NIGERIA: Caritas Faults Electoral Body for Flaws in Elections Ahead of Result Declaration

By Arnold Neliba

LAGOS, FEBRUARY 28, 2023 (CISA)– “While the hope and trust that Nigerians have on them is arguably dashed, we cannot but state, most unequivocally, that things are beginning to fall apart,” Caritas Nigeria has said reacting to a joint the report from the 6,000 accredited election observers spread in the country’s 36 states.

In their Post National Elections Interim Press Statement released on February 27, it notes that the 2023 General Elections “is not the path we have desired having risen from the shattering wreckages done by the military rulership before 1999.”

“These 6000 accredited observers in addition to over 10,000 other citizen observers have sent in a structured report detailing trends of logistics preparation, deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials; the use of BIVAS for voter accreditation, verification and actual voting; the subsequent electronic transmission of results and other electoral behaviour displayed at the polls,” the statement reads in part.

According to their report, 50 percent of the 176,606 polling units across the county experienced a snail-pace deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive election materials despite declaration of a curfew on the eve of the election to facilitate speedy transportation by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“While this happened, excuses from the INEC have been puerile and unjustified; with paucity of proactiveness on the part of the National Commissioners responsible for logistics and voter education,” Caritas says stressing their earlier fears of sabotage and crass complicity by some officials.

On accreditation and verification of voters, Caritas notes unprecedented and evil manipulation of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) in more than 30 percent of the poling units. This Caritas says it “indicates a systematic ploy by INEC to compromise the precedents set by well-meaning Nigerians through the struggles and tussles that led to the passage into law of the 2022 Electoral Act.”

“…how do we explain, for instance, the deployment of one BIVAS machine in polling units having more than 2000 voters who had waited for more than 5 hours in long ques without the sight of INEC officials? It is even appallingly awful to receive complaints from Presiding Officers who insisted that they were given wrong codes and uncharged batteries for the BIVAS machines in most rural areas observed,” it adds further indicating cases of stealing of the machines in some areas.

Despite voters being disenfranchised by the malfunctioning BIVAS, Caritas also expressed displeasure on how INEC officials colluded with policemen and some state authorities to “massively thumbprint ballot papers unhindered.”

The report also indicates how election materials were burnt by thugs as voters and observers were beaten up in the presence of the police and cases of underage voting in parts of the country.

As the country awaits the determination and declaration of the February 25 General Election results, Caritas Nigeria is recommending “with immediate effect, that ballot audit, fresh conduct of elections in areas where overwhelming violence took the day, and seamless overhauling of most of the commissioners of the INEC must happen to avert civil disobedience.”