As reports continue trickling in from polling units across Nigeria, experts have noted a pattern indicating widespread voting irregularities, especially in southern Nigeria.
According to the analysis, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been culpable in the mass disenfranchisement of voters, especially in states like Ebonyi, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Anambra, Enugu, Delta, Rivers, and Cross River States.
Despite assurances from the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, that voting would start by 8:30 am, INEC officials only showed up at noon and left around 2:30 pm in many polling centres across Southern Nigeria, leaving thousands of registered voters stranded.
Aboderin Jamal, a voter in Lagos State, described the irregularities as ‘daylight robbery’, calling for Yakubu and President Muhammadu Buhari to be held responsible.
“It is unacceptable that INEC has not released an official statement declaring that voting continues on Sunday the 26th of February, 2023 and even Monday, 27th of February, which should be the case till every registered voter who shows up to vote has had the chance to vote,” Jamal said.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has stated that he wants to leave a legacy of free and fair elections. The situation on the ground is the opposite, with large-scale disenfranchisement occurring mostly in Southern Nigeria.
Of all the states where INEC’s lateness in arriving at polling units, missing election materials, and violence have robbed people of the opportunity to exercise their right to vote, only in Enugu state has INEC announced that the voting time had been extended to accommodate the late commencement of voting in many parts of the state.
Some instances of malfeasance by INEC in an attempt to disenfranchise voters include:
• Amesi Ward, Anambra State, where INEC officials arrived around noon.
• Rumuonhwa polling unit in Rivers State, where INEC officials say they “forgot” the ballot papers for the presidential election, thereby ensuring that no one from that community voted.
• Ekwulu polling unit in Rivers State, where the BVAS (Bimodal Voter Accreditation System) machine was not working, ensuring no one from that community voted.
• Umuda Isingwu polling unit in Abia State, where the INEC officials had not arrived by 11.23 am, whereas registered voters had been out since 7 am.
• Ikaliki Primary School polling unit in Ebonyi State, where INEC officials arrived with only 50 ballot papers where there are about 300 registered voters, thereby disenfranchising hundreds of registered voters who showed up to vote.
• Etip Ediene polling unit in Akwa Ibom State, where INEC officials claimed the system shut down at 2:30 pm after about 200 of the registered 600 voters had cast their votes.
• Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, where at 2 pm, no voting had started in the whole local government, and INEC officials claimed they were still “sorting” materials.
• In New Benin in Benin City, Edo State, where INEC officials and voting materials were nowhere to be found as of 1.30 pm.
• There are widespread reports of thugs preventing Igbos and non-Yorubas from voting in Lagos polling units and in some cases, disrupting the entire voting process and destroying ballot papers.
These incidences orchestrated under the leadership of Yakubu to disenfranchise voters in the South of Nigeria are not only disheartening but also actionable.
“International election observers and international bodies have to take action. There must be real-life consequences for this misconduct, including jail sentences,” Jamal said.