Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president, with President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari locked in the most keenly contested election in the country since independence in 1960. About 56 million voters were expected to vote in the presidential and National Assembly elections, which had a total of 14 presidential candidates, while 2,537 candidates from 28 parties vied for 469 seats in the National Assembly. The Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Jonathan, and his main challenger, the All Progressives Congress candidate, Buhari, were the most visible contestants in the election that witnessed a massive turnout of voters in most parts of the country.
Accreditation across the country began officially at 8pm while the actual casting of ballots commenced at 1.30pm. But in many places, the polling process was delayed, dragging voting late into the evening. The delays resulted from a combination issues, including failure of the smart card readers to confirm fingerprints and, sometimes, the permanent voter cards, and late or none arrival of polling officials and materials.
The election was marred by violence and killings in some states like Benue, Gombe, Rivers, Osun, Lagos, and Borno.
As a remedial measure, INEC announced yesterday that manual accreditation could be used by electoral officials in polling units where the card readers failed to accredit voters. The commission also extended voting to today in areas where elections could not take place.
A statement by the chairman of INEC’s Information, Voter Education and Publicity Committee, Dr. Chris O. Iyimoga, said, “Whereas the process has gone on well in several places, in some others it has encountered some challenges, especially with the use of the card readers. Consequently, accreditation has been slow in many places and has not commenced at all in some others.
“Even though the Guidelines for the Conduct of the 2015 general elections provide that where card readers fail to work and cannot be replaced, elections in such polling units will be postponed to the following day, the scale of the challenge we have observed today has necessitated a reconsideration of this provision of the guidelines. The commission has, therefore, decided as part of the Guidelines for the Conduct of the 2015 general elections that in polling units where card readers have so failed to work, the Presiding Officer shall manually accredit voters by marking the register of voters, upon being satisfied that the person presenting a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) is the legitimate holder of the card.
“The above notwithstanding, in polling units where accreditation was suspended to the following day in accordance with the existing guidelines, arrangements will be made for voters to vote tomorrow, subject to the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).”
An INEC official, who did not want to be named, disclosed that reports from field officers showed the card reader hitches occurred in about 300 polling units across the country, saying the commission has directed that fresh polls be held in the affected units.
Card reader glitches delayed Jonathan’s accreditation at polling unit 39, ward 13, in his home town of Otuoke, Bayelsa State, as three card readers failed to read his biometrics. The president who arrived the polling centre about 9am, with his wife, Dame Patience, could not be accredited until about 11am, when he was accredited manually using the incident form.
Jonathan, who arrived the polling unit in his trademark fedora and black suit, took the delay in his strides and asked Nigeria not to be discouraged by such “technical hitch.” He said, “President Jonathan is just one voter. So, even if we have problem with my own card, as long as the process is going on well across the nation, it is okay. Definitely, they will sort out my own. I can’t be a ghost voter. Everybody knows me…
“My interest is the conduct of a credible and fair election. We are totally committed and I believe no matter the hitches, the election will be smooth.”
But the PDP presidential campaign organisation said the INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, and APC were to blame for the hitches related to the card readers. The director of media and publicity of the campaign organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, said in a release, “We had raised a number of issues about the card reader,” stressing, “The malfunctioning of the card readers in many polling units in parts of the country has forced the INEC to extend the election to Sunday in areas where the card readers failed and the electoral body had resorted to manual accreditation.” PDP said the glitches justified its reservations about the use of card readers.
Buhari, putting on a white robe with a traditional Muslim cap, came to the polling unit in his hometown, Daura, in Katsina State, with his wife, Aisha. They were accredited about 9am. Fielding questions from journalists after casting his vote, Buhari said any calls for the cancellation of the election on account of the hitches experienced in some places with the card readers was baseless.
“There are reports of hiccups in about four or five states and even in those states, it is recorded in few polling units. So there is no basis to call for cancellation of the elections,” Buhari stated. He noted that in countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where there are crises, elections still held. The former Head of State wondered why anyone would call for cancellation of the election because there are hiccups in a few states.
There was a car bomb explosion about 7.38am yesterday at the WTC Primary School polling unit in Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu State. Though, no one was hurt by the explosion that occurred before the commencement of accreditation, the incident created an atmosphere of fear that, apparently, discouraged many people from coming out to cast their votes.
The police anti-bomb unit detonated three other unexploded bombs at the centre. The bombs were planted in a Honda Accord Car, with Abuja registration number KUJ 971 LB, which were parked behind the primary school by an unknown person. Many in the area believed the bombs had targeted voters at the polling unit.
In another development, APC sounded the alarm about an alleged jamming of its leaders’ phone numbers on the election day. The party said in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed, that calls that started coming in the early hours of Saturday were so persistent that genuine calls could not come in while no calls could be made from phone lines of the party’s leaders. He said the phone line of the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was hacked and used to send a message asking his supporters to vote for Jonathan.
“We urge all our members and supporters and, indeed, all Nigerians, to ignore the purported message as it did not emanate from Asiwaju,” APC said.
APC also alleged the distribution of uniforms to thugs at the Signals Barracks, Apapa, in Lagos.
INEC’s official website was hacked in the early hours of n Saturday, making it inaccessible. When THISDAY visited the website early in the day, it displayed the name of the hacker: Nigeria Cyber Army, which posted a cartoon of Jonathan and Buhari in a football pitch. Chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu, who confirmed the cyber-attack, said the website was soon restored “and it is much more secured that before.”
