secondary School, Aguata.

At polling unit 014 in Mbaronye Primary School, Uga Ward, the INEC presiding officer, Effiong Owokere, said out of the 750 registered voters, only four had cast their votes as of 11:54am.

The APC agent at the polling unit, Okechukwu Ukachukwu, said, “The Bimodal machine is not fast. It takes about 45 minutes for a voter to get accredited and vote. It is like the INEC officers do not know how to operate the machine.”

Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Chukwuma Soludo, also had a hard time voting because of the malfunctioning BVAS machine.

At his Isuofia polling unit 001, voting reportedly commenced at about 9:21am but at about 10:30am when our correspondent got to the centre only about 15 voters had cast their ballots.

Also, APGA state chairman, Sir Norbert Obi, also had a tough time voting because of the malfunctioning equipment for voter verification in his polling unit in his home town, Ozubulu, in Ekwusigo local government area.

Obi said while most machines in Ozubulu were not working, INEC staff were working round the clock to rectify them.

Asked if he had voted, Obi replied: “No. I am still there. I have been here since morning. The machines are not working. Most of the machines in Ozubulu are not working but INEC technical staff are working round the clock. The turnout of voters is high but we cannot vote”.

Early results show candidates of the three main parties Charles Soludo of APGA, Andy Uba of APC and Vilantine Ozigbo of PDP all won in their respective polling units.

Meanwhile, Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano; the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Senator Andy Uba, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Valentine Ozigbo, yesterday clashed over alleged plot to rig the election.

Obiano fired the first salvo when he accused the APC of plotting to rig the election.

Speaking through Don Adinuba, the state commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Obiano accused the APC of writing results for 10 local government areas ahead of the poll.

Listing the local government areas, he said the APC was plotting to compromise officials of lNEC.

In a statement signed by the commissioner, he said APC planned to take advantage of president Muhammadu Buhari’s delay in assenting to the new electoral bill which makes electronic voting mandatory.

He said, “The Anambra state government has credible intelligence showing that the All Progressive Congress (APC) has already written o results 10 local government areas as regards the gubernatorial election which is taking place today, November 6th, 2021.

The results are those of Onitsha North, Orumba South, Aguata, Orumba South, Orumba North, Idemili South, Ogbaru, Anambra East and Anambra West. These are LGAs with a high number of registered voters.

“APC plans to capitalize on the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari, CGFR, has yet to assent the new Electoral Bill which makes electronic voting mandatory to perpetrate the fraud”.

The commissioner alleged that a former Senator, a former deputy governor and a current state governor from the South East are behind the plot.

“A former senate president for the Southeast, a former state deputy governor who later became a Senator from the Southeast and a sitting state governor from the Southeast are deeply involved in the fraud to toy with the destiny of the Anambra people.

“This public announcement is to alert the Anambra people, the INEC national leadership, the security agencies, the mass media, election observers, civil society organisations and the international community of this grand plot. The barefaced brigandage just cannot stand”.

But firing back at the governor through his campaign organisation, Senator Andy Uba Governorship Campaign Organisation (SAUGCO), Uba described the allegation as a ludicrous assertion.

Director, media and publicity of SAUGCO,Victor Afam Ogene, said, “Indeed, if APGA were to believe their own lies, why then are they still pretending to be in the governorship race? Real politick as well as real life situation dictates that once one is snookered beyond help, the right and appropriate step to take is throw in the towel of surrender,”

“Anyone who has followed the trajectory of APGA’s campaign leading up to Saturday’s poll would have noted that the dominant theme of its electioneering was the flurry with which it manufactured one tale after another, all targeted at the APC.

“For an issue as delicate as having some results of today’s election already written, how come APGA is the only political party privy to this fact?

“As a matter of fact, are we not being confronted with a fait accompli by the outgoing Governor Willy Obiano administration, in a classic case of the witch crying in the night and the child dying at dawn?

“For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to reiterate – as we have always done in the course of the campaigns – that the winner of the Anambra governorship election would only emerge from votes garnered at the various polling units across the state. To attempt to pull wools over our eyes, as APGA is clearly doing, is a gambit taken too far, and we shall resist it with every vehemence at our disposal.

“Only few hours earlier, the same Adinuba who doubles as Spokesman of the Prof Charles Chukwuma Soludo campaign had also cried wolf, claiming to have, again, “received credible intelligence reports about moves by a certain political party to use the instrumentality of the state to arrest key officials of the State Government anytime on trumped up charges.

“Curiously, the same official was to go ahead to state emphatically that “none of the heads of national security agencies is aware of this plot.”

The PDP candidate, Valentine Ozigbo, on his part, urged INEC to take the allegation of writing of results and subversion of the process seriously, even as he called on other political parties and entire Anambra citizens to guard against electoral malpractices.

“Some people are desperate about this election and in that desperation, they can do anything; they want to write results and push it in.

“I am calling on my agents and indeed agents of other political parties to guard against that and ensure that only what transpired at the polling units are recorded,” he said.

Late Arrival Of Materials Marred Poll – Yiaga Africa

Yiaga Africa, in its Watching The Votes report, decried the delay in the opening of polling units, noting that only 17 percent of polling units were open as of 7:30am.

It also lamented that there were late arrival of polling officials and materials at polling units across the state.

The report endorsed by the executive director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo and Board member, Ezenwa Nwagwu stated that by 7:30am, polling officials were present in only 17 percent of polling units.

The report noted: “The delays were occasioned by poor logistics management. Yiaga Africa anticipated these challenges based on our pre-election observation, hence the call in our pre-election statement urging INEC to make contingency plans in situations where respective transport unions /companies reneged on their contractual obligation to deploy. Late start of Polls: As expected, the late arrival of polling officials delayed the commencement of accreditation and voting across several polling units. Reports from the WTV observes revealed that by 9:30 am only 28% of polling units commenced accreditation and voting. By 10:30 am, 50% of the polling units had commenced accreditation and voting. This, however, increased by noon as accreditation and voting were reported in 81% of the polling units.

“The geographical distribution indicates that 64.3% of polling units in Anambra Central Senatorial district commenced accreditation and voting by 10:30 am, 60.3% of polling units in Anambra North while in Anambra South senatorial district, only 28.9% of polling units commended accreditation and voting by 10:30 am”.

On deployment of polling officials, Yiaga Africa WTV observed that an average of two polling officials were deployed in those polling units where INEC officials and materials arrived which is lower than the required number of four polling officials per polling unit.

It said at least one female polling official was present in the polling units, according to the report.

On the deployment and non-functionality of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), Yiaga Africa said there were reports of the BVAS failure to authenticate voters’ fingerprints and photos even where voter details were confirmed on the voter register.

Based on verified reports from Yiaga Africa observers, 19% of polling units failed to open by 12noon. In other words, INEC officials didn’t deploy to those polling units.

“These incidents are mostly concentrated in Anambra South Senatorial District (23.5%), Anambra Central (17%), and Anambra North Senatorial districts (13%). Yiaga Africa is concerned that the non-opening of these polling stations disenfranchises registered voters in those polling units.

“Yiaga Africa commends the people of Anambra for the enthusiasm and resilience demonstrated with the turnout for the elections. INEC owes the people of Anambra a duty to take necessary steps to ensure registered voters are not disenfranchised on the basis of technological failures or logistics challenges. Yiaga Africa urges INEC to provide periodic updates on the status of elections in polling units where the BVAS consistently malfunctioned or where elections did not hold the report said.

Yiaga Africa lauded the professionalism exhibited by security agencies since the commencement of polls.

Written By Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq

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