A 27- year-old man identified as Yomi Ademola was in the early hours of yesterday shot and killed by suspected political thugs at a polling centre in Ikirun, headquarters of Ifelodun Local Government Area of Osun State. Ademola was, reportedly, killed at the premises of Holy Trinity Primary School, Oke-Afo, Ikirun. The Osun State Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Sade Odoro, could not be reached for comments.
Another person in Osun State, a member of APC and personal assistant to a member of Osun State House of Assembly representing Ife South state constituency, Hon. Folorunso Bamisayemi, was also, reportedly, shot dead by unknown gunmen.
In Rivers State, a soldier was killed in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, while unconfirmed reports said several persons were killed in election-related violence in Tai Local Government Area. The Brigade Commander, 2nd Brigade, Nigerian Army, Bori Camp, Port Harcourt, Brigadier-general Essien Essien, disclosed the soldier’s death. But he neither gave the name of the soldier or the ward or unit in the local government area that he was killed.
Essien spoke after a mild drama that ensued following his attempt to stop Governor Rotimi Amaechi from moving around in his Omuanwa Ward in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area, as the governor frowned on the non-distribution of result sheets to the polling units in the council. Addressing voters in his area who were agitated by the suspected hording of the result sheets for underhand political goals, the governor had insisted that there would be no election in any unit in Ikwerre Local Government Area except result sheets were produced by INEC.
Amaechi, who refused to be accredited because of the unavailability of result sheets, lamented that result sheets were not supplied in all the polling units in Degema and Ikwerre Local Government Areas as well as other parts of the state. He said he had called the Rivers State Resident Electoral Commission, Dame Gecilia Khan, who said result sheets had been dispatched.
Amaechi told journalists, “You can see that the result sheets have not been brought here. The same thing is happening all over the local government area. We have therefore resolved not to be involved in the election until the result sheets are brought.
“This is my local government area and this is happening. The same thing is happening all over the place.”
After addressing the journalists, Amaechi, who was driving himself and was followed by his top aides, headed towards his polling unit when he was stopped by Essien and told not to move or drive around during the election as he was not accredited by INEC to have unfettered movement.
As the governor, who was stopped in front of his father’s compound at Ubima, tried to turn and drive towards Umuanwa, soldiers blocked his convoy, insisting that he had no permission to move around. In the ensuing dialogue, Amaechi told Essien, “Brigade Commander, why are you mounting two road blocks near my father’s compound? Are you sent by President Jonathan to kill me? I had told the world that President Jonathan is trying to kill me and I am saying it again.”
Essien denied being given any instruction to kill anybody and asked the governor to go back to his home and stop moving about. Essien said, “Your Excellency, we have instructions not to allow people who are not duly accredited to move around during the election. That is why we are advising you to go back to your house and wait there until the election is over.”
The brigade commander explained to the governor that the military was not blocking his house, but had instructions to ensure that law and order was maintained.
When the exchange became heated, Amaechi said he was going back to Government House, Port Harcourt, to wait until the result sheets were brought for him to come and vote.
“Arrest me if that’s what you want to do or allow me return to Government House in Port Harcourt. There is nobody in this house. It is my father’s house,” Amaechi said.
Essien insisted that Amaechi must go back to his family house and wait but the governor drove straight to Government House, Port Harcourt.
A man identified as Jide Owolabi was allegedly shot and wounded in Ikere Ekiti, Ekti State, yesterday by a security detail of the Ekiti State deputy governor, Dr. Kolapo Olusola. Also, the house of a member of the House of Representatives and chieftain of APC, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo, was attacked and destroyed by hooded hoodlums in the early hours of Saturday. The attackers destroyed six buildings in the area.
According to an APC chieftain and senatorial candidate in Ekiti South senatorial district, Chief Tony Adeniyi, Owolabi was shot in the buttocks by the deputy governor’s orderly when some youths accosted him and insisted he must respect the ban on movement during the election.
But Olusola said, “I was just going to where I will vote and these youths came from nowhere and started hurling stones, broken bottles and other dangerous weapons at my convoy. My security had to shoot into the air for me to escape and I suspect the victim got wounded in the process.”
An unnamed ad hoc staff of INEC and a commercial motorbike operator were reportedly killed yesterday morning, along the Obussa-Ebonyi road, in Oju Local Government Area of Benue State, in an accident that many people attributed to over-speeding. It was learnt that the INEC staff had boarded the motorbike to Oju town where she was posted for election duties.
An attack on the INEC office in Abekoko, Orile Agege, in Lagos, led to the death of one person. An INEC officer in Agege, Mr. Dapo Aderibigbe, confirmed the attack, but said, “The person who was also said to have been killed in Agege council secretariat was not an ad-hoc staff of INEC.”
In Gombe State yesterday, APC said its House of Assembly candidate for Dukku and other party supporters were assassinated.
APC reacted to the killings in a statement that condemned the violence, which it said were perpetrated against its members.
Mohammed also condemned the killings in Gombe.
In Borno State, Governor Kashim Shettima said Boko Haram insurgents had on the eve of the presidential election attacked Buratai in the southern part of the state, and razed many buildings. He said the insurgents killed 25 persons and injured 30 others. “It was a sad development; my commissioner of education who is incidentally from Buratai was there to console the people and took part in the burial. May their souls rest in perfect peace,” the governor said.
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